The Future of the Witness
Nature, Race and More-than-Human Environmental Publics
Keywords:Race, South Afica, Human rights
In a 2014 article entitled â€˜Ecology, Race, and the Making of Environmental Publics: A Dialogue with Silent Spring in South Africaâ€™, anthropologist Lesley Green identifies obstacles to the creation of an â€˜environmental publicâ€™ in contemporary post-apartheid South Africa.1 The broader backdrop against which Green writes â€“ one that is experienced globally to differing degrees and often in distinct manners â€“ is that of environmental violence that is enacted both against racialised human bodies and against nature, and, with this, the entanglement between abuses of human and nonhuman rights. For a start, violations of human rights, in South Africa and beyond, have been and often continue to be carried out through the natural environment, using scorched-earth tactics, environmental remodelling, industrial-scale agriculture, the creation of enclosures,2 dispossession through land-grabbing, and so on. Moreover, in the context of â€˜environmental racismâ€™, such violations are often enacted against racialised populations who are rendered culturally and politically â€˜disposableâ€™ or â€˜sacrificeableâ€™. Included here are climate refugees or, in the case of contemporary South Africa, those denied access to potable water, exposed to higher levels of pollution and/or toxicity, or removed from their land to enhance the profitability of extractive capitalism â€“ such as mining â€“ or, more sinisterly, removed from their land in the name of conservation.