Iranian Artists Fight Smog with the Tehran Monoxide Project

eco-art, iran, tehran monoxide project, pollution, NRDC, Naomi Klein, David de Rothschild Iranian environmental activists and artists are getting bolder. Recently, “tree huggers” planted these stumps on a street in the city of Kerman to protest against deforestation.

Sometimes environmental activists are visionary people who take enormous personal risks. Ashley Fruno from PETA was arrested for parading around Jordan covered in nothing but lettuce. Bill McKibben and hundreds of other activists in the United States wanted to get arrested to draw attention to the Keystone XL Pipeline, and an Iranian woman was recently tortured for protesting the degradation of Lake Orumiyeh – a terrible incident that screams: activism will not go unpunished.

But then there are artists and actors. While Iranian “tree huggers” were busy planting tree stumps in Kerman to draw attention to deforestation, a different kind of protest was unveiled at a school in Tehran. Concerned about Iran’s dubious distinction of having the most polluted cities in the world, several artists and an actor launched the Tehran Monoxide Project art exhibit.

eco-art, iran, tehran monoxide project, pollution, NRDC, Naomi Klein, David de Rothschild Smog is bad for human health. That’s a no brainer. It aggravates asthma, causes respiratory illness and lung disease, and – even worse – higher temperatures resulting from climate change will increase the negative effects of air pollution, according to the National Resource Defense Council.

The World Health Organization reported that Iran has the most polluted cities in the world. When we covered this story recently, one reader pointed out that several years of sanctions has made it impossible for the country to upgrade their vehicles to less-polluting varieties.

Which is fair enough, but for parents who worry about their children’s long-term health, that answer simply isn’t good enough.

Through mixed media – including printed graphics and lighting – Christophe Razei Shady Ghadirian, Neda Rezalipour Simin Keramati, and the actor Soroush Sehat are using art to elevate the pollution conversation. The accompanying poster says it all: children need a place to play and they shouldn’t have to jeopardize their health in order to do so.

Art has a way of seeping into the consciousness of every day people, which is crucial to any kind of change. World-renowned activist Naomi Klein points out that fighting pollution is up to the 99% (here she is referring to the 99% of people who suffer because 1% of the population has annexed all of the world’s resources.)

Until ordinary people are willing to park their cars and grab a bus, or demand better bicycle lanes so they can travel safely using the cleanest mode of transportation on earth (aside from walking), government will not feel compelled to act.

Likewise, creative projects have a way of catalyzing action. Whereas facts and statistics can depress the will, beauty inspires action. Our favorite eco-activist David de Rothschild pointed out in his book Plastiki – Across the Pacific Ocean on Plastic – and in our exclusive interview with him, that it’s not helpful to guilt people about our numerous failings, that instead it is necessary to empower them.

Located at Kharad School in Velanjak, Tehran, the Tehran Monoxide Project will be on display until 18 October, 2011.

top image via Tehran Times

More on Environment and Art in the Middle East:

Wounded Water: Iraqis Pour Their Art Out at the 2011 Venice Biennale

Art and Spirituality: The Antidote to Bigger, Better, More

Nature’s Social Worker, Ecological Artist Shai Zakai

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