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Environmental Ethics

Volume 40, Issue 4, Winter 2018

African Environmental Philosophy

Boyowa Anthony Chokor
Pages 325-342
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics201840432

Cultural Ethics and Social Mediation of Environmental Action and Use of Space in Nigeria

Space provides the major context for environmental interactions, both social or physical. In Africa the use of space is mediated by sociocultural values, beliefs, and norms. Segments of space from the room to the village square and surrounding natural environment have domains of cultural rules, symbols, and meanings assigned to them with import for environmental behavior and action among elders, children, and women. They illuminate aspects of the social enforcement of three forms of environment-related rules: “prescriptive,” mediating, and community-assigned environmental codes/taboos, some of which may require purification rites for violations. Several transgenerational eco-thoughts and eco-fantasies embedded in social practices have significant bearing on sustainable environmental conservation. Five major contexts are in deep interplay between community environmental ethics and environmental action: (1) the adoption and evocation of spiritualized rules in regulating the use of space; (2) the declaration of sacred grounds and territories to bound people; (3) the evolution of time-and place-related rules; (4) the use of physical designs to secure behavioral expectations; and (5) the role of “regulatory social institutions” in the enforcement of environmental codes. They point to the fact that cultural and social meanings assigned to the ordinary physical environment are important in deconstructing peoples’ use of space. While traditional communal environmental norms can be given preeminence, their correlates in cosmopolitan societies are exemplified in the complex formal rules sometimes employed in regulating the use of space, creating a juridical order in the drive for efficiency and profit in capitalistic societies.

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