Addressing Fragmented Relationships and Dislocation in Environmental Thinking: Ubuntu Insights on Human and Nonhuman Wellbeing

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Embargoed until 2023-12-02
Copyright: Samuel, Olusegun
How can we address the fragmentation of inter-and intra-species relationships and the conceptual and material dislocations of humanity from its natural environments, in environmental thinking and practices? In answering this question, this dissertation offers an ubuntu-inspired solution. Ubuntu views humanity as inseparably connected with other beings and located in the environment. I propose that, in rejecting (human and nonhuman) capacities-based approaches to what counts morally, ubuntu provides an alternative vision, one that decolonises ideas and practices that suppress or deny the flourishing of individuals or groups. This dissertation proposes an original, ubuntu-inspired framework, an 'ethico-ecological community', with two integrated themes, relationality and locatedness. Ubuntu provides the primary conceptual insight within which these dual themes are nested. ‘Relationality’ draws our attention to networks of inter-and intra-species interactions involving humans and nonhumans, while ‘locatedness’ prompts us to consider the embeddedness of beings and entities in built and natural environments (cities, forests, rivers, soils, or in some combination: location). Together, the themes animate the dissertation’s arguments that: (a) the environment is not merely a site within which humans live, but is constitutive of human and nonhuman identities and flourishing, and (b) the relationships therein must also be incorporated in an account of human and nonhuman wellbeing. My argument demonstrates that ubuntu helps to redirect our moral gaze beyond more simplistic and insular conceptions of environmental ethics that only address human wellbeing. While ubuntu will be helpful in repositioning the way we think about environmental ethics, I suggest that ubuntu does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution for all the environmental ills we face. Rather, more realistically and cautiously, this dissertation will contribute to scholarship by (1) grounding an argument for environmental ethics in human and nonhuman wellbeing, (2) adapting the idea of sharing central to ubuntu, to highlight the importance of locality—locatedness in the earth environment—in human and nonhuman life, and (3) offering unique themes from ubuntu that diversify our conceptions of environmental wellbeing. This could help expand our moral vocabulary and vision to provide a less fragmentary approach to environmental problems.
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PhD Doctorate