August 23, 2023

Workineh Kelbessa: Environmental Philosophy in African Traditions of Thought

Part of the seminar series Thinking our environmental future: Conversations on the environment, climate and ethics

Professor Workineh Kelbessa discusses the environmental thought and worldviews of some traditions in Africa. He argues that, unlike mainstream Western philosophy, African environmental philosophy articulates the interconnectedness of all aspects of reality. It supports a holistic view of the world that recognizes the interdependence of humans, non-humans, and ecosystems. In the African worldview, human beings are essentially part of a dynamic interconnected whole from which they are inseparable. When human beings see themselves as outside of nature, it is purely for the purpose of conceptual need. Even here, humans are still in nature. African environmental philosophy has the potential to contribute to environmental rehabilitation, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, climate change mitigation and adaptation, thereby helping to address environmental and development problems in Africa. Kelbessa suggests that philosophers and other intellectuals must begin collecting and documenting oral and non-academic sources of wisdom both in urban centers and remote rural areas around the world. Integrating these sources of wisdom into the human knowledge base is crucial.

Professor Kelbessa is Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.