Professor Dr. Rusen Keles
Center of Urban Studies
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Guests,
We have been listening since this morning to informative and interesting addresses by distinguished Greek and Turkish scholars. As one of the Trustees of the Biopolitics International Organisation, I am really happy to observe closely the rapid progress of the idea of bios during the last several years. It was hardly imaginable to anticipate its worldwide expansion in such a relatively short period of time when we had decided in East Berlin in 1986, during the Regional Conference of the World Federation of the United Nations Association (WFUNA), to establish the B.I.O. under the leadership of Dr. Agni Vlavianos-Arvanitis. Now, we have come to the point where the setting up of a B.I.O. International University for the Bio-Environment is being seriously considered by the members of the Organisation. Not only the increasing interest of the world in environment and ecology, but also the dedication and outstanding efforts of the President of B.I.O. and cooperation of our members in more than 25 countries have been the major source of inspiration in the advancement of the ideals of the B.I.O.
The problems we face, on the eve of the 21st century, largely emanate from rapid population growth, industrialization and urbanization. David Hume had anticipated in the 18th century that the ideal city size of the future would not exceed 700,000. Jules Vernes, in his turn, saw the possibility of emerging big cities of nearly 10,000,000. It was only the contemporary Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, who, more realistically, talked about super metropolises of 70 million people encompassing several megalopolises of 10 million each, which are comparable to Mexico and Shanghai of the year 2000. Which are expected to reach 30 million and 25 million by then respectively.
Certainly, we are faced not only with a simple issue of numerical magnitude. What confronts us has widespread qualitative consequences as well, of which we have been steadily complaining. Despite all new developments in the ideological differences between East and West, what seems to be almost certain is that it is only those countries where there is a strict control over the use and ownership of resources including urban land, have a better chance to grasp effectively the ecological problems of present day cities and human habitat.
Normally, the social cost of unprecedented urban growth has something to do with surpassing the human scale in human habitats. That is why, the present day city life tends to alienate mankind from his environment. Planners of future societies have to design urban settlements not for machines but for the needs of human beings. Such a goal is necessarily related to the ideological foundations of bios.
Because, as in the words of French thinker, Laburit, “La route que nous avons su’vie nous fait aboutir a la notion que tous les problemes anguissants qui se posent a l’Homme moderne, ne peuvent trouver de solution que dans une transformation de son propre comportement”, literally, “the road we followed brought us to the notion that all grave problems confronting contemporary man could find their solutions only in the transformation of human conduct and behaviour.”
It seems certain that humanity needs a new understanding and a new ethical approach to the problems of Bios. This may be called secular human ethics. Mankind will not have any difficulty in finding solutions to the problems threatening bios, if it adopts a conscious secular humanist approach which is based on such principles of free inquiry, separation of religon of the state, the ideal of freedom, a new ethics based on critical intelligence, moral education, rationalism, science and technology. Such a new approach to the relations between man and his environment is against everything which is anti-science, anti-freedom and anti-human.
This means that we should oppose any tyranny over the mind, of man, or of social institutions be it political, ideological or ecclesiastical, to shackle free thought. A long list of thinkers have contributed in the history of development of this new ethics. from Socrates, Democritus, Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, to Spinota, Erasmus, Hume, Voltaire, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Russel, Davvey and the like.
There are many reasons for being optimistic for the future as far as the relations between man and environment are concerned. In view of incredible progress in the last half century. The B.I.O., conscious of its social responsibility, will do everything possible to advance and disseminate the scientific bases of this interdisciplinary field of study.
The most important aspect of having such a symposium here, is, in my opinion, its unique feature of bringing together a group of intellectuals, politicians, bureaucrats, and diplomats who are firm believers in the strengthening of friendship ties between two neighbouring countries. This seems to be an undeniable indication of optimism that should prevail in the economic, cultural and political relationships between these two nations. In a world which is undergoing a remarkable transformation in ideological matters, differences, let alone conflicts among states, are losing their meaning to a considerable extent. This is another reason to unite our efforts to create better political habitat, a more friendly atmosphere in our region. That is why I find it of utmost importance to emphasize the significance of this bilateral meeting for international cooperation.
I thank very much Dr. Vlavianos-Arvanitis, our hostess, and all Greek colleagues and friends for their kind interest, cooperation and hospitality. In this connection, I wish to express my hope to repeat and further such gatherings in Turkey in the not so distant future.
Professor Rusen Keles is Director of Environmental Studies on the Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University. He has served as President of the United Nations Association of Turkey and, in addition to providing advisory services to local government agencies, he has also been a consultant to the Council of Europe and the United Nations. Recipient of the Abdi Ipekci Prize for Peace and Friendship, he has published more than 30 books and reports and is a member of a number of national and international organisations, including B.I.O. trustee