Dr. Agni Vlavianos-Arvanitis
President and Founder
Biopolitics International Organisation
As the present century is drawing to a close, and humanity is at the threshold of a new millennium, the time has come to make important decisions concerning the future of our society. Presently, fast-paced, destructive tendencies have resulted in the over- exploitation of the natural environment, leading humanity towards a severe crisis of values. Technology has served as a pathway for the revelation of the truth. It has expanded our horizons but has also created new needs in society. Technological progress has led to an extensive exploitation of non-clean energy sources, and a serious depletion of natural resources. At the same time, the pursuit of short-term economic prosperity has resulted in environmental destruction, which is not only a threat to aesthetic values but also to the very existence of future generations.
The anthropocentric behaviour of present day society is jeopardising the very essence of the continuity of bios. Presumptuous attitudes and oversight are threatening to destroy within one or two generations the gift of bios, the most precious possession on our planet. Bios has existed for hundreds of millions of years. If we consider the evolutionary chain as a twenty-four-hour-day, the appearance of human beings has only occurred during the last few seconds. This evolutionary perspective reveals that human history can only be traced back to a few thousand years. The history of life however, extends into several hundred million years. Life has been tested in unlimited varieties and the most viable species have survived through the power of natural selection. With the threat of extinction increasingly valid, we need to seriously contemplate whether the current environmental crisis is a manifestation of humanity’s suicidal tendencies, or merely a low point in its trajectory pointing towards the need for a new societal structure.
Social systems undergo continuous changes through the process of dynamic equilibrium. In this period of transition, we need to search for new alternatives and to study new models that will help uplift the spirit of humanity from its present crisis of values. It is essential to realise, that time is running out. A ticking clock is registering what are possibly the last minutes of life on this planet, and, unless a serious commitment to protect and preserve the bio-environment is made, the whole future of humanity is at stake.
Many of the threats to the present world are due to near-sighted approaches adopted in decision-making processes. A perception of timescales may provide the guidelines for a far-sighted policy in the future. A millennium vision in decision making may allow for a shift of thought from personal and national issues, to the preservation and continuation of the chain of life. Technology has offered the expansion of our understanding of the microcosmos and macrocosmos, thus revealing a new placement in the understanding of ourselves. The symmetry and beauty of bios, as revealed in the micro- environment, the scale of the cell, and the macro-environment, could become a source of inspiration and strength for building a harmonious future.
Neutron or Galaxy
Galaxy or galaxies
are small dimensions
Neutrons are small
And what am I
a neutron to the galaxy
or a galaxy to the neutron
(Oscillations, 1983, Agni Vlavianos-Arvanitis)
As a necessary aspiration for the next millennium, the Biopolitics International Organisation has proposed a shift from anthropocentric to biocentric values, by placing respect for the bio-environment at the core of every human endeavour. A biocentric value system may provide the necessary unifying dimensions to overcome personal or national interests that upset society, and reveal the essence of common bonds among all humans.
Society needs to be based on a new system of bio-cultural values, so we may progress towards an optimistic, bios-supporting future of co-existence and international co- operation. The bios-theory, which was first proposed in 1985, promotes a unifying interdisciplinary vision, by investigating and establishing bio-environmental connections between fields, such as ethics, legislation, economics, science, technology, theology, aesthetics, history and diplomacy, as related to a common denominator: the appreciation and better understanding of bios.
Bio-Education For a Global Responsibility
Communication between academic disciplines is critical, in order to allow for new societal values to emerge. Up to now, universities have been placing barriers among disciplines. In defining new trends for future educational frameworks, it is essential to provide channels of communication by bearing in mind that universities are, by definition, universal. Universities need to become open institutions, thus avoiding fragmentation and over-specialisation, which often results in irresponsibility and oversight.
