By guest blogger, Pupak Haghighi, with an introduction by conference convener, Stephanie Mines.
“The transition to a fair, decent, democratic and sustainable society will require transferring power to competent and thoughtful citizen agents.” ~ David Orr
Shift your gaze and soften your focus; you can see between worlds. I learned to do this in the healing arts. By averting my eyes and inviting soft focus, especially where the health challenges are multidimensional and daunting, solutions would crystallise. The surface of things can be deceiving. New ways of seeing ignite fresh insight. So it’s not surprising to me that Findhorn-based, stained glass and mosaic artist, Pupak Haghighi, is also a climate change activist. Pupak excels at seeing the world through prisms of shattered glass and assembling those shards into artworks of great beauty (See previous blog post). And so it was that Pupak’s training and background led her to transmute her grief about climate devastation in her country of origin, Iran, into consciousness-infused climate change activism. At this intersection of Hanukkah, the Solstice, Kwanzaa and Christmas, all celebrating miracles of light in its myriad forms, I am drawn to reflect upon Pupak and her journey.
Pupak brought the first EDE course (Ecovillage Design Education) to Northern Iran in September 2017. She initiated the first tree nursery in Iran’s Hyrcanian Forest. She is a pioneer in the fusion of art, reforestation and ecovillage building at the grassroots level. Pupak knows deeply, the heartache of seeing her beloved homeland drenched in pollution, stripping her people of their health and resilience. Yet her grief has been transmuted into courageous and multifaceted creativity. Though she is soft spoken and humble, Pupak has become a leader in the movement that links art with climate change activism. She has launched multiple vehicles for this advocacy, initiating such projects as Trees for Hope, 1001 Earth Healing Acts, the Angels and Artists Project and Ensouled Glass. Through her leadership, Pupak Haghighi models how climate change can awaken us to our gifts, many of which would otherwise remain hidden.
When I returned to Iran in 2000, after 17 years of being away, I felt the earth in my birth country crying out. I saw tragedies happening to our Tierra Madre almost anywhere I looked. I felt a deep grief, and then an even deeper desire, arising from the land’s yearning to return to a state of natural purity. I could not ignore the pain. I had to respond.
After leaving Iran I went back to where I had been living in England, teaching and working as artist in residence at Emerson College. But the grief made me restless. And I’ve been restless ever since. I spoke about my experiences in Iran with my friends in England. They responded with an incredible idea. They said, “Why don’t you plant trees in Iran?” They suggested that if the land is so desolate and grief-stricken, then surely planting wild trees for nature’s sake will help both the land and the people to recover from their grief and, they said, “You will recover also.” Thus the idea of planting wild trees in Iran was born and became deeply rooted inside me.
I looked for ways to implement this beautiful idea. Reflecting on the trajectory of my life, I can see now that this mission was meant to become my path and my way of life. It has brought my partner, Alan, to me. Alan is an accomplished ‘rewilder.’ Because of him, I also came to live in the Findhorn community which brought a million more blessings into my life. In fact it was Dorothy MacLean, one of the founders of Findhorn, who helped open a door within me to access the name ‘Trees for Hope’ for my project.
This winter (2017) I returned again to Iran. There I could hear Nature all around me crying out even louder than before, and with greater clarity, asking me to pay attention, to change, and to invite others to radically shift their lifestyles. Strolling through the park of my childhood, in my hometown, Rasht, I saw fallen leaves covered in a thick coat of grease and scum, the result of just a single season of pollution. What about the cumulative effect of this monster pollution on our lungs and on the other inhabitants of our eco-system? I asked.
In Rasht, I revisited two of our town’s rivers, ‘Gohar-rood’ and ‘Zarjoob’ meaning ‘Jewel River’ and ‘Golden Water.’ In times past, even just sixty years ago, people fished in these rivers. Now they are among the top seven most polluted rivers on the planet. As far as I know, the city’s sewage including refuse from three hospitals discharges straight into the rivers. Our river pollution has been a problem for decades so our people are used to it being ill and foul-smelling. Most people have resigned themselves to passivity. They feel that there is nothing they can do about this tragedy.
But I have a vision of nothing less than clean and pure water running through our rivers. My vision includes forests that are healthy and strong; soil that is fertile and abundant; and air that is clean and refreshing to breathe. I know that I share this vision with the other people living in the region of Rasht. For this healthy vision to become reality, our people need to act on their responsibility as human beings. They need to accept their power to heal our lands and rivers. They need to know that we can make a difference. The difference we make depends on our consciousness, our awareness of how the individual self is connected with the environment.
I am an artist and an Earth healer. I strive to create the ways and means by which people engage with restoring their rivers, forests, agricultural lands and villages. And I show them how to live using clean, fossil-free energy. That is why I launched the 1001 Earth Healing Acts. I also created the Angels and Artists project to initiate and activate a network of artists who are also climate activists. I am building a significant fund-raising stream for this network and for Trees for Hope.
Angels and Artists will host a global Zoom call on the 15th of January 2018, and thereafter on the 15th of every month to launch and build an Earth healing network of artists and activists. This is an invitation that extends to everyone who wants to identify with, and commit to manifesting, 1001 acts of healing that are joyful and available to them. Anyone can manifest Earth healing acts in a social setting that will empower others. For example, to make a commitment with others to see the sunrise 1001 times with a group or with a friend.
I hope that by weaving our love and compassionate acts for our Mother Earth we will leave our world a better place than the one we were born into. Our 1001 Earth Healing Acts will be our living legacy for our planet.
My projects, Trees for Hope and Angels and Artists, are deeply resonant with CCC19. As an artist and an activist for Mother Earth I support CCC19 and its mission and I am happy to be part of it.