Professor Fights to Save Life on Earth, One Book at a Time

In this Jan. 24, 2015 photo, an international scientist collects samples in Deception Island, in the South Shetland Islands archipelago Antarctica. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

By Anthe Mitrakos

From deadly droughts to disappearing marine life, caustic rain, and natural disaster anomalies, the effects of climate change arguably pose the greatest threat to life on earth. If left unaddressed, experts predictthese effects could increase the number of climate refugees from one million in 1990 to a staggering 70 million by 2080.

Despite the reality of the issue, however, little has been done on an international level to mitigate climate change. But from a small office in Athens, a group of researchers is aiming to change that. Led by Professor Agni Vlavianos-Arvanitis, the Biopolitics International Organisation (BIO) focuses on the development of “biopolicy” to protect life.

“We cannot afford to waste any more time,” Arvanitis says. “The possession of life, or bios, is a unifying force, a source of joy and strength. What we are doing as humans with our arrogance is destroying it.”

The author of over 60 publications, Arvanitis and her team have just released their latest work titled “Climate Change: Biopolicy and Development.” Part of a series of e-learning courses, the publication examines how the impacts of climate change endanger the existence of life on planet earth.

The book is comprised of nine chapters, each of which includes numerous references. Chapters one through four provide an introduction to climate change and touch on rising sea levels, extreme weather and the use of land. Chapters five through eight examine the impact of climate change on water resources, biodiversity, health, society and the economy. The book’s final chapter encourages creating a positive momentum for climate change mitigation through media, the arts and education, among other disciplines.

“I want people to understand how fragile life is,” Arvanitis says. “If we want to mitigate climate change, we need to mobilize all possible resources of society and ask leaders to start a new vision.”

As the book points out, climate change is expected to challenge marine biodiversity and plant species, as well as pose major threats thereafter to small mammals and humans alike. Unfortunately, the world’s response to climate change, Arvanitis warns, has been spotty and non-effective.

“A lack of trust between nations is often the reason why climate progress is slow,” she says, highlighting the importance of cooperation among NGOs representing various countries.

“Until a few years ago, major organizations were not talking about this evident threat to life. Everyone was talking about GDP,” she says. “Well, what will the GDP be if the water rises and covers all of Manhattan?”

Indeed, rising temperatures and melting polar ice caps are contributing to a rise in global sea levels. A report released by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation states that the global sea level rose some 6.7 inches in the last century, at a rate that’s doubled in the last decade alone.

Furthermore, according to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, which uses satellites to observe sea levels, the global sea level has risen almost 3.5 inches since 1993, with a 1.6-inch rise in the last 10 years.

The costs of responding to an expected sea level rise of some 20 inches by the year 2100 are estimated between $20 and $200 billion in the U.S. alone, the book notes.

Other climate change factors like ocean acidification, deforestation, droughts and floods, Arvanitis points out, are exacerbating poverty, hunger and the spread of disease. They stand behind the demise of entire species and ecosystems, igniting a chain reaction of life-threatening occurrences.

Evaluating how climate change affects the environment, economy and quality of life of its citizens, Arvanitis hopes her latest book will serve as an alarm call to provide the momentum she says we needboth individuals and communities, to save life on planet earth.

“The gift of life is very important,” she says. “After all, if life is destroyed, there will be no profit, no GDP. We need world leaders to understand the value of protecting bios, above all.”

The book is not a doomsday revelation, but rather, a collection of scientific research and commentary revolving around what climate change is, the threats it poses, and what can be done to spread awareness on the matter.

Educated in the United States and Greece, Prof. Vlavianos-Arvanitis taught biology for twenty years before launching BIO in 1985. A researcher and poet, she been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times since 1995, and is the recipient of numerous international distinctions. Among other projects, BIOruns the International University for the Bio-Environment, providing a series of no-cost e-learning courses to students in 145 countries.

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