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Lungs of the Earth - Oh beloved forests
Environmental issues in Iran have to be taken as the most serious and urgent problem to be tackled


September 2, 2005

A gift of civilization
the wooden horse of greed
that dead wood
filled and unfilled with locust soldiers
praying to their blindfolded gods
- for if you cannot see nor can your god -
while chopping and burning trees
not for-rest
not for peace
the lungs of the earth
breathing out
turning to hurricane
the old sweet breeze.

Eyes that can not see wood
not for the trees
but for the currencies
- made of sliced dead wood-
which grow in their pockets
for lives des-troyed
and for horses of flesh
trampled upon
unfleshed while bleeding to tears
by the wooden horse of greed
a gift of civilization

Anyone still doubting the disastrous effects resulting from the destruction of the forests on the environment - well 5 years into the 21st century - is not only behind the curve but out of the loop (thanks BB) altogether.

If you are sitting in USA wondering at the reasons for the increased numbers of hurricanes in your vicinity and not having a clue of what is happening with rainforests in Brazil, Indonesia and South east Asia (plus other parts of South America and Mexico) then you need to get real and inform yourselves, as you are already involved no matter if you like it or not.

The individualism in the US has gone so far that even hurricanes are now treated as individuals with human names. Perhaps the other reason is because those who name them have been bottling up their anger for too long, and by identifying with the hurricanes leave the acting out bit of their suppressed angers to the weather. But why not bang the cushions instead?

The only interesting effect the individual naming could have would be that these hurricanes would lead to Americans turning pagans praying to Wotan, asking him to stick to his usual storms as his job description and avoid getting outraged so frequently, as he seems to be these days.

My suggestion is that the hurricanes should be rather designated with numbers so as to help people to be more aware of the increasing numbers of hurricanes within a shorter period of time. This in turn would hopefully lead to the realization that prevention is indeed better than cure.

Awareness of the following facts may also increase the speed of the realization as it is happening just round the corner to most of this site's readers:

- USA is responsible for 80% of the global pollution.

- The US regime's attitude towards the Kyoto summit and the European negotiations- currently in progress- has been up to now cynical.

It addition it persistently ignores the warnings of the country's own scientists and fails to enlighten its own general public regarding the urgency of the global environmental issues.

- Only 6 percent of forests in the US states have been protected in wilderness areas or National Parks (info: Native Forest Council).

There seems to be a common claim amongst the Iranians living in the US about the high level of education in their community. But what is the point of high education if it is used only for money and career without a real long term contribution to humanity today, and to the well being of the future generations as well?

A future generation who is doomed to deal with the mess the current societies have made of the world. Should the future generations forgive us? Definitely not. And would they? I don't think so.

What are the facts?
We are losing 50 million acres of rainforest (not counting other forests) per year. This is about a football field (soccer) per SECOND. This means that unless conservation efforts in the tropics are intensified, most rainforests will disappear by early next century.

Just a few centuries ago, Earth's equator was girdled by a green belt of 15 million square miles of rain forest; an area five times that of the contiguous United States. Now three America's worth of forest are gone, with just 6.2 million square miles left. In Brazil in the late 1980s the annual emission of carbon dioxide from the burning of forests equalled the amount of this gas spewing from the industries of Poland and West Germany combined. Because of the burning, Brazil was fourth on the list of greenhouse polluters, Behind the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. Without the burning, Brazil would not even be in the top twenty polluters. Alberto Setzer, a Brazilian space scientist who monitored the fires using satellite photographs -- sometimes counting more than eight thousand fires in a single day -- calculated that emission from the annual burning season in the Amazon equalled those of a large volcano. But, as Setzer put it: This is a volcano that erupts every year, not just once in a lifetime -- Andrew Revkin, Global Warming - Understanding the forecast / American Museum of Natural History. Environmental Defence Fund, Abbeville Press Publishers, 1992).

Unfortunately but not surprisingly Iran is amongst the countries which contributes to the problem of deforestation/destruction of the forests. This is true of Gilan forests in general and the Siahkal forest in the last 6 years in particular.

This is of course beside the destructions of old gardens and felling of old trees in the cities for the purpose of building blocks of flats (apartments). Dwellings which are unsuitable for the climate anyway, as they need air conditioning, which contributes to the pollution that is dominating the big cities.

[Whatever happened to that cool basement room of my aunt's old house in Dezashib with turquoise blue tiled little pond (hoes), Summer afternoons with watermelons in the little pond to make it cool, and my uncle having a siesta before going back to work? And where is the reflection of that beautiful and mysterious Berkeh-e Niloofar -- Water lilies Pond near Kermanshah is ever to be found? That pond which has been destroyed to build roads and houses and the air pollution to match?].

