Rethinking and Regenerating of the Value of Nature in the Iranian Ecological Culture

Document Type : Research Paper

Author

Social, urban and regional planning Department, social science faculty, Allameh Tabataba'i university

Abstract

Title: Rethinking and Regenerating of the Value of Nature in the Iranian Ecological Culture
Extended Abstract,
Introduction
Today, the majority of thinkers in Western scientific and cultural communities acknowledge that many of these crises originate from the exploitative treatment of the natural environment and have come to the conclusion that humans must stop viewing nature as a commodity or property to exploit and trade. Likewise, we Iranians need to rethink our views of nature based on our own cultural roots and context. Going back to the roots of our own ecological culture, which in fact emphasizes harmony with nature and respecting nature, can be an effective way to prevent and overcome the looming environmental crises of our part of the world. The traditional Iranian ecological culture does not view humans and nature as two separate entities. In this culture, there is no dichotomy of man and nature, but a cohesive biological entity or living organism that is defined based on the structural and functional interactions of its elements. Examining the lived experience of Iranian society in its own geographical context and the place of nature in its ecological culture may provide some insight as to how to return the harmony between humans and nature to today’s Iranian society.

Methodology
This research was carried out in two phases. The first phase involved examining religious, scientific, and philosophical texts and documents related to Iranian culture in the framework of a historical review to clarify the place of nature in the scientific, philosophical and religious thought of Iranian society throughout history. In this phase, the place of nature in Zoroastrianism as well as Islam and in the eyes of well-known scientific and philosophical minds of Iranian culture, including Ikhwān Al-Ṣafā, Farabi, Biruni, and Avicenna were studied. The second phase of the research, then conducting 30 semi-structured interviews with experts and thinkers in the fields of environment, sociology, urban planning, natural resources, anthropology, and sustainable development to explore the current views of Iranian society on nature and the environment and the strategies that can be adopted to regenerate our ecological culture. The comments made in these interviews were subjected to a qualitative and conceptual analysis, which was conducted manually with the help of MAXQDA software, and the results were used to identify and analyze central themes and key topics related to the subject.

Results and discussion
In the ecological culture of Iran, nature is attributed with several characteristics. The first of these characteristics is wholeness. In the traditional worldview, both philosophical and religious, nature is a cohesive whole of which human is a part. The second characteristic attributed to nature is order. In essence, this characteristic represents other characteristics, namely purposefulness and goal-directedness (teleology), with an emphasis on the argument that the creator of the natural order has decided its ultimate goal. In this view, nature itself is the manifestation of the creator and its presence. According to Biruni, “Nature not only possesses a creative power that constructs the manifestations but also has a definite order and plan”. Biruni believes that “the existence of order and purpose in nature implies that there is no place for over and under indulgence in the divine system”. Also, in indigenous and traditional Iranian culture, nature is a living being. Avicenna has used the Persian term for nature to refer to the principles that preserve the world order. Regardless of the variety of meanings that can be interpreted from this, the goal and purpose of Avicenna’s natural philosophy is to know this nature. In Farabi’s utopia, the biological social system is based on hierarchical order, lawfulness, and purposefulness; attributes that he believes govern the whole world and originates from the creator of this world. Farabi’s views on utopia resemble contemporary views on sustainable cities and societies.
The comments made in response to the question that “how Iranians have adapted to their environment and what is the key theme of this part of their culture” showed that the ecological culture and philosophy of Iranians is based on a value-oriented and moral view of nature and the idea of unity of humans and nature, which has been influenced by the teachings of Zoroastrianism and Islam. Because of the belief in the unity of existence and the unity in plurality, nature is given a status of sanctity and moral value, which has had a major impact on how people treat nature and the formation of their ecological culture. Understanding the limitations of the natural environment within the geographical borders of Iranian culture was another central theme detected in relation to ecological culture.
There was a degree of inconsistency in the views of environmental experts regarding the responsibility of government and nation to improve and preserve environmental sustainability. Most interviewees emphasized the importance of individual members of the society taking greater responsibility for maintaining environmental sustainability and their critical role in this area.
Conclusion
Throughout history, the Iranian ecological culture has contributed to the thriving of this civilization by helping people adapt to and live in harmony with the nature of this realm. This contribution is exemplified throughout the diverse geographical and cultural landscape of this realm in the systems of irrigation and agriculture, gardens, architecture, urban planning, etc. Understanding this valuable cultural heritage and regenerating it in today’s society can be an effective strategy to tackle Iran’s many environmental problems, preserve its nature, protect the rights of future generations to its natural resources, and move toward ecologically sustainable development in this country. The use of up-to-date knowledge and technologies in the framework of the ecological culture-based development model appears to be the solution to achieve ecologically sustainable development in Iran.
Key words: Iranian Eco culture, Ethical, religious view, rethinking and recreating

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Articles in Press, Accepted Manuscript
Available Online from 01 July 2021
  • Receive Date: 18 December 2020
  • Revise Date: 27 June 2021
  • Accept Date: 01 July 2021