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I was nurtured in the biological, ecological and environmental knowledge fields, and spent many years nurturing generations of knowledge workers and learners in these dimensions. However, to date, I have not really written many articles where I relate publicly to enhance the ecological knowledge of leaders and policymakers. So, many readers have frequently imagined that I was nurtured in the arts (humanities) or social sciences.  

Few people know that ecology, biology and environment are more of social than technical or scientific concerns and dimensions of human survival and manifestation. Also, not many people know that ecology, biology and environment can be of knowledge and practical concern in the natural sciences as much as in the arts (humanities) and social science. In fact, they link the natural science, arts (humanities) and social sciences.  This supports the view that science is one with just different dimensions – arts (humanities), social science and natural science. The strict separation from each other is academic (unreal).

Therefore, the current political craze in Uganda to raise natural science over and above the other sciences in terms of political advocacy, financial allocation and policy preference, is misplaced. It reflects ignorance of the oneness and unity of science. That is not to say that we should not priotize science (as natural science). We should. It is erroneous and deceptive to make everyone think and believe that it is only natural science and professionals in the natural sciences that we need to develop and transform our country into a better one to live in and to ensure quality life for our people. 

We need all the sciences (natural, social and arts) to achieve meaningful human development and transformation of our society for the benefit of all humanity. Whatever our scientific and professional orientations (natural, social, arts), we need to have adequate knowledge of all the science. In any case Man, Homo sapiens, is first and foremost a social animal, with a multidimensional brain, and with the dimensions themselves multidimensional and interconnected. This design is important for social man to acquire multiple capacities to scan, interpret and understand the environment in order to fit in and benefit from it. 

Unfortunately, over time “modern” education has sought to separate the dimensions of knowledge and create small pockets (academic tribes) within broad fields of knowledge (academic territories). This way, Homo sapiens has been turned into an asocial being, as education continues to emphasize individualism (i.e., the individual) yet individualism is an alien in the natural system of things. 

Ecology, Biology and environment all eliminate individualism through seeking and emphasizing togetherness, interconnectivity and oneness as the collective way forward to effective interaction, sustainability and production of wholesome professionals that matter: professionals that manifest in various ways to ensure unity of purpose and order in natural systems. Instead, the professionals we have been producing, and are continuing to produce, are mostly expert in and work with artificial systems, constantly and persistently erasing the boundary between the natural and the unnatural. 

We are now unable to separate catastrophes due to natural causes from those due to unnatural causes. Unnatural causes arise from human interactions with nature. The majority of interactions are due to ecologically and environmentally empty Man’s craze to conquer Nature rather than live in harmony with it. 

In this article I want to help raise the ecological knowledge of leaders and policy makers as simply as possible. Without adequate ecological knowledge, leaders, the majority of whom were nurtured in the Arts and social science, will continue to lead without adequate knowledge of ecological principles, and policy-makers will continue to make policies that violate those principles. Whatever policies they design will violate nature and the harmony of interactions between humans and nature. 

Key ecological principles are 1. Deal with time. 2. Species. 3. Place. 4.Disturbance. 5. Landscape. Other ecological principles everyone involved in leadership and policy making are should know are: 1. Manage time. 2, Maintain diversity and redundancy. 3. Manage connectivity. 4. Manage slow variables and feedbacks. 5. Foster complex adaptive systems thinking. 6. Encourage learning. 7. Broaden participation. 8. Promote polycentric governance systems. 

However, ten other principles of ecology, which we should all know, were articulated by Aspari: 

1. Evolution organizes ecological systems into hierarchies. 

2. The sun is the ultimate source of energy for most ecosystems. 

3. Organisms are chemical machines that run on energy. 

4. Chemical nutrients cycle repeatedly while energy flows through an ecosystem. 

5. The rate that a population abundance in a giv3n area increases or decreases reflects the abundance of its births, deaths and net migration into an area (dN/dt=B-X+1). 

6. The rate that the diversity of species in an area change reflects the balance of the number of new forms that arise, those that go extinct, and those that migrate into the area. 

7. Organisms interact – do things to each other in ways that influence their abundance (eating each other, competing for shared resources and help each other survive. 

8. Ecosystems are organized in form of webs and chains of interaction reflecting flow of energy and cycling of materials. 

9. Humans have an outsized role in competing with, preying upon and helping other organisms to survive. 

10. Ecosystems provide essential services to human populations.

When I say leaders, I don’t mean political leaders, although what they do and say while blaming the people at the periphery of society, is the main reason why nature has deteriorated. Decayed and collapsed nature is now violating our very existence and survival everywhere on the globe. I mean all kinds of leaders reflecting the dimensions of the brain: political leaders, institutional leaders, cultural leaders, social leaders, economic leaders, academic leaders, intellectual leaders, financial leaders, technical leaders, educational leaders, opinion leaders, et cetera.

When I say policy-makers, I mean a wide spectrum of them, making policies in and for every sphere of human life and activities, existence and survival: agriculture, fisheries, health, education, energy, industry, justice, security, et cetera.

 Indeed, policies are what political leaders use to determine the kind of interactions of citizens with the environment and nature. If they are wrong or destructive policies, they will impact natural ecology and natural environment negatively, throwing the balance of nature and human activities into disarray. The results are the kind of catastrophes that have recently hit countries like Morocco, Syria, Turkey and China, Greece and USA, to name but a few that have suffered the consequences of diminishing and disappearing boundary between the natural and unnatural due to ecological decay and collapse. Sustainable ecology is critical to sustainability of environment.