In the search for new models and a new vision for the future, an integrated biocentric education, that secures lifelong environmental literacy for every citizen around the world, is a necessary vehicle for the successful promotion of a global appreciation of bios. The International University for the Bio-Environment (I.U.B.E.), launched by the Biopolitics International Organisation in 1990, promotes a model for global bio-education, by introducing biocentric reforms at every level of education. These reforms cut through all barriers and include all academic fields, thus introducing interdisciplinary dimensions into every educational programme. The I.U.B.E. is developing a Global Visiting Scholars Programme, for educators and decision makers from around the world to inseminate existing educational institutions with biocentric thinking and a new system of bios promoting values. Major goals of the I.U.B.E. include:
- establishing international educational reforms and promoting an efficient, global bio-education, through the use of satellites and other communication links;
- redefining the basic core of educational curricula and incorporating interdisciplinary elements into all educational programmes, with the hope of making bio- environmental education the major link among all disciplines in all nations;
- instating international co-operation for the protection of the bio-environment, leading to a new era of bio-diplomacy;
- promoting international legislation on bios rights;
- contributing bios-related dimensions to business and management concepts world- wide;
- providing incentives for business leaders, political decision-makers and the general public to elaborate on a new strategy compatible with the interests, needs and values of the bio-environment;
- organising an international campaign for Environmental Olympics and awarding Bios Prizes to “individuals or institutions that have contributed to the preservation and appreciation of the bio-environment”;
- sensitising public opinion to the ramifications of the biological sciences;
- promoting an international bio-assessment of technology, so as to ensure technological and economic progress that supports the bio-environment.
Bio-Assessment of Technology
Present society resembles an inverted pyramid, with human rights representing the tip and technology expanding the unstable base. This imbalance could be changed if we revert the pyramid and place bios rights as the wide base of our society. Human rights will then occupy the stable tip of the structure.
A world-wide bio-assessment of technology can contribute to bridging the gap between technological progress and societal values. Progress may be viewed through the scope of Bios in the Next Millennium and retain positive aspects that help in the preservation of the bio-environment. In a dialectic exchange of views, experts in respective fields will be asked to present a thesis and antithesis, and then create a synthesis of new concepts. Emphasis will be placed on identifying factors contributing to the present decline of values, as well as on a way of harnessing environmental damage, so as to truly benefit from the contributions of technological breakthroughs.
Greece is proposed as the ideal meeting place for people from all disciplines to convene and assess progress in their respective fields. Every corner of the country may represent a separate field, depending on its cultural contribution. Delphi could be the place for philosophers to convene and propose future values for society.
Patmos, the island of the Apostle John, may serve as the meeting place for theologians to examine the effects of technology on religion, Olympia may serve for the assessment of athletic values, Kos for Medicine, Ikaria for Aeronautics and Samothraki, the birthplace of Demokritos, for the Physical Sciences. Mythology, history and tradition, as well as modern technology, may combine and provide a future based on the harmonious co-existence of all forms of life.
However, in addition to a theoretical approach, action needs to be taken, in order to apply technological progress towards preserving the bio-environment. Therefore it is necessary to:
- develop new curriculum materials for all educational levels, as well as audio-visual materials on issues related to bios and the bio-environment;
- introduce a positive feeling among the unemployed, by paying a Green Salary instead of benefits, with the commitment to work for the protection of the bio-environment (planting trees, recycling etc.);
- generate environmental action groups, utilising both the enthusiasm of youth and the experience of senior citizens, to tackle local issues;
- establish local Genetic Banks, as a means for protecting bio-diversity;
- encourage the creation of a clearing-house for both dedicated individuals and established organisations to provide, through the use of computer link-ups, a network of people wishing to co-operate on bios related issues;
- encourage a bios-supporting economic strategy to replace destructive policies and a world-wide interdisciplinary exchange of information promoting the appreciation of the bio-environment;
- promote the establishment of a computerised Bank of Ideas in which scientists, scholars and philosophers, as well as any interested party, may deposit their thoughts and create a rich source of information and reflections on bios;
- elicit the co-operation of the media, so that a news bulletin on the bio-environment could become a regular item on news programmes, in the same way that weather and stock-market reports already are;
- organise a World Referendum in order to give the opportunity to people throughout the world to express their willingness to preserve bios on our planet.
