THE ENVIRONMENT IN GHANA
Dr. Elizabeth Amoah, University of Ghana.
This topic, I realise, is so broad and complex that one faces with problems of specifically, defining religion and environment, the two basic concepts in the title of this paper and linking the two concepts together. Again, there is the problem of selecting which aspects of the two concepts to focus on in such a short presentation.
From the indigenous Akan world- view, religion generally is about ‘ahoto’ an Akan word for well-being of individuals, the community and the entire universe. Other related words, which, the indigenous religion focuses on, are ‘nkwa’ which is translated as holistic and comprehensive life, and ‘asomdwee’ calmness and coolness within the ear (used to translate peace). These embody further concepts such as mercy, love, good relationship between human beings and between human beings and nature, lack of conflicts, good health and healing of individuals and community etc. That is to say that these complex concepts have physical and material dimensions and that concrete realisation of such concepts depends, to a large extent, on a healthy environment.
Religion includes a continuous life in which there is a proper balance and harmony between human members of the community and the numerous spirit powers that are believed to reside in nature and are part of the community. These spirit powers include the Creator Spirit, the numerous gods and goddesses and the ancestors who continue to be part of the community and are committed to the judicious use of nature by humanity. Consequently, indigenous Akan religion demands that members of the community use nature in a judicious and responsible way to ensure continuous, harmonious and peaceful life for all.
In the traditional Akan religion there is an inter-relationship between nature and the well- being of people and that total well-being is possible in an environmentally friendly context. This implies that all people, including religious and secular leaders should ensure that all the natural resources, the common wealth given to all by the creator spirit, are properly managed for all, including the unborn members of the community. In the indigenous Akan mindset therefore, any discourse on the proper management of the environment raises moral\ justice, economic, political, and social and religious\ theological issues. Thus, any meaningful discussion on the proper and judicious use of the environment that excludes the religious dimension is incomplete.
Again, from the indigenous African world- view Religion and the Environment are inter-connected. Not only do many indigenous Africans believe that nature has a sacred origin and that some of the spirits reside in nature, but also the sacred and the secular interact in nature. Hence serious religious activities take place in forest, by river -side and around trees described as sacred. Also a lot of religious activities and rituals draw heavily on symbolic objects from nature. Within the traditional mindset refusal to respect nature or the environment contradicts claims to be religious. Any discussion on the environment should take religion seriously because religion in general has a powerful influence on people so that religion can be used to reorient the minds of people to the need for proper management of the environment. Religion such as Christianity has existing structures and resources that can at least be used to create awareness for proper management of the environment. However, we should not forget that in Ghana, some religious practices, which for example, make use of loud noise and unnecessary sound effects, contribute to the environmental crisis in what is labelled noise pollution. By the environment we mean all the natural objects and surroundings that enhance spiritual and physical life, that is, ‘nkwa’. It includes natural objects such as trees, rivers and...