As far as I am informed the other reason for cutting trees has been for the purpose of planting flowers instead (sic!) which was due to the policy of that well praised mayor of Isfahan /Tehran in the 90's (to whose fame presently my memory is unable to contribute). I believe he took the expression keshvar-e gol-o-bolbol (the land of flowers and nightingales) too literal, not knowing that nightingales need more trees than flowers in order to survive.

Our modern architects and city life planners have caused a disaster waiting to be complete within the next ten years. When it comes to Iran and inside information, the tragedies related to destructions have always a cynical bend to them which most people show as a kind of moan-syndrome (maraz-e naaleh), which is there to show that:

a) They are well informed

b) Nothing can be done about it

c) This can be used to express frustration hence one can carry on coping with further expected frustrations. A kind or recharging of energy as children do when crying noisily.

d) It can provide material for satire (tanz) created by the ones with a sense of humour

e) If one can laugh about it, it cannot be that tragic after all

f) One can get used to the pollution and other destructions - hence moan - but have two cars if possible, one with an odd number and the other with an even number so that one can drive everyday into the traffic jam in order to moan even more.

All this means the perpetuation of the moan-syndrome with no remedy to cure the actual cause. So the symptoms are suppressed -- provisionally of course - by the use of narcotics, antidepressants and all the various allopathic medicines used for heart and lung's disorders. These organs in particular having been mainly poisoned by carbon monoxide (CO gas), lead, Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Particulate, Volatile organic compounds(VOC), Ground-level ozone and suspended particles released in the air by constant use of breaks while driving in cities with a me-me-me-first road culture and with too many untested cars/buses on the streets going nowhere.

Other aggravating factors being of course the air polluting factories and refineries built near or within the cities for that matter. Back to our precious Siahkal forest, in contrast to 'rainforest', 'Amazon forest' etc., when you enter this in your search machine you won't find any information relevant to the deforestation of this forest.

Instead be prepared however to deal with another old hat (is there going to be ever a fitting new hat for the Iranians as a nation? Why choose a hat in the first place? Or/and in Persian terms why let anyone to put a hat on your head (keh saret kolaah begozaarad)? Why not bareheaded? A cool head and a warm body is what one needs to keep well in a holistic way).

So, what you will find are all sorts of manifestos by Fadaiyan-e khalgh (O.I.P.F.G.) dreaming on and on. And no, they haven't got a clue about what has been happening to Siahkal forest neither. After all what is a forest for an Iranian kameh-nist ? Only a hiding place isn't it?

Shooting around damaging trees for the already fruitless idea of az deh beh shahr (the tactic of the guerrilla fighting in the country side and advancing towards the towns in order to topple the regime)

In fact this group of middleclass wish-to-be-rulers guerrillas attacked the Gendarmerie in the town of Siahkal in 1971 and failed, ending up in Siahkal forest as their hiding place.

This of course was in the time of - at last - the last shah of Iran (the lack of constitutional laws, which ensure the separation of the legislative, the judiciary and the executive forces in a democracy renders the use of the word king in its modern European meaning irrelevant to an Iranian shah. This of course continues to apply to the role of presidency in the present regime as well).

It is likely that the authorities in Gilan have intentionally started the deforestation in Siahkal for the fear of another guerrilla uprising in the area. But sorry az deh beh shahrihaa I can't see the current youth of Iran running around in the forest with a gun in one hand and a laptop in the other.

No wonder that the Mojahedin-e khalgh have to lock their members in. Perhaps searching them for laptops and mobiles? And do they have electricity or is it cut off as well?

Although this might not be such a bad idea as they may learn to make ornamental candles and raise even more money in the west - especially around Christmas.

In fact not learning any skills other than shooting/bombing has caused serious long term problems for other nations.

For instance the IRA members know only how to survive during a war, but what other skills do they have in order to survive during a peace period? That is what Gerry Adams and the other authorities need to offer: Training for new skills amongst the die hard IRA militants, creating opportunities for a change of careers.

Yes, beloved Siahkal is being sold by theocrats to industrialists, while both parties carry their shavers in their pockets just in case the regime happened to change as quickly as the last one. Only this time will take a shorter period to adjust with no need for hiding in order to wait for the growth of their beards.

Apparently the people of Siahkal town have been very unhappy about the forest's destruction.

