The other green movement


I was born in New York City—to an American mother and Iranian father—on January 15th, 1979, the same day the Shah fled Iran and what, in a more just world, might have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 50th birthday.

Growing up amidst the nostalgia of Iranian exiles and American progressives, I was taught from the earliest age that my birthday held special significance and that celebrating this significance required something deeper than a cupcake.  Consequently, the days leading up to it each year are accompanied by a tingling sense of urgency, as though something important is about to happen.

This year, watching protests in the streets of Iran via online video and getting updates from family members via phone and email, that sense is stronger than ever. And though I love writing and thinking about trash, lately it has felt strange to be doing so while so much is happening in that far away land so many people I love call home.

I know the struggles are related—environmental justice is linked to civil rights—but the linkages can at times appear tangential.

So, rather than abandon garblogging during this tense time, I thought today I’d occupy my pre-birthday anxiety by listing out the connections between trash and the slow march toward a democratic Iran. Thanks for bearing with me. I am aware that today’s post is a bit navalgazey.

These are connections I have stumbled upon solely because of, reason 1001 it’s lovely to have a trash blog.

Connection #1: Burning trash makes a dramatic political statement.

Getty Images

Connection #2: Iranian sanitation workers were at the forefront of post-election protests (a fact pointed out to me by trash-minded artist Douglas Brodoff).

Connection #3: Iranian-Americans have an affinity for trash. Through the blog I have discovered the trash-related work of artist Kuros Zahedi, filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, and food justice activist Andy Sarjahani. [Note, I think Bahrani is actually Iranian-Canadian, but since Robert Ebert named him the next great American director today, I think it’s fair to lump him.]

Kuros and his piece "Finding Away," photo by Lele Barnett

Connection #4: As a nomadic people prone to political upheaval and averse to waste, Persians make things meant to last forever, never to be thrown away.

Persian carpet

Here’s hoping 2010 brings success to both the green movement to protect the environment and the green movement for political evolution in Iran. Happy New Year, trashies.



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11 Responses to “The other green movement”

  1. Jean Burgess Says:

    Great post- so gorgeously written and thought provoking. Hope your birthday brings good things this year.

  2. Leila Darabi Says:

    Thanks, Jean. Hope to see you and meet your little one in the New Year!

  3. Katha Pollitt Says:

    Hi Leila, I love your blog. So original and well-written. Happy 2010!

  4. Bert Leysen Says:

    Hey Leila,

    I know a few Iranian people who are living in my country, Belgium. They are really nice people. So I’m interested in what you wrote here 🙂

    Do you think that Iranian-American artists have more affinity with trash than others ? That is so curious ! Do you have explanations ?

    I wish you a happy birthday over 2 weeks =)

    And a Happy New Year for now


  5. Leila Darabi Says:

    Thank you, Katha, I’m honored.

    Bert, while my 3-person trend may be a bit of an exaggeration and I can’t claim Iranian-Americans are more trash-conscious than other people, I can say that (not unlike some other immigrant/ethnic cultures) Iranians are hyper-aware of issues of sustainability and legacy, which jives well with an interest in trash.

  6. Constance Says:

    L, such a lovely entry.

    Thanks for linking two incredibly important movements in one beautifully succinct piece. Happy birthday to you, our #1 Trashie. 🙂

  7. Leila Darabi Says:

    Thanks, C. Happy New Year.

  8. Leah Says:

    This is a great piece and a great body of work overall. Happy birthday!

  9. Leila Darabi Says:

    Thanks, Leah!

  10. Andy Sarjahani Says:

    Leila, it’s been a real blessing getting to know you through your work. Thanks very much for your genuine dedication. Thank you as well for doing your part to shine the spotlight on the situation in Iran.

  11. Leila Darabi Says:

    Thanks, Andy. One of the greatest things about the blog has been connecting with people like you. Thanks for all you do.

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