- Yaman …rs MD, D.Phil.,
Unit of Medical Ethics, Ankara Medical Faculty,
Sihhiya, 06100 Ankara, TURKEY
The other meeting was held in Adana on the Eastern Mediterranean coast and organized by the Biopolitics International Organisation (B.I.O.) in Athens and two of its representatives in Turkey. The latter were Mrs. Hunay Evliya, Professor and Director of the Centre for Environmental Research of Cukurova University, Adana, and Professor Rusen Keles from the Faculty of Political Sciences of Ankara University, one the Trustees of the Organisation. This Bio-Conference (18-19 May) was the 7th of its kind organized by B.I.O. and had the title "Biopolitics Education in the Year 2000". I already wrote about one of the Organisation's activities earlier in "Music, Physics and Biopolitics", Eubios Ethics Institute Newsletter 4 ( (1994), 74. One of the most significant efforts in recent years on the part of B.I.O. has been the establishment of an International University of the Bio-Environment. Having no definite campus, the latter aims to develop educational programs on biopolitics and man-nature relationship in general and their application at the international and inter-university levels.
To be sure, the topics of Biopolitics have very much in common with those of bioethics in the comprehensive sense of the latter term with the moral aspects of human-nature relationships forming its subject matter. The efforts in the field of ethics in general with a view to giving an academic status to the discussions on concrete situations as regards human attitude and conduct can be said to hold for biopolitical topics or the field of biopolitics as well. As the term must strongly imply, however, in the latter activity it is rather the applications related to the local, regional, or global solutions to the ethical and overall bios problems arising from man-nature relationship which is in the foreground.
What I intend to discuss here is an event whose significance was stressed at the Adana meeting. As the President and Founder of the Biopolitics International Organisation, Doctor Agni Vlavianos-Arvanitis has been nominated for the Novel Prize for Peace by the Co-President of the Novel Laureate International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Professor Sergei Kolesnikov. In her letter to the members of the Organisation before the meeting, she pointed out that "peace and human rights can no longer be guarantied without a conscious effort to protect bios, the most precious gift on our planet". Human rights and bios rights being "complementary concepts in the struggle for a better quality of life", efforts in this area would "lead to international co-operation and understanding". And "throughout the course of its ten year history, B.I.O. has been actively promoting a shift from an anthropocentric and a biocentric system of values, in order to curb environmental destruction and preserve our planet for the generations to come". In the May meeting, Doctor Arvanitis said that "the environment and life know no boundaries", and that (in this regard) "everywhere belongs to everybody".
These words may remind us of the remarks by Van Rensselaer Potter on the dedication page of his work, Bio-ethics: Bridge to the Future (1). The first ethics dealt with the relation between individuals, later accretions with the relationship between the individual and society. But land still being property, there is as yet no ethic dealing with humankind's relation to it and to the animals and plants growing upon it. As the land-relation is strictly economic, it entails privileges, but not obligations. In that authors view, the extension of ethics to this element in the human environment is an evolutionary possibility and ecological necessity (1). In other words, the subject matter of ethics has as a rule been constituted, so far, by the value problems arising from inter-human relationships; and man-nature relations have not been seen, traditionally, from the viewpoint of moral values.
In like manner, I think, the concept of peace has in principle been seen almost exclusively as the absence of war and, as the case may be, as "being on good terms" or the existence of "friendly" relations between human communities and countries. The increasingly worsening human-nature relationship, particularly to the detriment of the biosphere with its origin in the activities of humans as a species, has apparently been the foremost reason behind the birth of the concept and field of bioethics (leaving aside here its usage in the sense of biomedical ethics). In its basics, the concept of biopolitics has evidently not a different origin. The nomination of Arvanities for a peace prize as the leading person in the latter field seems to be significantly parallel to the original expectations of Potter in the area of bioethics. The most important or basic point here appears to be the great change human expectations, perhaps rather in the scope, as regards the concept of peace. One might stress that this represents a vital change in the related attitude or understanding, although, for the time being, the human circle appreciating this point may not be so wide as it should be.
Another essential point that should be stressed in the present context is, in my view, the extreme devastation of non-human life or biosphere during the armed conflicts in our time. Considered from the viewpoint of bioethics in its original basic sense, an asking the question, "What right do human beings or the human species have in doing this?" From a functional point of view or in conflict contributes, in addition to other major determinants such as the high-rate of increase in human population and the ever-increasing consumption of natural resources (2), to the more and more narrowing of the "sustainable" environment.
Most of the terms produced in the course of the B.I.O.'s work so far begins, apparently, with the prefix "Bio-". One of these is "Bio-Peace", which is also one of the terms we see in its emblem. However criticizable its activities may be as the utmost organisation in the area of peace, we may relevantly remind ourselves here of the colours of the United Nations' flag, evidently symbolising inter-human peace: white and blue. An expressed, possibly, with the addition of green as the most frequently used colour representing the latter.
Could we possibly have any other colour in mind in this vital context?
1. Potter, V. R. Bioethics: Bridge to the Future, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1971.
2. Ors, Y. "Biopolitics in the Light of Bio-Ethics", Proceedings to the Fifth B.I.O. International conference, Istanbul, May 1992, Biopolitics International Organisation, Athens, 1993, pp.69-75.