My first reaction when hearing this was that if everyone in town felt strongly about this why wasn't there any initiatives to run a local campaign?

The local campaign I thought could be in the form of a petition signed by all residents and addressed to their selected theocrat and the local paper/Gilan Television.

Although the university graduates in the field of forestry and environment in Gilan Province have already complained to the Gilan's governor - at least in the second half of the 1990's - starting a voluntary group of conservationists/ environmental groups consisting of local people could prove more fruitful.

These groups could educate themselves and the local population around the issues of conservation in the area.

Contacts with globally involved and independent voluntary organisations like the Friends of the Earth, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) could also be of help.

Inviting delegates of these organisations to visit the area and further investigate and report the results in order to raise global concern for the forest could prove even more effective.

Impossible to even think of it? Perhaps not so.

Unlike in Shah's time, when everyone feared to complain or even make a comment about politics in public places, Iranians today can openly express their opinions about the situation in Iran when talking to strangers in public places.

No matter how we feel about today's system, people in today's Iran are able to speak out - something they could not in Savak's time (Shah's secret police).thirty years ago.

Democracy is not only electing and having the right to be elected every 4 years (Not relevant for Iran anyway, though the claim of being a good alternative remains hence the potentiality)

For the ordinary people it would mean mainly to exercise their citizenship rights by having a say in their local issues. This in turn brings democratic change within the society forcing the politicians to have to adjust to the public confidence in expressing their concerns and needs.

In case of Siahkal it is only natural that the local people are more concerned than the Fedaian-e khod group, who like all the other Leninist/Trotskyites/Maoists have still no real understanding of the seriousness of the environmental issues -- out of the loop altogether.

The use of Siahkal as a web log/page without reflecting on the present day problems of this precious forest used and abused, is an exploitative deception altogether. So, would OIPFG either get involved and make the world hear the plight of the Siahkal community and start to care for the forest or otherwise change the name of their site a.s.a.p. please? What? You don't even know one person there to inform you of the local news? After all that game of hide and seek with the murderous Savak?

Please note however that by the time you would come to power in Iran -- for the sake of the principle of hope at least - there won't be any oxygen left to breathe in anyway.  Sorry mates.

Some environmental facts about Iran:

--The total areas of forests in Gilan Province have been reduced by half over the past 50years.

-- At present 340 hectares of forest is being destroyed every DAY (see Iran Daily 21/10/04).

-- Currently11 percent of the country is forested.

-- On the seawards slopes of the Elburz Mountains and on the Caspian plain vegetation is abundant. In these areas broadleaf deciduous trees such as ash (zabaan-gonjeshk), elm (naarvan), oak (derakht-e baloot) and beech (aalesh/ mamarz/ zaan) flourish, along with some broadleaf evergreens, ferns and shrubs.

The forests of Gilan Province - left from the third geological era - are the sole jungle deposit of the country where over 80 species of trees have been identified ( for more information on the destruction of the Gilan forests in general -up to 1997 - check here).
The Zagros Mountains in the west of Iran have a semi-humid forest cover dominated by oak, elm, pistachio and walnut trees.

-- Apart from forests, trees cover only 0.9 percent (1995) of the country (in comparison 30 percent of London is green space).

--Iran has established dozens of officially protected areas, covering only about 5.1 percent (1997) of the country's total area; Iran's remaining forests are being destroyed at the rate of 1.7 percent (1990-1996) every year.

The country is inhabited by 54 threatened animal species.

-- Another problem in store is the long term obsession of Iranians with conifers.

Vast areas of East Tehran hills have been planted with non-native conifers since the time of the last regime. These now have been spreading (seeds travelling through wind and by animals) already well into the south slopes of the Elburz Mountains. If not controlled urgently by conservationists this will eventually destroy the whole bio ecology and the biodiversity of the Caspian Sea area.

-- The pollution of the Caspian Sea's water is another huge issue. The fishers are reported to suffer from skin diseases (Mazandaran TV 1999). This also means that the effect on marine life is likely to be devastating.

There has been a signing of a framework treaty amongst the Caspian Sea states for the protection of the sea against pollution from industrial waste. . If this will come to fruition is a different matter. It is precisely here that the Persian proverb vaght talaast (time is gold) applies.

--On the other hand years of wars and bombarding of oil resources has effected the unique marine life in the Persian Golf in an irreversible manner- this in particular applying to the coral colonies.

It would be correct to say that what has taken the nature millions of years to build have been in the process of being destroyed by Homo sapiens in less than two centuries and on a greater scale in the last 60 years.

