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Viewing “‘cultures’ as shared, bounded wholes, relating to single, static environments” is a deceptive perspective in global environmental science today. As “global environmental problems have local environmental impacts,” the way that scientists think of local indigenous communities affects the relevancy of any international aid a global scientific community can offer (209). Ultimately, “environmentally benign beliefs translate into environmentally benign practice,” and unless scientists overcome predispositions about the inertness of culture, any valuable international relationship towards a “common future” will be lost (215, 222).
As with other indigenous languages around the world, local West African languages entail political significance in terms of relationship between land and farmer. Such political terms “do not translate easily into those of Western environmental science,” and appreciation for their meaning requires an authentic “globalization of environmental discourse” (211, 222). Because foreign scientists have no knowledge of the West African “cultural embeddedness” of language and land, they are often unaware of the “enduring links” between contemporary West African farmers and their ancestors who once worked the same plot of earth. Invariably, contemporary global sciences evaluate indigenous environmental practices “only on their own [Western] terms,” and do not allow for reinterpretation of ideas that could inform care of the earth (224).
A limited understanding of indigenous practices also promotes the “repackaging” of local knowledges as “romanticized notions,” allowing Westerners to invent their own interpretations of what is “traditional” and ultimately “suppress local creativity” (211). In “the imposition of global orthodoxies and analysis” upon “environmental values and notions of sustainability” in Non-Western cultures, Western scientists infringe “not only on local livelihoods but also on cultural freedom” of fellow human beings (224). The scientific power of a dominant culture in defining the environmental practices of other cultures limits our international potential for environmental sustainability, as it limits the voices and legitimate contributions of indigenous societies.
The political reality of “globally defined environmental agendas” simply does not reflect the agendas of every community around the globe, rather, it reflects “the priorities of those in positions of power” (Leach and Fairhead 210).
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