Forging Transnational State and Non-State Links Around the Environment

By Bryan Sitzes
Submitted to Session P6527 (Environmental Histories of 20th Century Iran through Local, National, Colonial, and Trans-National Perspectives, 2021 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
This paper will outline two avenues of Iranian participation in global environmental movements in the 1960s and 1970s: the diplomatic/technocratic and the academic. In recent years, historians of Pahlavi Iran have begun to more extensively examine the country’s entanglement with the world, via the arts, drug control regimes, and intellectual networks, to name only a few. The diversity of global connections means many avenues remain available for elucidation.

Iranians increasingly engaged their global peers on matters of “the environment” (as it came to be popularly known, or mohit-e zist) via intergovernmental conferences, professional training exchange programs, and by forging transnational links between universities. Tracing these links can help us understand how global trends affected Iranian environmental thinking and policies, as well as help identify the roles Iranians played in shaping environmental agendas on the global stage. The latter approach contributes to ongoing efforts to decenter EuroAmerican histories of environmentalism. Iranians hosted international conventions (the 1971 Ramsar Convention) and actively participated in major international conventions elsewhere (the 1972 Stockholm Convention). They also participated in regional activities that tightened their connections with neighbors in ways not always noticed in the historiography (e.g., the 1974/75 Convention on the Protection of the Caspian Sea, the 1975 IUCN International Meeting on Ecological Guidelines for the Use of Natural Resources in the Middle East and South West Asia). Tracing academic links brings in an aspect of forging ties that relies less on the viewpoint of the state.

This paper will draw from the journal published by the Game Council of Iran, Shekar o Tabiʿat (est. 1959), published memoirs, and the journal of the University of Tehran’s Center for the Coordination of Environmental Studies, Mohit-shenasi (est. 1974/75). These sources expand our knowledge of Iran’s environmental networks, the policies Iranians advocated on the global stage, and how Iranian environmentalists presented their country to the global community.