Bios Rights – Bio-Legislation
In order to secure the feeling of interdependence among all forms of life, it is important to promote understanding and appreciation of the bio-environment in every field of human endeavour. Humanity should create a solid ethical foundation for the work of protecting bios, firmly rooted in major communities, and respecting indigenous cultures and their educational systems. Measures also need to be taken towards achieving greater social justice on a global level. It is thus imperative to inform, and most importantly, to influence those involved in decision-making processes – governmental officials, international and national financial institutions, corporations, universities and research centres – so as to advance towards a society made up of responsible and affected citizens.
The concepts of family, peace, education, culture and religion are promoted by Biopolitics. as essential societal values for the next millennium. However, in order to attain a better quality of life, we need to expound the fundamental human right to live in a clean environment. As a result, it is crucial to include protection of the bio- environment in an overall framework of rights. Biopolitics stresses the importance of developing international legislation on bios rights as a prerequisite for protecting bio-diversity and preserving bios on our planet.
Bio-Economics – Redefining the Concept of Profit
It is becoming increasingly apparent that in order to curb environmental destruction, and exit the present crisis of values, economic projects, at all levels, cannot be carried out for the sole purpose of gaining maximum financial profit. The economic driving force needs to re-evaluate existing norms and policies, and bring significant changes upon the current system of economic values. For society to overcome greed and over- consumerism, it is essential that we move beyond the antagonisms of governments, nations and business, and adopt a common responsibility to preserve the bio- environment for the future.
Biopolitics regards promotion of a bios-centred economy as an important way of creating a new deontology, leading to a revised code of ethics for the protection of the bio-environment. The vision is to develop a business perspective that will actively contribute towards a global understanding and appreciation of bios. It is not enough to simply work towards achieving sustainable development. Society needs to be sensitised to the fact that protecting and defending life and the bio-environment is more profitable than waste and over-exploitation. Therefore, Biopolitics stresses the need to implement current business concepts with a new, millennium approach, and institute environmental protection as a viable and successful business strategy.
In Western culture, profit is associated with economic activities resulting in increased income and financial well-being. However, the concept of profit needs to be redefined, so as to include the dimensions of inner wealth, preservation of natural resources as a measurable part of a nation’s prosperity, better health and the protection of bio-diversity, which constitute a “genuine” profit for society. Only then will changes in business mentality become part of a general tendency towards an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, which will include respect for the bio-environment as a prerequisite for a better quality of life.
Bio-Diplomacy – Investing in “Defence for Bios”
Present threats to bios are international problems. The required solutions entail the development plans of action for peace and international understanding. International co-operation may lead to a new era for the diplomatic world; the era of bio- diplomacy. Nations will no longer be at war with each other, but with environmental destruction and abuse. Foreign policy could thus shift from a fragmented, competitive framework to a vision of unity and interdependence.
Bio-diplomacy recognises that cultural differentiation constitutes the wealth of the body of humanity. Differences in language, religion or tradition are what define the beauty of humanity and, therefore, need to be preserved. Furthermore, humanity is part of the overall body of bios, where DNA, the genetic code for every living organism, is the link connecting all forms of life. Trees, the source of oxygen on our planet, can be considered the “lungs” of the body of bios. Damage to the lungs is not an isolated event, but results in the whole body suffering. These unifying concepts will be promoted as the primary consideration of bio-diplomacy, which will be involved in enhancing international co-operation on environmental issues and will actively support all efforts to protect and maintain bio-diversity. At the same time, bio-diplomacy will seek to improve human relations and attain the goal of world peace, by replacing current diplomatic attitudes with a complete international and intercultural perspective.
