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The Experiences and Challenges of Science and Ethics: Proceedings of an American-Iranian Workshop
environmental movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These might be called Romanticism. Generally nostalgic ideas are based on an overenthusiasm for “pristine nature.”
Finally, other philosophies might be grouped under a notion of “stewardship” (khalifat), which incorporates concerns for sustainable development and sustainable ecologies for future generations as well for the present population.
How is stewardship to be evaluated? Can human societies be trusted to be stewards of nature even though they have traditionally, including in the present, embraced economies destructive to the environment? Can a form of “speaking for the earth” in the sense of the Gaia Hypothesis work under the notion of stewardship/khalifat? Or is khalifat purely an androcentric concept? It was pointed out that the Koran repeatedly asks human beings to return to God an earth as uncorrupted as it was when given to their stewardship.
Both Iranian and American participants agreed that religious beliefs can support responsible environmentalism and that Romanticism is insufficient to balance the needs of growing populations with demands for higher standards of living. The Americans tend to focus on (a) who is responsible for damage done to the environment; (b) how restitution, remediation, and repair is to be achieved; and (c) how incentive systems to avoid damage can be instituted. Both Iranian and American participants agreed that education in schools, in the workplace, through the mass media, through NGOs, with municipalities, with national governments, and as a product of international conventions is a fundamental requirement for responsible stewardship.
• Government Organizations and Regulatory Structures.
At the national level, Iran has a Vice-President in charge of the Department for Environmental Protection, parallel in some degree to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Parliamentary reports on environmental issues are issued, parallel to U.S. Congressional hearings and research reports. On the municipal level, there are newly elected municipal councils that manage the environmental problems of cities, parallel to state and city governmental agencies in the United States. On the international level, there are conventions, occasional court cases, and diplomatic negotiations over topics such as pollution, fishing, and in the case of Iran, caviar catches in the Caspian Sea. Both countries have university-level departments and programs in environmental sciences, epidemiology, and environmental health problems. Also, they have faculties in both environmental law and international human rights law as applied to the environment.