Our “Green” Patriarch

Introduction

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I ,the Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome has been the 270th successor of the throne of Christian Church founded by St. Andrew ,”first among equals” (primus inter pares) in the Eastern Orthodox Communion, since 22 October 1991. He was born in the village of Agioi Theodoroi in the island Imvros. His birth name was Dimitrios Arhondonis.

As Ecumenical Patriarch, he has been particularly active internationally. One of his first focuses has been on rebuilding the once-persecuted Eastern Orthodox Churches. For this reason invited Primates in Fanar, where they all sent a message of unity in the world. These Assemblies where resumed in 1995 in Patmos, in January 2000 in Jerusalem and in December in the same year in Instabul and in Nice of Bithinia.

He has also continued the reconciliation dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church started by his predecessors. As part of this effort, he invited Pope Benedict XVI to Instabul, who accepted the invitation and made an official visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinopole (the Lantern) in November 2006 where he attended anniversary Celebration of the Enthroned Patriarchate and signed a Joint Declaration.

Bartholomew I, initiated dialogue with other faiths, including other Christian sects, Muslims, and Jews, to promote religious freedomand human rights, peace in the world and environmental issues.

Environment

Aware that the environmental destruction is  a very important  problem that threatens God’s Creation, he has put the environmental protection high in his Patriarchate’s agenda and has been behind various international environmental causes. This has earned him the nickname of “The Green Patriarch”. He has also named the 1st of September as the Day of Prayer for the Environmental Protection.

Honors

  • In 1997, His All Holiness received the Congressional Gold Medal  the highest civilian award given by the United States.
  • In 2002, His All Holiness received the Sophie Prize for his work on the environment.
  • In April 2008, he was included on the Time 100 most influential people in the world list.
  • In 1999 he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania.
  • In 2004 the Great Golden Medal with Ribbon for Services to the Republic of Austria by Federal President Thomas Klestil.
  • He has also been awarded Ηonorary Doctorates by a number of Universities and Educational Institutions around the world.

Education

  • Elementary school in his native Imvros.
  • Zographeion Lyceum in Istanbul.
  • Patriarchal Theological school of Halki. He graduated with highest honours in 1961.
  • August 1961 he was ordained Deacon, receiving the name Bartholomew.
  • 1961-1963 fulfilled his military service in the Turkish army as a non regular officer.
  • 1963-1968 Graduate studies, received  his Ph.D  on the Canon Law. The same year he became a lecturer in the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
  • 1968 return to Istanbul.
  • October 1969 he was ordained a Priest.
  • October 22, 1991 he was elected Ecumenical Patriarch.
  • He speaks Greek, Turkish, Italian, German, French and English; he is also fluent in classical Greek and Latin.

* We met our Ecumenical Patriarch at his office at the Lantern (Fanari). Catalytic presence, calm in the eyes and dynamic voice, the Head of our Church, welcomed us, shared with us his concerns about the difficult economic situation in our country, for young people, with and without job, for His environmental sensitivities. The following interview is an honour and a blessing as well. We thank Him.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I: “Energy sources are gifts from God”

Interview of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

What was the reason for Your All Holiness to be so actively involved with the environmental issues?

First of all, I was born and grown up in a quiet island, Imbros, with wonderful natural surroundings. Ι studied in the Holy Theological School of Chalki, one terrestrial, one could say, paradise. All these have highly spoken in my soul since the very early years of age. My theological studies have opened new horizons and through the study of the Divine Scriptures and the Patristic Writings, especially of Basil the Great and St. John of Damascus, I have seen the truth of things concerning the surrounding world, its beauty, its destination and its sanctity. There was an innate sensitivity as well, so it was not strange that since my early youth the issue of nature ‘s protection has been a priority in my thoughts and representations.

Has the modern church developed its structures so as to implement a system of environmental protection and in what ways or has everything being left to individual initiatives as yours?

If you consult at the “Orthodox Prayer -Book”, the foremost book of Church’s prayers, you will be surprised seeing prayers and services related to the environment That shows that the older were sufficiently sensitive to this issue But unfortunately, for reasons other than the present ones, a comprehensive, institutional effort is not possible .In 1989 the Ecumenical Patriarchate ordained the 1st of September as Prayer Day for the Protection of Nature. Since then as Ecumenical Patriarchate we have been doing our best, rallying other Churches and major international organizations. It is definitely in the “Agenda” the effort of a systematic activation of other Churches as soon as possible.

