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Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya

Volume 4, Issue 2, December 2012

Odera Oruka Seventeen Years On

Robin Attfield
Pages 51-74

Henry Odera Oruka, Ecophilosophy and Climate Change

The purpose of this paper is to explore what Henry Odera Oruka, a renowned ecophilosopher and Director designate of an Ecophilosophy Centre, would have thought and argued in the sphere of climate change if he had remained alive beyond 1995 and up to the present time. The methodology of the paper combines an analytic and normative study of ethical issues concerning climate change that arose during the 1990s or have arisen during the subsequent period, with a critical examination of relevant international conferences of the period 1995 to 2012, and of intervening developments, together with inferences grounded in Odera’s knowledge, experience and interests to conclusions about attitudes, arguments and stances that he would have been likely to form in the course of that same period. The central argument of the paper is premised on key concerns of Odera, not least his concern for a “future beyond poverty” for Africa (the title of the World Futures Studies Federation Conference that he organised in Nairobi in 1995), and for characteristic African values. It is also premised on the impression likely to have been made on Odera by the remarks of Michel van Hulten at this Conference. It argues accordingly that Odera would have been likely to defend some version of the Contraction and Convergence strategy, modified to take account of recent discoveries about humanity’s carbon budget, and the extent to which much of this budget has already been consumed in the period since 1990 by the industrialised countries, to the detriment of developing countries such as the countries of Africa. This paper is relevant to Thought and Practice through presenting to scholars with broad interests in the humanities and social sciences an original examination of climate change ethics and its bearing on Africa, and of Odera’s likely attitudes, arguments and stances in this field, thus supplying suggestions about further research needing to be undertaken on these intellectual, social and political issues, with their special and vital importance for contemporary Africa.

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