Wilderness and the bantu mind

Environmental Ethics 16 (2):145-160 (1994)
In the West, it is widely believed that, since Africans lack an emotional experience with romanticism and transcendentalism, they do not possess the philosophical prerequisites necessary to protect wilderness. However, the West’s disdain for African systems of thought has precluded examination of customary African views of wilderness. Examination of ethnographic reports on Kenya’s Highland Bantu reveals a complex view of phenomena that the West generally associates with wilderness. For the Bantu, wilderness is an extension of human living space, and through concerted social action rather than individual initiative, it is, or at least can be, dominated by society. Wildlife is unnatural and alienated from human society, which is natural. Because wilderness is, consequently, understood to be fearsome and hostile, it is not a place that can provide inspiration or self-actualization. Almost all forests have a special spiritual relationship with humankind, and some trees have a special relationship with God. Althoughtraditional Bantu thought is contrary to a concept of wilderness as conserved, managed space filled with tourists and recreators, it does embrace a concept of wilderness as wildlands. The Bantu have gone to considerable length to develop an approach to wilderness that minimizes individual contact while requiring association with wilderness as a social activity. Population growth and want of vocational opportunities continue to thrust Highland Bantu into wilderness as a fundamental and traditional survival technique.
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DOI enviroethics199416229
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