Your All Holiness has been called “Green Patriarch” because of your environmental sensitivity. Which are your goals related to environment in short and long term?

We have organized, as you know, the major International Scientific and Interfaith Symposia for the environment from the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea to the Arctic, the Danube river, the Mississippi river and the Amazon river. We had also organized the Environmental Seminars of Halki at our unfairly silent Theological School. We are looking forward to reopen it and to carry on therein more systematic initiatives. In Prigipos island (Large Island) we have dreamt of setting off our returned Orphanage to World Center of Environmental Studies, as soon as we manage to restore it. We shall not stop. As long as God wishes!

How has the flock and the rest of the clergy reacted to your environmental initiatives?

Mostly, positively. Very positively. We are constantly receiving reinforcing messages and encouragement. But we are expecting something more: enthusiasm and active engagement. “Bravos” and awards are not sufficient enough. More effective involvement is required. Particularly of young people.

What kind of advices would Your All Holiness give to new unemployed Graduates, the time our country is being discredited internationally?

They should not get discouraged. It is not quite enough for someone to see the darkness and cry about. If even a small candle lights, everyone has already been a winner. They could seek for example to our Holy Fathers. What did they do in similar difficult circumstances? Perseverance, rolling up  the sleeves, effort, positive attitude, faith in God and His loving providence, companionship, mutual assistance, volunteerism. Above all prayer, for not fighting on their own. Obviously, it is generally needed a revaluation of the virtue of frugality and restriction of desires. The so-called “western” lifestyle, that we had generally accepted and get used to, has been proved a chimera. The Saints, in their own way of life, have taught young people and all of us more essential things. However, we would say to young people: Courage! Have faith in Jesus Christ and you will not be disappointed. But, for God’s sake, do not conjure the crisis only with words! Fight with all your strength and this horrible storm and windstorm will be followed by a great tranquility!

In this effort, we can see the Church’s tendency to keep up with the time being. In what other ways are you on young people’s side and the problems of the era?

Church is not trying to keep up with our era. It is always preceded the current period and it would be desirable if this was perceptible! Jesus Christ is “the one of yesterday, of today and forever” and His Church “sticking to itself, breaks new grounds” pushing them through eternal destination. Tendencies of alleged modernization are often hypocritical and hide a lot of secularism. But the world goes by and its scheme is getting “productive”. Running anyone behind the respective schemes of the world breathless and pretending the modern person, is an illusion. We are on people’s side when we tell them the truth, as bitter and painful as it is, when we keep our ears open to their agony, their fears and frustrations and when we extend our hand to comfort their needs. I do believe, more or less, that as all responsible Church leaders know this and a lot of them work very hard in this direction. Especially, with regard to young people, the Great Church has shown its affection in many types and many ways and continues to do so with great pleasure.

Your personal bet on the environment has brought the Patriarchate in the spotlight. But there were some who have been annoyed by the “sudden publicity”. What does Your All Holiness answer to them?

Let them be well and think about their own responsibilities for our common “family home” being the world and the environment.

Do you believe that energy production, by sources given to us by God has a Christian character as well?

Absolutely right! We have been offered so beautiful and genuine gifts by God: the sun, the wind, the river and sea waters that we can use to produce energy without damaging the future of coming generations. At the same time, we can save clean air for everyone’s health along with economic resources as well, which can be used in epic and charity projects. And if this happens for blessing the Creator and Benefactor God then it will be a kind of “Divine Service”.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: “Bureaucracy stifles the development of R.E.S.”

Interview of the Officer of the Department of Civil Liability for Environmental Policy, N.D. Party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

What is your opinion regarding the “Helios” Project that has been recently announced?

It is a good idea to export clean energy that is produced in our country even though I have reservations as to the outcome of this venture. This government, at any rate, has shown that even though it is not lacking in initiatives, it has a serious problem with its job performance. This project has many gray areas that need to be clarified, such as how much investment interest has actually been expressed, how it will be financed, how the licensing and location procedures will operate, how the transmission networks will be enhanced, etc. Personally, I am not holding my breath in regards to this program as in our country we still have a long way to go in accomplishing the goal we have put forth regarding tapping solar energy in our domestic energy balance. I don’t know how we will succeed in achieving a viable level of exploitation of this resource and also produce a surplus for export within a reasonable period of time. Let us be realistic. If we had done what we needed to do in the past in the RES sector, we would be in a very favorable position today and we would be discussing investment opportunities for clean energy on a different basis.