To encourage international co-operation on the bio-environment, the world needs to stop investing in war, and start investing in the preservation of bios and the bio- environment. Competition for ways to destroy, should become co-operation for ways to save. The principle of national defence should therefore become defence for bios.
Presently, enough incendiary weapons exist to destroy the earth thousands of times over. Our planet is the only planet we know of where life exists. We need to realise that the real enemy is the depletion of the ozone layer, pollution, starvation and disease. Depletion of the ozone layer is so dangerous, that if it continues at the present rate, the only solution will be to live under the sea. We cannot escape this planet. Billions of dollars have been invested in trying, while in the meantime, life on our planet is jeopardised by our irresponsibility and pursuit of short-term planning. While B.I.O. respects space research and does not desire to limit its progress, it is evident that, at least in the foreseeable future, space travel cannot guarantee our survival.
A New Pathway for Democracy
As humanity crosses into the next millennium, the issue of bios will grow in complexity. More than just the appreciation and protection of the bio-environment, in all its varied manifestations, humanity will have to confront fundamental moral, legal and political dilemmas consequent on cumulative technological advance-ments. These advancements could be life-enhancing or life-threatening depending on our ability to understand their various implications, as well as our readiness to preserve the common good. The urgent task ahead is to inform the public regarding these challenges, so as to be morally and mentally prepared to face the uncertainties ahead.
In this crucial endeavour, it is essential to have global participation. Up to now, even in democratic regimes, citizens rarely speak out as a majority, and are often overshadowed by the presumptuous attitudes of arrogant minorities. Present breakthroughs in the field of communication technology can provide the opportunity for the public to be actively involved in issues concerning our daily lives, and be able to cast a vote, anytime, through computer networks and other communication link-ups, which can make immediate feedback possible from any corner of the globe. A proposed World Referendum on the commitment to protect the bio-environment can be the manifestation of such an attempt, with many more dimensions to follow. These dimensions can open up new pathways for a participatory democracy, where opinions will be actively expressed and politicians will no longer be able to evade their responsibilities.
As we are entering an electronic era, telecommunications will inevitably shape the future of our society. It is therefore imperative that we apply the full potential of these new tools to guarantee a society made up of responsible and affected citizens.
Environmental Olympics – Bios Prizes – Athlos as a Spiritual Achievement
In the quest for new societal values for the next millennium, revival of the ancient Olympic spirit can contribute the necessary dimensions of unity and harmony to the development of every aspect of human endeavour. The Olympic Games, held in Greece for over ten centuries, constituted important political and cultural events, promoting a unifying vision of peace, kinsmanship and hope. During the Olympics, cease-fire was imposed over all participating parties at war, since the event was considered an opportunity for reconciliation and unity, rather than division. Being an Olympian was considered an athlete’s highest honour. A sprig of olive tree was the prize for the winner. No financial awards were given; instead, winners and their families became among the most respected citizens for the rest of their lives.
Presently, the Olympic Games, a beacon of world peace and hope, award medals only for physical prowess. Moreover, the concept of athletics is synonymous with sports, and feats of the body. Yet we should be reminded that the term athletics comes from the Greek word athlos, meaning achievement. Therefore, athletics encompasses all possible achievements of humanity, whether physical or spiritual. It is thus important that the concept of athletics regains its original significance, and becomes redefined on the basis of new bios values.
The bios theory embraces the spirit of harmonious development, both mental and physical. People should not confine themselves to striving for excellence in sporting events only. In order to promote the bio-assessment of technology and a global bio- culture for the new millennium, the Biopolitics International Organisation has been proposing the establishment of multidisciplinary international committees, assigned with the responsibility of assessing progress and awarding Bios Prizes to individuals or institutions that have significantly contributed to the preservation and appreciation of the bio-environment.
