The Conservationist

Neema Nourian

By Suzanne Buzek

Neema Nourian lives a sustainable life. Or, at least he tries. Dedicated to the principles of sustainability and conservation, the lab instructor for the Department of Biology and chair of the Environmental Subcommittee of Justice Across Campus has adopted a lifestyle that emphasizes the quality of life, not the quantity of material goods.

?I don?t know how it started, but for some reason, I find myself highly engaged with conservation, even to the point of obsession,? he says. ?I feel that we have become way too destructive as a species, and a lot of the destruction is unnecessary. It is irresponsible of us to treat the planet and other organisms as disposable, to do what we want without even thinking about what it does to other organisms and what it does to our future.?

While Nourian can?t pinpoint exact reasons for his sustainable choices, their roots may lie in his childhood. Growing up in rural Iran, Nourian was surrounded by nature. Being outdoors meant being in a place for work and play.

?I grew up in a very small town in a rural agricultural area,? he says. ?Just about everybody was a farmer, including my family. It was a simple, happy life.?

While Nourian enjoyed farming, he looked for an alternative to go out to see and experience the world. The ideal alternative at the time was the Iranian Navy, so he joined the military.

?While my family wanted me to study agriculture, I was more curious about things like philosophy or medicine,? he recalls. ?The Navy was good; it?s a lot of camaraderie between people, but I was not happy in the military because at that time the military was associated with a repressive government, the shah. I was not a supporter of the shah, so I did not want to be serving in his military, and I had internal conflicts with that.?

During his service, Nourian visited the United States. Following his discharge, he spent a couple of years traveling the world before returning to the United States to live in 1984. More importantly, he was in the service when the Iranian Revolution began in 1979.

?When the revolution began, I was in the United States, so I was not affected by the goings on of the revolution itself,? he recalls. ?When I went back to Iran, the government had already changed. I haven?t been back to Iran since 1981. I, like most Iranians, were for the revolution at first, but didn?t expect things to turn out the way they did. I still have that pride, however.?

Part of that pride Nourian has is from his fond childhood memories of playing outside and enjoying the simple life.

?It?s interesting, when I compare my childhood to the childhood my children had here in the United States, I had a lot less in terms of toys and stuff,? he says. ?A toy was never bought and given to us. We didn?t have TV or cinemas. But I always wondered that despite the fact that my children grew up here with the games and television and all of those things, they were a lot more bored than I was as a child. I don?t remember a single moment being bored. We always found things to do outside. That goes to say that more is not necessarily merrier.?

Nourian?s preference for simple living?and simple recreational pursuits? is reflected in his social activities as well. He and his wife Zohreh are members of the Xavier Bridge Club. They meet with the group on Friday nights, October through May, and compete with nine other participating teams.

?I?m not too sure what we call ourselves, but we?ve been playing for about 15 years or so,? says Nourian. ?We played a game similar to bridge in Iran, but bridge has bidding, while this game didn?t.?

Ultimately, Nourian hopes to share and spread his simple, save-more-waste-less mentality with others: He is the faculty learning partner for the Alternative Breaks trip to Catalina Island, Calif., with the environmental focus of removing non-invasive plant species, restoration of the natural habitat and other conservation efforts with the Catalina Island Conservatory.

?I practice sustainability as much as I can,? says Nourian. ?Does it mean that I?m not hypocritical? No, but I try to minimize what I do that could harm the Earth. If everybody tried to minimize, it would go a long way.?