Even though many laws and ministerial decisions have been amended, what is the reason that RES projects are taking so long to be implemented?

You have just raised one of the most serious problems we face today; we have too many laws and too much bureaucracy that ultimately stifles the development of renewable energy sources (RES) in our country. When you keep changing the institutional framework, when you have not yet managed to get passed the planning phase and overcome other obstacles, when investors are constantly being held back by uncertainty, you shouldn’t expect much to happen. It is a true oxymoron that we have set such attractive prices in order to produce clean energy, but our country still cannot exploit the comparative advantages that the RES sector undoubtedly has to offer. This mockery of the much-vaunted rural photovoltaic panels, abandoning household photovoltaic panels as well as non-existent policies regarding small and medium-sized projects are typical examples of RES opportunities that have never got off the ground. Unfortunately, even in this sector, the government has proven that in the past 23 months, it has “succeeded” in turning the concept of green development, which it claims to profess itself, into a green recession.

In this difficult economic juncture, how should the Greek state assist green investments?

First of all, I must say that especially in this difficult economic reality we are experiencing, it is absolutely imperative that we find engines for growth. One of these is the environment and the sub-branches that go along with it that, in my opinion, consist of important productive reserves for the country that must finally be utilized. Waste management, water and sewage management, small-hydro and energy saving are just some of the sub-branches that can contribute to economic growth in our country. The government cannot use the economic recession and the financial problems our nation is going through as a way of covering up its obvious failure to develop dynamic and very promising sub-branches of clean energy and environmental economy. Besides, the environmental economy sector, which is a powerful engine for economic development in other European countries, does not need much financial support from the state because the vast majority of the cost is covered by private investment. What is most needed is a stable and unambiguous institutional framework (taxes, location, authorization, etc) that unfortunately we have not been able to put in place as of now. Consequently, this is where we must concentrate all our efforts.

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the lifting of the ban on diesel fuel in Athens. What is your opinion?

I’m glad that the government has decided, albeit late, to adopt a proposal that I have submitted for a long time now. Personally, I have been in favor of lifting an obsolete ban that doesn’t really make much sense anymore and I believe that the time has come to do away with it. At the same time, however, heating fuel and fuel for cars must be taxed at the same rate otherwise adulterated fuel will flood the market. But besides diesel fuel, if we want to confront the problem of small pollutants in urban centers, we must take measures regarding old trucks and taxis that are mainly responsible for pollution today. The discussion regarding the liberalization of diesel fuel consumption must be integrated into a general discussion regarding the general automobile policy in major cities. Diesel is not the only technology which, if you like, can improve the economy and the fuel-efficiency of cars. There are many other technologies such as hydrogen and natural gas that are already entering the market at a fast pace that driver are using to “respond” to the economic crisis without any special incentives from the State. Consequently, I believe that, along with the green ring measure, we can begin discussing a transportation economic policy that is more environmentally friendly.

Waste management has become a problem with unknown solution. What is your position?

For me, waste management has become a very volatile problem that does not just have environmental but also economic and social dimensions. Our country has unfortunately failed miserably in this sector and the result has been that whole regions such as Attica and Peloponnesus have now reached their limits. There are no secret solutions so long as we don’t continue handling a real problem with outdated political solutions. We are paying for our inaction these past few years and we are now in danger of paying even higher penalties imposed by the EU if present trends continue. Especially here in Attica, where time is fast running out, there is no other solution than the immediate procurement and construction of all projects included in the peripheral plan for the Attica Basin without further delays. And I am talking about waste incineration areas(landfills) and processing plants. The government has wasted precious time and is now in danger of losing community funds because it has handled this issue with communication tricks and by flip-flopping. It is time for the government to become more serious about how it will confront this crucial problem that some of its members continue to minimize before it becomes uncontrollable so that we don’t have to live in a capital that resembles Naples.

You have recently intervened in the issue of micro-hydroelectricity projects, that caused quite a stir. Why did you select this sector?