Currently, international competitions take place in various fields, such as music, poetry, theatre and scientific research. However, these competitions represent a fragmented view of human achievements. In order to re-establish the harmony and unity behind all expressions of human creativity, an overall recognition and award of achievement in sports, arts, and science may be carried out simultaneously, every four years, at the time the Olympic Flame is lit. For example, legislators could be awarded for having developed new legislation regarding bios rights, architects, for having worked in the construction of biopoles models and corporate leaders, for including environmental protection in their business activities. Prizes could be awarded in several disciplines (bio-ethics, bio-legislation, bio-economics, bio-business, bio-theology, bio- architecture, bio-diplomacy, bio-philosophy, etc.), with the hope to eventually include all human accomplishments.
The Olympiads should be a period of world peace and an occasion for all citizens of the world to celebrate the unifying concepts brought forth by the Olympic spirit. At the same time, the global community can be sensitised to the value of a harmonious co- existence as a vehicle for achieving a better quality of life. As a result, B.I.O. has been proposing the revival of the ancient ideal of cease-fire during the Olympics. The hope is that the bio-environment will act as a unifying force for peace, leading to a new social structure, where respect for bios will be at the core of every human endeavour.
- Global community of legislators to nominate candidates
- Supreme Court Presidents and University Law Professors to receive nominations and propose up to 150 candidates for award
- Elected 30 member International Committee to select 15 nominations
- Three member International Committee to award three Bios Prizes
Society in Transition – The Road to an International Bio-Culture
The relationship between human culture and the bio-environment is becoming increasingly important in our times. The bio-environment is fashioned by our culture, which is, in turn, moulded by the bio-environment. Bio-culture represents the conscious effort of humanity to attain this interdependence. Aesthetic values, music, science, the arts, politics and economics can all come together in the struggle for a better quality of life. In all its facets, bio-culture reflects the spirit of bios as the powerful unifying factor for the future co- evolution of humanity with the bio-environment, and the harmonious co-existence of all forms of life. Harmony can be achieved only as long as humanity changes its attitude, and embraces biocentric values.
Since society is flexible and dynamic, educational systems have to be continuously revised. By the time proposals and studies are implemented, they tend to be already outdated. It is thus essential to challenge current educational norms and stagnant concepts, and channel human potential towards constructive, bios-supporting behaviours. The more we comprehend bios, the most unique gift in the universe, the more successful we will be in fulfilling the needs of the community, the country and the world.
The success of future society will be based on the conscious effort to eliminate anthropoegocentric trends, which have currently led humanity at an impasse. Countries in transition need to use this opportunity to build a new integrated society, where respect for bios will be the key characteristic. New ethos, new legislation, new government structure, international co-operation and a far-sighted, comprehensive approach to decision- making can be the answer to the challenges of the next millennium. Humanity possess the option for alternative futures. It is up to us to decide on whether we follow the road to extinction, or preserve this planet for the generations to come.
Dr. Agni Vlavianos-Arvanitis founded B.I.O. in 1985, after having dedicated over 20 years to teaching and research in biology. In 1990, she launched the International University for the Bio-Environment and, in 1992, a campaign for Bios Prizes and cease-fire during the Olympics. A recipient of many high distinctions, she was elected, along with M. Gorbachev, N. Mandela and M. Strong, Honorary President for Life by the UNA of Sri Lanka, and is also an Abdi Ipekci Peace and Friendship Prize laureate. She is Vice President of the International Bioethics Society, Member of the Journal of Cleaner Production Advisory Board, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Uganda National Foundation for Research and Development, Vice President of the UNESCO-MAB Hellenic National Committee, Commissioner on the Global Commission to Fund the UN, Corresponding Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Member of the New York Academy of Sciences, the International Academy of Ecology, Human and Nature Safety Sciences, the Hellenic Philosophical Society and the National Society of Greek Writers. Author of poetry books, she is also Honorary Professor of St. Petersburg State University for Plant Polymers and Doctor Honoris Causa of Mendeleyev University. In 1995 she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, a nomination renewed in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000.