Green, Lesley. Rock/Water/Life: Ecology and Humanities for a Decolonial South Africa.

AuthorSkidmore-Hess, Cathy

Green, Lesley. Rock/Water/Life: Ecology and Humanities for a Decolonial South Africa. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020.

Lesley Green, founding director of Environmental Humanities South at the University of Cape Town, views herself as an "anthropocenologist," and as such she wants to examine the past and present with an understanding of the implications for the future. Writing in the context of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, she problematizes the path of white environmentalism and white "green violence" as well as drawing a distinction between science and scientism. For Green, bumper sticker slogans such as "Save the rhino, Hunt a poacher" and the South African Navy's base at Simon's Town point to colonial domination of people and landscapes. However, she also calls on those wanting to decolonize minds and the curriculum to distinguish between science and scientism, those who make unreflective claims of authority without thought to relationship between "truth claims and the authorisation of patriarchy, coloniality, capitalism, white supremacism" (105). Scientism, or rather the "boot prints left by authorized knowledge," reinforces racism and inequality. To combat this, Green argues for understanding the world as a delicate web of relations, most particularly between "rock, water, life." By tearing down dichotomies, she hopes to help decolonize both South Africa and environmentalism.

Rock/Water/Life approaches South Africa's (and the globe's) environmental dilemmas from multiple angles. Beginning with a lyrical and engaging description of biking to Cape Point Nature Reserve and attempts to gain a "Wild Card," a South African park pass, she engages the reader's interest and contextualizes her endeavor. In Green's analysis, the current water crisis in Cape Town stems from a system that fails to recognize the universality of water, essential to all life, and an ecopolitical system based on the exploitation of people and the objectification and ownership of the environment. Moreover, she asserts that Cape Town's (as well as the rest of South Africa's) past and present cannot be separated from questions of water, and rock, and racial oppression. Nor can the environmental crisis be distinguished from the emergence of capitalism, private ownership, and commodification of peoples and the landscape. South Africa's communities, natures, and histories remain entangled and interconnected by that which makes life possible, water. Green emphasizes...

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