Entrenching Ecocentric Approach to Environmental Management in Kenya
This article was first written in thelawyer.africa website and it has been written by Dr. Kariuki Muigua
Much of the debates revolving around sustainable development agenda have evolved around how environmental and natural resources can be harnessed in a way that puts man in the middle of such activities, that is, an anthropocentric approach. An anthropocentric approach focuses mainly on meeting the need of human beings at the expense of a system that values the environment and ecological health, that is, an ecocentric approach. The human rights-based approaches provide a powerful framework of analysis and basis for action to understand and guide development, as they draw attention to the common root causes of social and ecological injustice.
Human rights standards and principles then guide development to more sustainable outcomes by recognizing the links between ecological and social marginalization, stressing that all rights are embedded in complex ecological systems, and emphasizing provision for need over wealth accumulation. There is an overemphasis on anthropocentric approach at the expense of an ecocentric approach that puts a greater emphasis on environment and ecological health. This section discusses Kenya’s approach to environmental conservation and protection and makes a case for a more ecocentric approach.
Ecocentric Approaches to Environmental Management
The World Charter for Nature points out that mankind is part of nature and life depends on the uninterrupted functioning of natural systems which ensure the supply of energy and nutrients. Furthermore, civilization is rooted in nature, which has shaped human culture and influenced all artistic and scientific achievement, and living in harmony with nature gives man the best opportunities for the development of his creativity, and for rest and recreation.
Ecocentric approaches to environmental management explore such themes as combating climate change, impact of resource extraction, environmental health, and environmental conservation for the sake of the Mother Nature. The ecocentric approach to environmental management and governance advocates for the conservation of the environment as a matter of right and not merely because of the benefits that accrue to the human beings. Under the ecocentric approach, there is a moral concern for nature. Some scholars have rightly argued that we should give legal rights to forests, oceans, rivers and other so-called “natural objects” in the environment-indeed, to the natural environment as a whole.
Environmental management and governance in Kenya mainly focuses on achieving sustainable development, where development is interpreted as having several dimensions which include: Economic development; Human development; and Sustainable development. It is thus evident that while there are attempts aimed at conserving the environment, much of the efforts seem to be directed at anthropocentric approach that seeks to meet the needs of human beings and the general developmental needs of the country.
Entrenching the Ecocentric Approach in Environmental Management in Kenya
The anthropocentric approach mostly adopted by most of the existing legal instruments in Kenya and indeed much of the sustainable development agenda debates create the false impression that the environment should only be protected for the convenience of human beings. However, a better approach should incorporate both anthropocentric and ecocentric ideals for better incentives. There is a need for more emphasis while coming up with laws to ensure that there are measures that are geared towards protecting the aspects of nature whose benefits are not obvious to the human beings, if at all. Some of the challenges that the country is experiencing such as degradation of natural forests and dwindling water catchment areas would become a thing of the past if people understand that the earth has intrinsic value and right to be protected from climate change and degradation.
If human beings view themselves as part of the nature, and not merely as conquerors of the nature with a right to use or even plunder the earth resources, then respect for the environment is likely to increase as well as entrenchment of environmental ethics where people take care of the environment without necessarily doing it as a reaction to laws on environment in the country. It is important that the country integrates both anthropocentric and ecocentric approaches to environmental conservation and protection. All beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings. For instance, without the bees, pollination of plants would be almost impossible, and without plants animal lives would be jeopardized.
A sustained and secure environment is also useful for the regeneration of resources. These organisms may not speak for themselves and it is important that human beings take them into consideration when exploiting environmental and natural resources. They should be a voice for the voiceless. There is an increased need for the policy makers and legislators to ensure that any laws, plans, policies and other legal instruments are geared more towards ensuring that environmental conservation and management efforts reflect ecocentric approaches.
*This article is an extract from the Article: Securing Our Destiny through Effective Management of the Environment, (2020) Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development Volume 4(3), p. 1. by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD, Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards), ADR Publisher of the Year 2021 and ADR Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 (CIArb Kenya). Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert in Kenya. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Senior Lecturer of Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law and The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP). He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Dr. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Africa Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates. Dr. Muigua is recognized among the top 5 leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts in Kenya by the Chambers Global Guide 2022.
Muigua, K., “Securing Our Destiny through Effective Management of the Environment,” (2020) Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development Volume 4(3), p. 1.