The devastating consequence of galamsey has recently come on the front burner and I wish to thank Kwami Sefa Kayi of the Kokrokoo fame on Peace Fm and his media colleagues on the Multimedia platform for setting the agenda on this important issue.
Several aspects of the issue have been discussed but I believe one important dimension has been lost in the discussion. Ghana is fundamentally religious, even though per the 1992 Constitution, it is a secular nation.
To this effect, we cannot conclude the discussion on the galamsey menace without considering the religious factor. This article is informed by the findings of an academic work I undertook as part of my training in the seminary.
My work was entitled: THE AILING ASAASE YAA (MOTHER EARTH): A REFLECTION ON THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION - THE CASE OF GALAMSEY (ILLIGAL MINING) AT KYEBI.
Let me start by giving a brief background.
World Economic Activities and the Environment
The environment has for some time now attracted centre stage in global socio-political, economic and scientific discourses. There are many positions to this global discourse. Whereas some opine that things are getting better with the environment others think man's activities are precariously affecting its survival.
Today, the world is more often referred to as a global village. This is due to the phenomenal and historic level of interaction amongst nation states. Though such insertion of countries into a global order has come with its invaluable benefits to humanity, it has also left in its wake some negative consequences, as the purpose of this interaction has largely been economic.
Activities undertaken for economic purposes almost invariably have dire global environmental and ecological repercussions. It is known for example, that, activities that take place in countries have cumulative global environmental effects. In the light of this, recent studies have shown that until efforts are carried through to mitigate the impact, the world is gradually moving to dead-ends in terms of its environmental problems arising out of global economic activities.
In the 1980s and 1990s, there were serious concerns for the depletion of the ozone layer. Today, there is much talk about climate change, which is a conglomerate consequence of such phenomena like deforestation and of many years of emission of green house gases into the atmosphere.
For example, many years of industrialization in emerging economies like China, Brazil, India, Singapore, Malaysia, etc. together with the several centuries of pollution by the developed world, have led to enormous emission of green house gases into the atmosphere, the consequence of which is a looming climatic catastrophe.
This catastrophe has the capacity to adversely affect world temperatures, lead to loss of biodiversity and habitat, desertification and rising sea levels through the melting of the icecaps, etc. Also, deforestation is said to pose serious threats to global environmental health and natural resource sustainability.
Environmental Degradation in Ghana
In Ghana, the issue does not look too good. Though the country has made some strides in its economic growth agenda while seeing growth in its population, these have not come about without some injury to the environment.
According to Clement Boateng, author of Ghana: Mining takes Heavier toll on Ghana’s Biodiversity, in 1957, Ghana had about 8.3 million hectares of forestland, but only 1.2 million are left today. Currently, the commonest issue on environmental degradation in Ghana is destructive mining methods adopted by operators of illegal mining, popularly called galamsey. These illegal mining activities have led to the wanton destruction of several hectares of the country’s vegetative cover as well as serious alteration to landscapes.
The most grievous damage has been the almost irreparable state of several water bodies. In Kyebi, for example, the water company has for over the past four years been sending warning signals that it was becoming increasingly difficult, and where possible, costly to process water for consumption, and this could lead to the eventual closure of the treatment plant. Just recently, the water treatment plant has indeed been closed down.
Their reason for the closure is that the turbidity of the water to be treated has gone far beyond acceptable levels, and any attempt to treat such “mud” will lead to the breakdown of the plant. This current development has brought untold hardship on water consumers in the Township and its immediate environs.
Christianity and Environmental Consciousness
Even though Ghana has a large Christian population, this population seems bereft of ecological consciousness; and this may be blamed for the widespread illegal mining menace and its concomitant environmental degradation which has recently stricken many parts of the nation. Ghana, according to official records, is a Christian dominated nation. According to the 2010 population and housing census, Christians make up about 71.2% of Ghana’s population.
A logical deduction from the number of Christians in Ghana per the 2010 Census indicates that there are about 71Christians out of every 100 people involved in galamsey. This is indeed, huge. It is my contention that the lack of environmental consciousness among the Ghanaian Christian population is not due to the fact that the Bible lacks sound teachings on human-environment relationship, but that the content of Christian education in the Church in Ghana has over the years been lacking in this direction. Let me put it bluntly: the Church in Ghana has failed to teach Christians on their God-given responsibility to be good and sustainable stewards over the environment.
Even though there are other factors that have caused the current situation, as far as I am concerned, the religious bit is the crucial reason. When there are no strong biblical teachings on the environment, other factors will influence how people treat the environment.
The Church has only focused on teaching Christians to maintain godly and holy relationship with God and fellow humans; but has left out the need for Christians to also maintain godly relationship with the environment. Pastors and teachers like myself have vehemently spoken against corruption, but few have spoken against pollution.
Many have passionately spoken against murder of human beings, but just a handful has spoken against murder of fora and fauna. Many have supported the incarceration of those who have raped their victims, but none seems concerned about those who have raped mother earth with cruel lust for material satisfaction.
Church leaders have vigorously highlighted the sins man commits against God and his fellow man, but few have highlighted the sins that man commits against the environment with the same vigour. What I am trying to put across is that the Church has too often emphasized the human-divine and human-human relationships in its theologizing; and has sadly ignored the human-environment bit, an important element that can do or undo the first two relationships. What will be the use for a relationship with God and fellow human when the environment within which man exists cannot support man’s survival?
Additionally, preachers have often emphasized the fact that our ultimate destination is somewhere beyond this earth. That is very true and I believe it unrepentantly; but this I believe, has made some Christians irresponsibly cruel towards the environment. These Christians do not care about the environment that accommodates them until their final journey to the place called paradise.
I agree that indeed, galamsey, due to its rudimentary nature in terms of the tools used and the fact that it is surface mining, environmental degradation is extremely rife. I also agree that owners of land, especially chiefs and family heads have not been responsible and posterity minded. I further agree that Ghanaians involved in this industry have not been patriotic enough to have collaborated with foreigners, especially, the Chinese, to rape our forest and water bodies almost beyond resuscitation.
But my fellow Christians cannot absolve themselves from any culpability. There is enough evidence to show that the Church has failed to discharge its mandate by using the Bible to advocate on behalf of the environment - the Church has done woefully in giving the environment the needed prominence in its theologizing and its Christian education process. A simple research of sampling sermon themes (or topics) of pastors in all the Christian denominations for the past year for example, will show that there have been few or no sermon topic consciously prepared to teach Christians to be good stewards of the environment.
Furthermore, the Church has been a direct beneficiary of the proceeds from the galamsey business. My research showed that the church, especially those in the heart of the galamsey business depended on the wealth of the operators to survive. It is church members who engage in the business who are able to contribute meaningfully to support church projects. This makes it difficult for church leaders and preachers to teach against the menace.
The Way Forward
The Bible is in its substance, “green.” That is to say, the Bible is not anti-ecology (or anti-environment). The Christian Church should therefore begin to make conscious efforts in making the ecology an integral part of Christian education and theology in general.
The Christian scriptures present enormous tools in this direction and fellow pastors and priests should make teachings relating to the environment a priority. Enough of the sermons on prosperity; it is time to preach on posterity. There is no use for material prosperity if it does not benefit posterity. The Christian concept of stewardship can therefore be a major stride in this direction.
The Church is better placed to do this advocacy than any other entity. This is because; a little over 70% of Ghana’s population professes Christianity. Christians should therefore show the way.
Source: The Writer is a Rev. Minister/ E-mail: [email protected]
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