1.1 Background to the Study
Ecology refers to the study of the interaction or relationship among living creatures like trees and animals and between living creatures and their environment (Nwosu 2014:57). Ecology is a subject of great concern because it has much to do with the wellbeing of human beings and other creatures. For example, if the mode of interaction is not sustainable, it means that nature is abused and, the life supporting system of the earth is in danger. There is a troubling observable ecological phenomenon in Tivland. Trees are fast disappearing. Wildlife and their habitats are fast vanishing. There is growing scarcity of fish in rivers, streams and ponds. Some common creatures like crickets and edible caterpillars among many others are increasingly becoming rare. Rivers, streams and ponds that used to retain water all year round no longer do so. The land is becoming bare and, hence, vulnerable to erosion.
The above is largely due to increase in population, urbanisation, uncontrolled pastoral and nomadic activities, uninhibited and reckless deforestation, hunting, fishing and bush burning as well as wasteful methods of farming that put trees and game animals to destruction. The weather conditions have become irregular; hence, the cases of flooding and drought are common. The experience of floods and droughts are followed by poor crops yield; and the disappearance of plants and trees creates difficulties for botanists, herbalists, building engineers, carpenters and for animal survival.
The reckless felling of trees and bush burning, have created problems for carpenters, herbalists as well as building and other construction engineers. Various species of trees and plants are fast disappearing. There is the scarcity of hardwood for roofing and furniture for homes and offices. Traditional medicine men and herbalists have difficulty finding the needed plants for their medicinal preparations. Botanists no longer have it easy finding the needed species of plants either for teaching in schools or for their useful study. The same is true of zoologists. Farmers are no longer always able to provide adequate food supply for their communities. This is partly due to poor crop yield owing to droughts, erosion and loss of soil nutrients to bush burning.
Denen Aie (in a personal communication, 30/04/2016) affirms that the cutting down and destruction of forest reserves have both dispersed and destroyed wildlife in many places. Many people of the younger generations can only see certain animals in pictures or hear of them in stories and folktales. Fish population in rivers has drastically reduced due to chemical applications in bodies of water and other harmful practices. Desert encroachment, with its harsh effects on human and animals life, is attributed to deforestation and lack of aforestation. The adverse effects of global warming are on the other hand attributed to the emission of industrial and atmospheric gases, like carbon dioxide (CO2). These have constituted a depleting effect on the ozone layer. Depreciating health conditions resulting from lack of good water, malnutrition and harsh weather conditions reportedly lead to outbreaks of cholera, meningitis, skin cancer and other deadly diseases. The breakdown of good health conditions constitutes huge problems for health workers. Most earthquakes are reportedly attributed to careless geological activities like mindless mining. Human dangerous ecological activities and abuse of the ecosystem constitute a telling effect on the means of human livelihood. This, consequently, affects government policies and the economy.
This work therefore emerges from the background of the observed changes in the environment: the condition to which human activities have subjected the ecosystem and the changing state of the flora and fauna as well as changes in weather and their consequences. This observable phenomenon poses a threat to the ecosystem and human life as well. This requires the attention of every human discipline in the search for a solution to the preservation of the ecosystem. From this background, this work turns to the ancient cultural wisdom of the Tiv Traditional Religion in the quest for a mechanism for ecological preservation.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Human activities leading to the mismanagement of the ecosystem constitute a potential ecological danger to life on planet earth. According to Wright and Kill (1993), it is believed that the universe came into being about fifteen billions years ago. The earth which is a tiny fraction of the entire universe came into existence as lately as four and a half billion years ago. Human life on planet earth has existed for about four hundred and fifty thousand years (Wright and Kill, 1993:15). The above view of the world’s existence sequentially agrees with the biblical view that human beings were late comers on the planet earth (cf. Genesis 1-2:14). The late comers, human beings, are today at the centre of major decisions concerning the future of the world. In some cases, human interactions with the environment threaten life. The future of created nature and of humanity herself comes under threat here. The summary of the problem is that, “at present we, the human species appear to be destroying earth’s life-supporting systems” (Wright and Kill, 1993:9).
Past and present generations of living things have consistently relied on the natural environment for survival. Future generations too apparently would have no alternative means of sustenance than the present natural environment. The natural environment is constituted of both living and non-living endowments. This clear fact charges human beings, in their activities, with the responsibility of a responsible and considerate as well as eco-friendly interaction with the rest of created nature. Fragomeni and Pawlikowski (eds.) (1994) have rightly brought to notice the fact that “we live in an age where for the first time the human community must decide whether future generations will inherit an earth capable of sustaining life” (Fragomeni and Pawlikowski (eds.) 1994:back cover). Just as the human community has over the centuries depended on the earth’s fauna and flora for existence and survival, today, it has become even clearer than ever before, that the earth’s resources too depend on the human community for survival.
The survival requirements of both the earth’s natural environment and the human community are reciprocal consequents of human interactions with and activities on the planet earth. Human unsustainable and irresponsible ecological activities on the planet earth have become increasingly troubling. The over-exploitation of the earth’s resources has, among other things, put some animal species at the danger of extinction. This is possible where there is the destruction of valuable vegetation, pollution of the hydrosphere, atmosphere and the lithosphere. The results of these as already mentioned above include desertification due to deforestation without afforestation, global warming, flooding and earthquakes which reportedly result from economic and geological activities like mining. This research focuses its rapt attention on the ways and means through which ecological degradation and other related issues were ab initio controlled and preserved through traditional religious practices.