Climate Change and Ecocide in Sierra Leone: Representations in Aminatta Forna’s Ancestor Stones and The Memory of Love
Keywords:Sierra Leone, civil war, ecocide, eco-anxiety, climate trauma, climate change, narrative fiction, Aminatta Forna
War has been instrumental in destroying land and forests and thus is a major contributor to climate change. Degradation due to war has been especially significant in Africa. The African continent, once green, is now almost denuded of its rich forests and pillaged of its precious natural resources due to the brutality of colonisation and more recent postcolonial civil wars. In Sierra Leone the civil war continued for over eleven years from 1991 to 2002 and wrought havoc on the land and forests. Thus the anxiety and trauma suffered by the people not only includes the more visible aspects of human brutality, but also the long lasting effects of ecocide which relate to climate change. Underlying narratives that address traumatic ecological disasters is a sense of anxiety and depression resulting from the existential threat of climate change. This paper demonstrates how narratives can metaphorically represent both ecocide and climate change and argues that such stories help people in tackling the real life stresses of anxiety and trauma. To establish the argument this paper has drawn on scientific and sociological data and placed these vis-à-vis narrative episodes in Aminatta Forna’s novels Ancestor Stones (2006) and The Memory of Love (2010). In these novels Forna depicts the ecological crisis that colonisation and civil war have wrought on Sierra Leone. The anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder – of war and ecocide – suffered by the fictional Sierra Leonean characters are explained through Cathy Caruth’s trauma theory.
Armstrong, J. (2019). Gothic Resistances: Flesh, Bones, Ghosts and Time in Vietnamese Postwar Fiction. eTropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 18(1), 28-49. https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.18.1.2019.3686 DOI: https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.18.1.2019.3686
Babbit, S. E. (2005). Stories from the South: A Question of Logic. Hypatia 20(3), 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1527-2001.2005.tb00484.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1527-2001.2005.tb00484.x
Bielby, K. (2021, May 24). Natural Resources Exploitation and 'Jihadist Drugs' Fueling Terrorist Groups. Homeland Security Today. https://www.hstoday.us/subject-matter-areas/counterterrorism/natural-resources-exploitation-and-jihadist-drugs-fueling-terrorist-groups/
Bøås, M., Hatløy, A., &Bjørkhaug, I. (2009). Alcohol and drugs in post-war Sierra Leone. African Journal of Drug and Alcohol Studies, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.4314/ajdas.v7i1.46358 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4314/ajdas.v7i1.46358
Caldwell, G. (2011, May 25). Coming Out of the Closet: My Climate Trauma (and Yours?). HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/coming-out-of-the-closet_b_195770
Caruth, C. (1996). Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Chaudhuri, U., & Enelow, S. (2014). Theorizing Ecocide: The Theatre of Eco-Cruelty. Research Theatre, Climate Change, and the Ecocide Project, 22–40. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137396624_2 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137396624_2
Cherry, K. (2021, February 15). Common Defense Mechanisms People Use to Cope with Anxiety. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/defense-mechanisms-2795960
Clark, T. (2019). Ecocriticism on the edge: the Anthropocene as a threshold concept. Bloomsbury Academic.
Craps, S. (2020). Climate Trauma. In C. Davis & H. Meretoja (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Literature and Trauma (pp. 275–284). Taylor and Francis. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351025225-25 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351025225-25
Forna, A. (2006). Ancestor Stones. Bloomsbury Paperbacks.
Forna, A. (2010). The Memory of Love. Bloomsbury Publishing.
Gaard, G. & Gruen, L. (1993) Ecofeminism: Toward Global Justice and Planetary Health. Society and Nature, 2, 1-35.
Hay, A. (2013, April 3). The Origins of Ecocide. Seeing the Woods. https://seeingthewoods.org/2013/04/03/the-origins-of-ecocide/
Helmer, J. (2019) The Environmental Downside of Cannabis Cultivation: Wide-scale cannabis cultivation is causing environmental damage. Federal regulations could change this. June 18, 2019. https://daily.jstor.org/the-environmental-downside-of-cannabis-cultivation/
Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. BasicBooks. whatnow727.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/herman_trauma-and-recovery.pdf
Hough, P. (2016). Trying to End the War on the World: The Campaign to Proscribe Military Ecocide. Global Security: Health, Science and Policy, 1(1), 10–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/23779497.2016.1208055 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/23779497.2016.1208055
Ithaca College. (2017, October 31). Marijuana farming hurts environment, new study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 30, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171031202705.htm
Johnson, C. (17 February, 2010) Sierra Leone farmers turning to cannabis growing:VP. https://www.reuters.com/article/ozatp-leone-drugs-20100217-idAFJOE61G0O020100217
Kainulainen, M. (2013). Saying Climate Change: Ethics of the Sublime and the Problem of Representation. symploke 21(1), 109-123. https://doi.org/10.5250/symploke.21.1-2.0109 DOI: https://doi.org/10.5250/symploke.21.1-2.0109
Nixon, R. (2011). Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674061194 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674061194
Steffen, W., Crutzen, P. J., & McNeill, J. R. (2007). The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 36(8), 614–621. https://doi.org/10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[614:taahno]2.0.co;2 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[614:TAAHNO]2.0.CO;2
Summers, H.M., Sproul, E. & Quinn, J.C. (2021). The greenhouse gas emissions of indoor cannabis production in the United States. Nature Sustainability, 4, 644-650. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00691-w DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00691-w
Third United Nations Conference on The Least Developed Countries. (2001). Presentation of the Government of Sierra Leone. https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/aconf191cp42sil.en.pdf
UNEP. (2008). Africa: Atlas of Our Changing Environment. UNEP.
UNEP. (2010) Sierra Leone, Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding Assessesment. Technical Report. February. www.unep.org/conflictsanddisasters
Wang, I. J., Brenner, J. C., & Butsic, V. (2017). Cannabis, an emerging agricultural crop, leads to deforestation and fragmentation. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 15(9), 495–501. https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.1634 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.1634
Wartenberg, et al., (2021). Cannabis and the Environment: What Science Tells Us and What We Still Need to Know. Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 8(2), 98–107. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00844 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00844
West Africa Drug Policy Network (WADPN). (2017, February 2). Cannabis legalisation in Sierra Leone, What Hope? International Drug Policy Consortium. https://idpc.net/alerts/2017/02/cannabis-legalisation-in-sierra-leone-what-hope.
Zalasiewicz, J. A. (2009). The Earth after Us: What Legacy Will Humans Leave in Rocks? Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780199214976.001.0001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780199214976.001.0001
Zierler, D. (2011). The Invention of Ecocide. University of Georgia Press.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 CC-BY
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who submit articles to this journal agree to the following terms:
1. Authors are responsible for ensuring that any material that has influenced the research or writing has been properly cited and credited both in the text and in the Reference List (Bibliography). Contributors are responsible for gaining copyright clearance on figures, photographs or lengthy quotes used in their manuscript that have been published elsewhere.
2. Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License that allows others to share and adapt the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
3. Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository, or publish it in a book), with proper acknowledgement of the work's initial publication in this journal.
4. Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (see The Effect of Open Access or The Open Access Citation Advantage). Where authors include such a work in an institutional repository or on their website (i.e., a copy of a work which has been published in eTropic, or a pre-print or post-print version of that work), we request that they include a statement that acknowledges the eTropic publication including the name of the journal, the volume number and a web-link to the journal item.
5. Authors should be aware that the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License permits readers to share (copy and redistribute the work in any medium or format) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the work) for any purpose, even commercially, provided they also give appropriate credit to the work, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. They may do these things in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests you or your publisher endorses their use.