Josef Vavrousek was one of the few people, who felt responsible for the entire planet. That was what brought him among ecologists and later to the Federal Government of the Czechoslovak Republic. He was not an ecologist by education, but he grew wise enough not only to understand ecological principles, but to apply them to the social development of the biosphere. Behind natural catastrophe he always saw the people who suffer by it. His social thinking was the background for his being a “real” politician. He never promised the voters welfare as other politicians did, nor forced them into ascetic self-denial. From conscious modesty he promised survival not only for humankind, but for all living things.
He studied economics with a mathematical orientation at the Faculty of Machinery of the Czech Technical University. His interest in cybernetics and systems theory was the background for his activities as adviser to management.
He was not a political dissident, but was very active in the Steering Committee of the Ecological Section of the Biological Society of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (1986-1990). That was where leading scientists collected information on the development of environmental problems in Czechoslovakia and published protests to the government. In 1989, he became one of the founders of an illegal protest group called the “Independent Intellectuals Circle”.
During the Velvet Revolution he participated very actively in the Co-ordination Centre of the leading political movement “Citizens Forum”. In 1990, he was nominated Federal Minister for the Environment. During this time he succeeded in introducing the necessary legal changes and norms.
Josef Vavrousek organised and took part in many international conferences. His most important activity was the organisation, at Dobris, in 1991, of the Summit for all European Ministers for the Environment, called “Environment for Europe”. He was also the head of the Czechoslovak delegation at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992. This was his last official political activity, since after the 1992 elections, Czechoslovakia was divided and the Federal Government was abolished.
Following these drastic political changes, he worked as a scientist at the Institute for Applied Ecology, and later taught Human Ecology, Sustainable Living and Ecopolitics (Biopolitics) at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Charles University in Prague. He was also elected Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences.
In 1992 he founded the Society for Sustainable Living, where he acted as chairman. This Society was the successor to the former Ecological Section, and broadened membership to all people interested in the ideas of sustainable development. It included not only scientists and environmental specialists, but also social scientists, artists, politicians and intellectuals of all kinds. This resulted in broad interdisciplinary discussions on contemporary environmental problems in the Czech Republic and on a global scale.
As an ardent mountaineer, Josef Vavrousek always enjoyed taking his family to the mountains. He continued pursuing mountain climbing even after an avalanche injury at Pamir. In March this year he went to West Tatras in Slovakia with his 19 year old daughter, Petra. They loved to climb high mountains together. This was their last journey, from which they never returned. This time the avalanche won.