During my last three visits to Iran between 1999- 2002 I have come to conclude that regardless of who and what regime will run the country, the environmental issues in Iran have to be taken as the most serious and urgent problem to be tackled.

This is also because people in the cities are already showing symptoms of poisoning (Carbon monoxide mild poisoning for instance has exactly the same symptoms as the flu and is mistaken as such by the public. Hospital workers know about this and attach drips to people who end up in hospitals just in case. There are also other symptoms resulting from plumbism -lead poisoning).

If the environmental issues in the cities and the forests are not addressed promptly a serious deterioration of the public health will be the result leading to a disastrous outcome in less than a decade I believe.

The London Smog Disaster of 1952 which took 5 days in December killed officially 4000 people (for longer term -until the following spring- 12, 000 is the estimated number). During this time people died of heart and lung failures.

As a result factories were moved to the country side and with the 1956 Clean Air Act household had to stop using coal as well (a usual practice in English houses for warming living rooms)

The more recent London Smog of December 1991 caused also an estimated 160 more deaths than normal in the 4 days of its duration. Only cardiovascular and respiratory deaths are shown by statistics Non fatal incidents are not recorded and long term effects such as neurological and cancers are also not considered in the smog's death toll.

My question is why the third world countries (precisely for these short comings a country can not be called a developing country) seek and get this kind of information before heading for the environmental destructions of their countries?

Do these countries have to rush to go through the same procedures in order o arrive at the same dead end?

When China with its largest population on earth arrives where others have already landed, it will be the end of hope for the environment indeed. If Chinese ever needed a cultural revolution it would be now before it's too late: consciousness raising for environmental issues.

As for Iran the election of the selected has been reflecting a race to see who can destroy Iran at a faster rate. However, if the one decade old struggle of the voluntary groups - who have been seeking  recognition of the non-governmental voluntary organisations - succeed, then there will also exist a possibility for the environmentally concern people to work effectively for the benefit of all.

This in turn would create opportunities for work in the conservation areas as well.

This could happen for instance by attracting people away from the cities and by keeping local young people interested in their countryside instead of pulling them to the overpopulated cities in search of work.

Many Iranians living outside Iran have been financially investing in Iran in the last 8 years.

Their responsibility would be to ensure that these investments do not contribute to the environmental destruction of Iran (I know of some who didn't mind to destroy large gardens in the Iranian cities in order to build housing for commercial gain).

Additionally they could get involved with the issues surrounding their own immediate environment in order to leave behind a healthier world for the coming generations.

Any experience gained will eventually influence their extended families, relatives and friends - living in Iran - as well. Just as those in Iran also influence our lives outside Iran.

This awareness of the environmental issues would hopefully also shift the focus from nationalism to a more globally focused way of thinking.

Immigrants usually try to hold on to a perceived national identity by being prone to the past and holding to a memory related culture in a desperate way, as if culture was a static phenomenon.

This attitude makes the minorities frequently more conservative in their tastes - be it in music, art or interpersonal relationships- than the majority of the same nation living in their birth place.

It is this conservatism that makes transformations and the birth of new ideas within the minorities' culture more difficult and full of birth pangs.

For the Iranian community for instance the search for Iranian-ness (which by the way has the positive effect of distinguishing the community from our usual creepy politicians perceived as un-Iranian) race and myths of course are used to reconstruct identity on an on going basis.

But when looking at this intensely, we find that all this state of permanent reconstruction of the identity is in fact the result of the lack of a true integration in the societies we currently live in. Minorities need to feel proud of their past because they are made to feel as the "other".

An identity perceived by self is in fact nothing more than a repeated reconstruction of the self through the use of memories and myths.

The only true hope for a real belonging is the focus on the earth related issues, which can look at the human beings as a part of the whole ecosystem and not as the centre of the world- as the concept of religion and other ideologies do.

By shifting the consciousness from being the centre of the world to being a part of the whole, we may still be able to gain our true role as the expressive consciousness of the earth itself -- which is a whole organic being/body -- and possibly even the consciousness of the cosmos of itself in so far as we know it.

This would spare our planet from the total destruction lying ahead, by the up to now the irresponsible human race. Changing our role from the appropriators of the earth to Homo sapiens, who care for the nature as the true body of their collective consciousness.

The time is ripe for the human race to leave its childhood behind and initiate itself into adulthood.

This could be a great journey. Let's recycle the content of our baggage and travel light if not with light.

For letters section
To Vida Kashizadeh

Vida Kashizadeh




Book of the day

Three volume box set of the Persian Book of Kings
Translated by Dick Davis

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