Monday, February 24, 2014

Sustainability in the eyes of Agni Vlavianos-Arvanitis

I have met Ms. Agni at the Eurasian Economic Forum in Istanbul February 2014. I spotted her in the crowd instantly, her proud deportment, firm step, and when we passed each other, her deep and direct look. Several hours later we were sitting at the same table and part of our fruitful conversation you can read today in the new Aktualno 2.0. Allow her to enter your world, to challenge your thoughts and take you beyond your current thinking perameters. Enjoy the travel.

Photo: Prof. Agni Vlavianos Arvanitis and Violeta Bulc
at Eurasian Economic Summit, Istanbul 2014
Source: Vibacom

V: Who are you, Ms. Agni?
Ms. Agni: I’m a biologist, an educator and poet who has made biology a source of joy and inspiration. I worked as a teacher and researcher, but some thoughts on “bios” – life – were urging me to present them to the European Philosophical Society and to the WFUNA. The response was overwhelmingly encouraging and made me realize that writing a book with these thoughts would take too long, whereas motivating friends from around the world to share in these ideals was a faster way to mobilize this vision. This led to the birth of the Biopolitics International Organisation (B.I.O.) in 1985. 
As Vlavianos-Arvanitis explained, "biopolitics is a word that is meant to give optimism and strength, because it includes bios -- life." The aim of biopolitics is to "make people more aware of the fragile gift of bios," while also focusing on policymaking that will prioritize the importance of preserving life and the environment. Within this framework, international cooperation is emphasized. According to Vlavianos-Arvanitis, "B.I.O. wishes to stress international cooperation on the environment, new educational systems, new diplomacy, new legislation, an international court for the environment, and an [electronic] bank of ideas." Other goals of the B.I.O. include a global referendum for citizens of the planet to affirm their willingness to safeguard the environment, and the establishment of a "green salary," that would be offered instead of unemployment benefits, to those who make voluntary contributions towards environmental protection.
V: When you speak about the sustainability your energy is all about power and drive. Why?
Ms. Agni: I speak about “biopolicy,” since sustainability was offering a limited scope of environmental concerns and dwindling resources. The answer does not lie in sustaining mistakes of the past. I invest all of my energy into promoting “biopolicy” and enrichening  the concept of sustainability. If we are to succeed in achieving progress that integrates long-term objectives and local and global action, we need to build on a new vision, the vision of “biopolicy.”
In February 2014 was organized by MCI (Management Center Innsbruck) the
PRME Conference & Signatory Act DACH
20th - 22nd February, 2014
Responsible Management – Global Challenge for the Corporate and Academic World
 The key messages:
-Topics such as sustainability, social corporate responsibility, social entrepreneurship, and social innovation need to be included, urgently, in the business school programs.
- It is corporate, political, and individual responsibility to act in favour of the world and a better welfare for all.
- There are some serious global challenges that we   have to address collectively. (ecological footprint, population, urbanisation, weather)
- There are UN frameworks in place that can serve as the backbone for local implementations of responsible behaviour (Global Compact, PRME).
- We have to critically evaluate the “agent theory” and move more towards the “integrity theory”.
- Only when there are  strong local initiatives can we hope for a better world overall.
V: What is sustainability for you?
Ms. Agni: Sustainability has helped society to realize that resources are limited and has raised awareness of economic and environmental issues as inseparable and yet interdependent components of human progress. Since its inception, B.I.O. has urged a holistic and inclusive approach towards our ethical responsibilities and a revision of societal values. We have tried to combine the creative forces of both technology and the arts in order to mobilize every individual on the planet to contribute to the race to save the environment.

V: The global community directly associates you with the word BIOPOLITICS. How did this come about?
Ms. Agni: I created the term “biopolitics” to expand the scope of bioethics, which was limited to medicine at the time. Early research that I conducted on the subject did not reveal a previous use of the word, however, recently, the term is appearing in completely different contexts. Biopolitics combines biology and politics, in a Platonic sense of the word, to inspire momentum in the search for ways to build a new society.
“Biopolitics combines biology and politics, in a Platonic sense of the word, to inspire momentum in the search for ways to build a new society.”
V: What are the core changes in the last 10 years in the attitude of global community towards sustainability?
Ms. Agni: In 1988, when I presented my newly released publication at a plenary meeting at the Academy of Athens, the President announced with enthusiasm that in a few years, all academic institutions would embrace the principles of Biopolitics. Four years later, at the Rio Summit, efforts focused on influencing decision-makers to include the protection of life as an important element in global policy. In the last 10 years, the global community has become more aware of environmental concerns, however, leaders have yet to fully grasp the ways of implementing the needed action for change.