Let me straight away articulate and clarify what ecology is. Ecology can be defined as the study or knowledge of the relationships of living things (or organisms) with their living and nonliving environment. We sometimes refer to ecology as a science and call it “ecological science”. So, when you read ecological science, you can substitute it with ecology and vice versa. We can then talk of ecological knowledge, which is necessary for anyone who interacts with other people as a social being and impact them with his or social choices and be impacted by the social choices of others in the environment. The ecological knowledge can help us to consciously select social ways that will not harm others by disorienting the environment in ways that are not conducive to maintaining and sustaining harmony between people and the environment. 

Most of us ecologists are interested in challenges, issues and problems relating to or involving the natural environment. We are particularly concerned about environmental degradation arising from the ecological effects of humans through their activities; and we are concerned with those activities as well. What is critical is that those who design systems in our environment and manage them have adequate ecological knowledge to do so wisely. Otherwise, they will do so technically and ignore the social dimension, which is first and foremost the reason we manage the environment. We want the environment to be conducive to people to pursue their social needs in a balanced and integrated way and with minimum repercussions. 

There are levels of integration within ecology. It is rewarding when leaders and policymakers are aware of them and can put them in mind when leading and designing policies. The levels are: the individual, the ecological population, the ecological community, the ecological landscape and the Biosphere. Although in biology an individual is a misnomer as the concept of individual does not really exist, because everything is connected to every other thing, in ecology we conveniently recognize an individual as a particular organism belonging to a particular species. 

For example, Waiswa is an individual belonging to the species of Man, Homo sapiens. He can lead his life apart from other humans without struggling to be similar to others. A crisis, however, develops when he wants everything to himself without thinking of the needs and survival of others. That is being ecologically greedy and selfish. It is also ecologically stupid to try to make individuals of a species the same. That is unnatural, anti-God and anti-diversity.

A population is an aggregation of individuals belonging to the same species that should biologically continually exchange genetic information in order to perpetuate their kind well in the future. Humans organize themselves in families of man and woman in which they exchange genetic material and produce children who should also form their own families when they reach adult life and produce their own children. This way, the genealogy of their ancestors and parents is preserved and perpetuated well in future. Sexual behaviours that evade this are dangerous to genealogical survival in the long term. Such behaviours propagate, in our environment, sexual relationships between man and man and woman and woman. They are, therefore, biologically and genetically wasteful and useless. They are pollutants of the environment.

An ecological community consists of many populations of different species interacting in the same location in the same landscape. Although we talk of communities of people, strictly an ecological community consists of populations of animals of different kinds, populations of plants of different kinds, and populations of microbes of different types in the same location or site. Leaders and policy makers should work to ensure harmonious relationships between different populations within different ecological communities. Failure to do so initiates extinctions of the kind we have witnessed over the decades. Through the choices of mineral fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified seeds (GMOs), huge dams and hydropower, oil palm, sugarcane and mineral oil to drive the economy, political leaders and policymakers have chosen to stress and strain the environment while enhancing dependency on foreigners, foreign intellectual capital and foreign money capital (in form of loans).

An ecological landscape consists of many interacting and interconnected communities over a large geographic area. Ecological units, such as forests, game reserves, national parks or corridors may be identified in the ecological landscape, but that is for convenience. In nature they are interconnected and interdependent. For example, the Bugoma forest corridor reserve in Western Uganda connects a natural forest and a national park, allowing animals to move to and from. The decision to establish a sugar plantation in the corridor reflects serious lack of ecological science of the area on the part of the political decision-makers and/or policymakers. The ecological repercussions will definitely emerge with the passage of time. Sometimes ecological units are referred to as Biomes. They may constitute ecosystems or be part of broad interconnected ecosystems within the Biosphere.

The Biosphere (i.e., the sphere of life) covers the whole Earth. It so-called because ii is the only ecological space in the the whole universe known to naturally support all life. 

Ignoring ecological construction because of not taking ecological science seriously in whatever we do is the reason why the capacity of the earth to sustain life is declining meteorically. We now hear more and more of disasters and climate change, not because these are natural, but because we are violating the various levels of integration within ecology. Simultaneously we are disorganizing energy flow, materials cycling and productivity in natural systems, thereby driving them towards artificiality by the activities we choose to do and the policies we prefer to guide our activities. Increasingly, such policies reflect greed and selfishness of the leaders and policymakers, and their disdain for natural order as they pursue their own interests at the expense of the totality of ecology and environment.

We need to rethink leadership and policymaking in order to make them more ecologically sensitive and less inclined to serve the interests of leaders, policymakers and their collaborators in ecological and environmental destruction. In Uganda, leadership and policy choices are encouraging human population dispossession and displacement in favour of foreigners or people connected to power, and of exogenous roots. The result is destruction of the socioecological, sociocultural, socioeconomic and ecological-biological connections between indigenous peoples and nature, and destruction of the traditional agroecological farming systems that were nature-loving. We are replacing them with alien extensive or intensive agribusiness systems that are nature insensitive, environmentally bankrupt and environmentally corrupt, As if all this is not enough, nomadic pastoralists are occupying large tracts of land and converting it to a grazing system, thereby undermining food production via the agroecological farming systems. Government is doing nothing to stop the nomadic pastoralists some of who are said to be streaming in from Rwanda with guns on their laps. This is dangerous as it signals ecological and environmental decay and collapse, food production recession and hunger well in future.

For God and My Country

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Written by Oweyegha Afunaduula

I am a retired lecturer of zoological and environmental sciences at Makerere University. I love writing and sharing information.

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