This is a typical example of a productive sector of the environmental economy that is in danger of becoming more insignificant because of bureaucratic red tape and institutional ambiguities that I mentioned previously. With approximately 1,500 MW of usable micro-hydroelectricity, our country should be a leader in this sector in Europe. Instead, however, in the already complicated and time-consuming location and environmental authorization process for micro-hydroelectricity, the government recently added special location criteria (diversion length, ecological benefits, etc.) of dubious functionality and scientific documentation. Now there is a danger that these will throw a spanner in 50 mature investment projects and may ultimately result in micro-hydroelectricity grinding to a screeching halt. We no longer have the luxury of leaving productive sectors that can contribute to the development and the local economies to chance simply because some people are too beholden to formalities and not to substance.

In your daily routine, have you adopted methods that protect the environment?

I always try to include environmentally friendly habits in my daily routine. The difference is that now some of these routines such as, for example, recycling have now become second nature. I recycle at my office and at home. I try to use as little electricity as I can. I buy organic products more often, even if they are more expensive. And for a little while, I was driving a hybrid car. Before I turned in my parliamentary car, I had recommended that Parliament replace the conventional cars that emit many pollutants with hybrid cars for all MPs as an essential and symbolic step in making our citizens more environmentally conscious. However, I believe that we all have plenty of space for improvement in making our daily routine more environmentally friendly.

Biofuels: one more missed opportunity?

of Sotiris Folias, Managing Director of GF Energy SA and Vice President of S.VΙ.V.Ε.

When in 2003 the Member-States of EU decided to introduce biofuels into our lives, they had in mind three things. First, to provide a way out in the European farmers who were suffered by the unpleasant consequences of implementing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Second, to use the only way to achieve their goals of reducing emissions in the transport sector according to the Kyoto Protocol and in the same time to diminish their dependence on imported oil. This way all members entered a binding target of 5.75% blending of biofuels in fossil fuels for transport by 2010.

Greece, despite the initial delay, adopted this Directive in its National law by the end of 2005 and thus launched the Law on introduction of biofuels in the Greek market. This law paved the way for the creation of investments in this industry while it gave the ultimate way out to the withered Greek agricultural sector to “wake up” and pursue to cultivate products that  predominantly used to be produced in Greece.

Specifically, while in the mid 80’s Greece produced 400,000 tons of sunflower yearly, in 2005 this crop nearly disappeared. Therefore, the biofuel production presented as an opportunity to exploit 1,000,000 acres of uncultivated Greek land and gave an impetus to the Greek farmers to return from the local coffee shops back to the fields.

All the positive predictions for the development of a dynamic biofuel sector and in particular the production of biodiesel didn’t take that long to be verified. Within three years, Greece has developed biodiesel factories of 650,000 tonnes annual capacity . Meanwhile, energy crops were gradually increasing drastically. From almost zero production, in 2011 more than 1,000,000 acres of energy crops were cultivated attributing to the Greek countryside people more than 100.000.000 euros yearly.

One could say that Greece has finally managed to develop an economic sector that from the raw material to the final product everything was purely Greek, it kept all the added value within the country, it helped decentralization, it strengthened the much afflicted Greek farmers, it significantly improved  the  deficit of country’s trade balance  by reducing the imports of diesel with more than 200.000.000 euros, it directly or indirectly maintained more than 50,000 jobs, while in the same time it was assisting in achieving the national target for reducing emissions from transport.

Most of the time, however, the Greek reality can destroy any trace of logic, leading the country in this sector also in the lonely road of paranoia that all these years has chosen to follow. In particular, distortions and the chronic Greek pathologies created the following gloomy picture: of the 72 months of operation of the institutional framework for biofuels for more than 28(!!) months the Greek biodiesel production plants have remained closed because of Elections, restructuring changes of Ministers, Customs strikes, tanker trucks strikes and other problems leading to remain unsold more than 150,000 m3 intact biofuel that were replaced by imported diesel. In parallel, the total amount of biodiesel that should enter into the Greek market annually was launched from 50,000 m3 in 2005 to 182,000 m3 in 2009 coming back to 132,000 m3 this year. To put it in perspective, Portugal, a country like ours, produces and domestically supplies more than 450,000 m3 of biodiesel per se. Therefore, it is no coincidence that Greece was in 18th place in all 27 EU countries in 2009 (Source: www.Ebb-eu.org) with potential to slide down to 25th place in 2015 (according to the National Action Plan for Renewable Energy Sources).