Photo: Prof. Agni Vlavianos Arvanitis receives the 2004 Biopolicy Award from
the General Secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Source: General Secretary of the RoyalSwedish Academy of Sciences
V: What would you like to see? What is your business model for making an impact?
Ms. Agni: I would like to see technology be used as a tool for international education. I would like to see universities become truly “universal” and reach every individual on our planet. This was the goal and vision in creating the International University for the Bio-Environment in 1991.

I would like to see diplomacy emphasise the interdependence of all forms of life. Differences in colour, language and culture, differences in biological diversity, are the richness of our planet. Let us all work together; let people from every sector of society join forces in a vertical and horizontal manner, so as to understand that we must wage war against climate change, since environmental destruction is progressing at an alarming rate.

Education, diplomacy, technology, the arts, media and communications, e-governance and e-services should be urgently deployed to set up specific goals for climate change mitigation: genetic banks to save biodiversity, new technology to enhance public health, effective policy to reduce poverty and improve quality of life.

Photo: Prof. Agni Vlavianos Arvanitis with Jacques Cousteau
at the First Bios Prize Award Ceremony in 1996
Source: Prof. Agni Vlavianos Arvanitis

V: What would you like to change?
Ms. Agni: The main issue is to listen to the ticking clock and to observe the swing of the pendulum. In one direction, the swing of the pendulum brings the message of the joy of bios, the most precious possession on our planet. In the other direction, it results in more forms of life disappearing. Unemployment, pollution, water scarcity, food insecurity, poverty hunger and disease. The Millennium Development Goals have deadlines that should have been met yesterday. Today is already too late. There is not a moment to lose. The oceans will no longer be able to absorb the earth’s rising temperatures. We need to achieve cities with zero pollution, increase the capacity of oceans to soak up the atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide, convince state and spiritual leaders to stop thinking of ways to raise conflict between neighbours but to join forces and to use technology to add a distinctive and constructive voice to global policy. We need to have a clear mind and to elicit the participation of every citizen on the planet in building a society of vision and hope.
“We might not be challenged only by economic, political, and ethical crises. We might be facing a serious leadership crisis. Humanity is lacking enlightened leadership,” says Prof. Vlavianos-Arvanitis
V: Do you think that there is a relationship between prosperous concepts like sustainability and human level of evolution of consciousness? In other words is the world population enough spiritually developed sufficiently for the open, horizontal concepts of shared responsibility, and co-creation?
Ms. Agni: Education still remains a privilege of the few. In B.I.O., we offer courses in biopolicy in 129 countries for free. If we charged fees, this would delay and limit participation. We do not expect to have the same type of consciousness and the same kind of co-creation. Sometimes, people who were never given the chance are more open to respond in a pure and creative way. The light of the new society creates new jobs. It creates the search for new energy sources and sets new patterns and values for the concept of profit. Happiness, good health, peaceful cooperation with all neighbours, education, trees, water, sunshine, looking at the stars, seeing the different colours of the waves, can fill the soul with riches greater than money in the bank. We are given options to end hatred, killing and mistrust. We are offered new pathways and new choices so that every individual can get to know how precious they are. But as long as we sustain the mistakes of the past, we will not be able to read even our own minds. Yes, we can co-create a new society. Yes, we have to start immediately and vaccinate leaders with an urgent wake-up call.
“If we present a thesis and antithesis we can create a synthesis, and create something really new and useful for the world,” says Prof. Vlavianos-Arvanitis
V: Does your 5th nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and the fact that you have not received one, so far, show also the attitude of the global powers towards sustainability?
Ms. Agni: You are asking me a delicate question. I like to believe that the Nobel Peace Prize can serve as a lighthouse for humanity. It’s not for me to judge whether I am worthy of such an honour. All I know is that even working 24/7 is not enough to reach the goals of B.I.O.

Photo: Prof. Agni Vlavianos Arvanitis
Source: Prof. Agni Vlavianos Arvanitis

V: What is your vision of the future: 1) based on what you see today; 2) based on what you hope for?
Ms. Agni: If we do not act now, it will be too late. We used to speak of the dangers of a one-degree rise in the earth’s temperature. Now we anticipate a two- or even a three-degree rise, with repercussions that we cannot even begin to fathom. If icebergs melt and coastal waters rise by several meters, how will the next generations look at us? We need to understand the real issues at hand. Have we used our full potential to overcome problems?

Constraints do not exist

Tie up my eyes
fasten iron chains around me
till I am unable to move at all
take away everything

Still constraints do not exist
when my thoughts are free

A.Vlavianos Arvanitis, Oscillations – a Collection of Poems, 1983

Thank you. For this profound thoughts, for the depth of your soul, for the strength of your words. At the end I personally hear a message behind your words. It is no longer the structural responsibility that we can and shall hide behind. It is time for individual responsibility to set the action. “There is no THEY”, was the message of the Challenge:Future Youth 2013, there is only we, you and I. Can we steer the wheel? Are we aware that we can?

Osti jarej, Violeta

How can we cooperate
Where can we meet globally?
Interesting links


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