The Impact of Rastafari Ecological Ethic in Zimbabwe: A Contemporary Discourse

By Sibanda, Fortune | Journal of Pan African Studies, June 2012 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Rastafari Ecological Ethic in Zimbabwe: A Contemporary Discourse


Sibanda, Fortune, Journal of Pan African Studies


Introduction

By far, climate change is one of the greatest challenges that the world is facing today. It is a threat to the ecological environment, business, communities and general livelihood. Sayed Haneef (2002:241) observes that due to loss of vision and greed for profit and economic growth, humanity has polluted the land, air and water by deforestation, use of excessive fertilisers, pesticides, chemicals and industrial waste spillage, release of active chemical wastes, among others. Yet, as Haneef further argues, it is essential to guarantee continued supply of fresh air, uncontaminated food, unpolluted water and other provisions of life for humans and other living creatures and plants which balances the ecosystem (Haneef, 2002:241). This is in tandem with contemporary observations that climate change continues to wreak havoc on food security in developing nations particularly in sub Saharan Africa. In a foreword to the Climate Change COP17 Magazine, the South African President, Jacob Zuma, (2011: 12) noted that food prices are on the increase due to reduced agricultural production resulting from floods, drought and land degradation attributed to the changing weather patterns experienced globally. In recent months, South Africa hosted the 17th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) and the 7th Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP7) to ensure environmental sustainability. Nevertheless, COP17 and CMP7 revealed that the global commitment from some developed nations towards reducing the effects of anthropogenic global warming was half-hearted and yet behind schedule for the 2015 target of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Number 7. Therefore, the level of commitment from developed nations leaves a lot to be desired as it peddles the philosophy of the centre that situates developing nations at the periphery.

This study seeks to explore the role of religion to the global challenge of environmental degradation in contemporary times. S Specifically, the research examines the contribution of Rastafari in the reclamation and preservation of the environment. The study is executed in the wake of the inexorable impact of secularisation and cultural globalisation that continue to eclipse the religious significance of nature particularly in the West. Thus, through a study of this magnitude, the rediscovery of the vitality of nature and other natural resources situates religion and the environmental crisis at the centre. As posited in the study, the existing global environmental disaster requires a collective action in which religious players perform a significant part through unique strategies. The study utilises the case of the Marcus Garvey Rastafari House of the Nyahbinghi Order in the low income and high-density suburb of Epworth in Harare, Zimbabwe. Through a grassroots approach, the study seeks to sensitise the local and global community about the meaningful role of Rastafari in current discourses on the environment and ecology in the Zimbabwean context.

Methodology

The study adopted a poly-methodic approach in which it combined the grassroots approach, in-depth interviews and observation to collect data and corroborated these research techniques with the phenomenological approach. Jacqueline Leavitt (2006:2) following Nandi Azad (1995) defines grassroots "as those living at the base encompassing rural and urban areas in the developing and developed world." Grassroots approach is a 'bottom-up' research process and technique that gathers 'ground-level' perspectives from the targeted population. The approach stresses a collective interactive process that provides a platform to present the main issue under investigation whilst allowing participants to discuss with an open mind (Panda, 2007:261). In other words, the approach has the advantage of tapping into the indigenous knowledge bases and expertise that validate the community as the knowing subject. …

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