Unfortunately, even in today’s economic situation afflicting our country needing more than ever to maintain the viability of even the minimum domestic production capacity, one more industry where tens of millions of euros have been invested and that can offer countless benefits to the Greek Economy has been intentionally or unintentionally neglected. The disappointment is even greater when even those who we feel degraded EU partners maintain this industry as a high priority, increasing their domestic production and their rural population as well, putting Greece for one more time in the position of the followers.

The stakeholders of the biofuel sector, believing that the situation is reversible  and having presented their proposals many times  to the Ministries involved, hope that the industry will not be another missed opportunity for this hapless country. All of us, who daily live in this industry and see its benefits internationally, fight and strongly believe that our country can effectively develop biofuels with the appropriate movements as it has all the tools to succeed and be placed among the frontrunners within the EU.

Public Βiofarms

Pilot projects on organic farming by residents of different cities for personal use in municipal gardens and the creation of local vegetable gardens is an innovative idea, a dream that seems elusive, but it slowly finds strong supporters in Greece, as in many cities of other countries. This is an action that creates islets of team work and can bring together people from different backgrounds, ages and cultures, while it provides exercise, relaxation and creative activities. It is an excellent opportunity for people to save money and come into contact with nature and biological products.

These small “farms”, from 50 to 100 square meters, will be allocated to people with low income, low pensions, families with many children and needy for 2 years with a renewal option. In this way vulnerable groups will have the opportunity to increase their income, us they will not need to buy the vegetables for the family’s table.

The first three cities to embrace the program are Alexandroupolis, Edessa and Thermi close to Thessalinoki. Specifically the City of Alexandroupolis will become the first municipality to own an organic farm for the poor, according to a report in vima.gr. The municipality of the city in the spirit of the times, focuses on creating an organic farm in an area of 7 acres, sited in about 20 minutes’ walk from the city center.

The municipality from its part will provide the machinery, the tools, the seeds and the technical support, while an agronomist will be at the farm to provide the necessary knowledge and information. As it has been pointed out by competent agriculturists, the only obligation of those selected is to cultivate the garden and give 10% of their production to the community grocery store that the City will create. The other two cities are going to follow in a similar philosophy.

World Teachers’ Day

10.5.2011: “Teachers for gender equality”

World Teachers Day was established by UNESCO in 1994, in order to recognize and support the work of millions of teachers worldwide. So October 5 is a celebration focused on the teachers, their needs and problems, honoring their invaluable service to the society as well as their struggle to build a better future for all school students.

The idea for a day of the year devoted to teachers took ground independently in many countries in the course of the 20th century. As a result, it is still celebrated on different dates in various parts of the world, usually in memory of an important local personality of letters or politics with a significant educational contribution. Nevertheless, being also supported and promoted by the International Federation of Educators (Education International), the World Teachers’ Day has spread considerably in the following years of its establishment and today is recognized and honored in more than 100 countries.

The theme chosen for this year was “Teachers for gender equality”. Even if gender equality is now enshrined into the constitutions of most states, this is a major issue for the education sector too, which remains open in many regions around the world, as evidenced by the relevant numbers: the majority of children staying out of school are girls, while 2/3 of illiterate adults are women.

According to the definition of UNESCO, “gender equality” in education refers to boys and girls experiencing the same advantages or disadvantages in attending school, the same approaches in terms of teaching methods, gender neutral curricula, and academic orientation, all of which aim to ensure equal learning achievement and subsequent life opportunities.

Available data for 2011 show that, while overall gender disparities in primary and secondary school enrolments have narrowed since 1999, a significant difference in favor of boys still exists in 69 countries worldwide.

The issue of gender inequality is not restricted to schoolchildren, but also extends to teachers themselves, as in some cases, although female teachers often represent a vast majority compared to their male colleagues, they do not hold a proportional number of leadership and management positions. Far from that, the truth is that the formation and control of educational systems remains largely a male affair, which naturally has implications for the students, too.

On the occasion of this year’s World Day, the above aspects of the inequality issue from the teacher’s side were subjected to an e-forum from 12 to 23 September and are also discussed in a relevant workshop organized by the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) of UNESCO on 3-4 October. The various opinions and positions expressed and the conclusions drawn from these two processes will be collected and presented in the framework of the official celebration of the World Teachers’ Day on October 5, at the headquarters of the Organization in Paris.