Different Shades of Green

Different Shades of Green: African Literature, Environmental Justice, and Political Ecology

Byron Caminero-Santangelo
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Different Shades of Green
    Book Description:

    Engaging important discussions about social conflict, environmental change, and imperialism in Africa,Different Shades of Greenpoints to legacies of African environmental writing, often neglected as a result of critical perspectives shaped by dominant Western conceptions of nature and environmentalism. Drawing on an interdisciplinary framework employing postcolonial studies, political ecology, environmental history, and writing by African environmental activists, Byron Caminero-Santangelo emphasizes connections within African environmental literature, highlighting how African writers have challenged unjust, ecologically destructive forms of imperial development and resource extraction.

    Different Shades of Greenalso brings into dialogue a wide range of African creative writing-including works by Chinua Achebe, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Bessie Head, Nadine Gordimer, Zakes Mda, Nuruddin Farah, Wangari Maathai, and Ken Saro-Wiwa-in order to explore vexing questions for those involved in the struggle for environmental justice, in the study of political ecology, and in the environmental humanities, urging continued imaginative thinking in effecting a more equitable, sustain¬able future in Africa.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3607-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    IN 1991, LARRY SUMMERS PRODUCED A NOW INFAMOUS memo urging the World Bank to encourage “more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs” (less-developed countries). Part of his “economic logic” included an assertion that “countries in Africa are vastlyunder-polluted” (qtd. in Harvey,Justice366–67). The continent’s positioning in this memo is not surprising. Most obviously, by the standards of neoclassical economics, Africa includes thirty-nine of the fifty least developed nations in the world. According to a certain “logic” (which both Summers and theEconomistdeemed “impeccable”), these countries are the most likely to accept pollution in return...

  5. 1 The Nature of Africa
    (pp. 7-35)

    AFRICAN ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING TENDS TO PRIORItize social justice; lived environments; livelihoods; and/or the relationships among environmental practice, representations of nature, power, and privilege. As a result, it would perhaps be considered inadequately concerned with “the value of nature in and of itself” (Heise, “Hitchhiker’s” 507) and inadequately “ecocentric” (Buell,Environmental21) for an ecocriticism shaped by mainstream environmental discourse, originating and centered in the West, which separates nature and its defense from systemic inequality among humans. Such discourse often implies that the closer one gets to the truths of ecology and to appreciation and care for nature, the more one...

  6. 2 The Nature of African Environmentalism
    (pp. 36-74)

    IN HER MEMOIRUNBOWED, WANGARI MAATHAI DRAWS on what Lawrence Buell refers to as an “indigene pastoral” in order to give narrative shape to her vision for social and environmental regeneration in Kenya. She begins her story with a childhood memory of her home village of Ihithe in the central highlands, where a beautiful, health-giving, and well-managed natural environment sustained and defined the human community: “I am as much a child of my native soil as I am my father . . . and mother” (4). Culturally, this community was marked by its animism and reverence for nature: “For the...

  7. 3 The Nature of Justice
    (pp. 75-132)

    AS A RESULT OF ENVIRONMENTALISM’S ASSOCIATION under apartheid with the priorities of a relatively affluent white minority and with racial oppression, black South Africans were often “hostile to what was perceived as an elitist concern peripheral to their struggle for survival” (Khan 15). Throughout much of the twentieth century, the state spent vast sums on wildlife and wilderness conservation and forcibly removed nonwhites from their lands in order to create national parks. Meanwhile, the majority of South Africans were left increasingly destitute, the laws of racial segregation barred them from enjoying “the country’s rich natural heritage, and draconian poaching laws...

  8. 4 The Nature of Violence
    (pp. 133-182)

    KEN SARO-WIWA FAMOUSLY CHARACTERIZED GAS FLARing and oil spills in the Niger Delta as a form of genocidal violence. His manifestoGenocide in Nigeria(1992) claimed that the Ogoni people were left “half-deaf and prone to respiratory diseases” and that their main livelihoods, farming and fishing, were being destroyed by the poisoning of air, water, and soil (81–82). Meanwhile, they saw almost no benefits from the oil pumped from their land and lacked basic infrastructure like electricity, health care facilities, and schools. This situation, Saro-Wiwa argued, was caused by the willful negligence of the international oil industry and the...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 183-190)

    THE QUESTION OF HOW TO CONCEIVE PLACE IN RELATION to the politics of scale represents a conceptual challenge for environmental justice narratives. Such narratives often encourage skepticism regarding “transcendent and universal politics,” which potentially marginalize situated perspectives and hamper the formulation of place-based identities crucial for local mobilization (Harvey,Justice400). At the same time, the history of environmental justice activism suggests a need to link local movements with forms of resistance and resistant identity operating at larger scales. In the context of political ecology, David Harvey sums up the challenge in terms of a geographical dialectic in which narratives...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 191-196)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 197-208)
  12. Index
    (pp. 209-214)