“Let’s work towards Earth being an eco-zone of our galaxy, being the eco-planet of our galaxy”, says Violeta Bulc, founder of Ecocivilisation, the movement that uses functions as tools, properties of relationships that are focused on the evolution of the basic entities: beings, land, society, consciousness.
Violeta Bulc is a former European commissioner for mobility and transport, and as commissioner, Bulc prioritized digitalization, decarbonization and innovation in the transport sector. Previously, she served as deputy prime minister of Slovenia with responsibility for development, strategic projects and cohesion. Bulc also served as chief of the program committee of Modern Centre party (SMC) from 2013 to 2014 and as CEO of Vibacom, a sustainability consultancy, from 2000 to 2014. She held various positions in the telecom industry, including vice-president of Telemach from 1999 to 2000, director of carrier business at Telekom Slovenia from 1997 to 1999. Bulc holds an MSc in information technology from Golden Gate University in San Francisco and a BSc in computer science and informatics from the University of Slovenia.
What is eco-media balance for you?
Violeta Bulc: Balance in media I understand in a very sort of holistic way as a vertical and horizontal covered story and news analysis showing different opinions that are based on facts, clear experience and well-argument. For example, a climate change is a great topic to look at through this dimension. And it certainly this topic has been an ecological concerns for many, many years, at least for the last 50 years and that long. The scientists have been raising their voice about the negative externalities of industrial progress, but media just would not pick it up. They kept showing, in most cases, only the positive side of industrial progress. But in order to really understand the societal impact, we need to take a look at positive and negative effects and looked at the net effects of the value, add that some fresh ideas are bringing. Otherwise we are really causing more troubles than the positive results. So that’s what I understand under the media balanced view.
How can media and newsrooms contribute to the preservation and promotion of a healthy environment, apart from the fact that through their journalistic approach and content they raise awareness on this topic?
Violeta Bulc: Journalists can really make a huge impact. I mean, we see on a daily basis what a great impact the creation of a public opinion, that is encouraged by media, creates an impression in a public space. It defines who’s in line and who’s not in a sense of societal well-being. So it is of essential importance that journalists really present the story from both sides of the coin. For example, chemicals that are based on oil or plastic or beauty products. You know, if you just tell about the product itself without showing the background what the ingredients are, you’re depriving the public from the whole story, from knowledge. Where would they go and look for it if not in a different public media? So it is really important that the journalists are a bit of analytical journalists, research journalists and on the other side that they show also the personal side to the story.
For example, a very good area to explore a bit more, which I know best, is transport. For example, what media can do is to help to transition into this more politically aware and nature neutral society. Media could pay more attention to green technologies not to green washing, but to go deeper and check what is really going on where the energy is coming from. For example, to to really highlight the solutions and services that are helping people to manage their negative impact better. In transport, we are talking about mobility as a service to really encourage people to use shared and collaborative service models and not to compare it directly with the old established services, because the all really green solutions are right now in the evolutionary phase, so they cannot be as mature as an old technologies. So what? The journalists can focus us in on progress and especially horizontal impact that the search and solution has.
It is traditionally seen in journalism that they report vertically, but to really create the whole story you should show the story horizontally. I used to be part of the Stanford Group for about five years. We started with the new concept of so-called innovation journalism, and through this five years we showed really well the difference between this vertical and horizontal way of reporting and what the journalists are very much invited to or the media houses. Even better is that yes, on one hand, they still use the old traditional way of reporting, which is broadcasting either via radio or television, but at the same time, in order to broaden the perspective, bring people on different type of platforms that allow people’s engagement.
And here comes the topic of Ecocivilisation, the platform, the movement that you initiated. What is Ecocivilisation as a philosophy of life, and what are the specific goals and activities of this platform?
Violeta Bulc: For the last 20 years, I’ve been very much involved in the international system society, training my mind as well and expanding my mind to understand the system approach, the ecosystem approach and more. And I worked with these tools and help companies first as an entrepreneur to develop their long term strategies and later on as a politician to create and co-create the European strategies for climate neutral society, I realized that there is more into it than just a change of technology. So I started to really discuss different issues, and just about two years ago, after I finished my mandate as a politician, this matured into a fresh view over our societal behavior.
I realized that there is no way that we can meet the climate agenda goals if we don’t substantially change the way, how we are structured. So not only in technology, but the way how we organize our society, the way how we behave, the way how we set our values and the way how we set our actions. That’s how the concept of Ecocivilisation emerged.
Also, following the history of the last 50 thousand years, seeing how many civilizations have already lived in this planet Earth and how they were incredibly successful and then disappeared in a couple of decades, even though they were dominating for centuries in a certain area that started to make me think, I mean, are we there? Are we as a civilisation, especially Western civilisation, reaching that kind of edge and seeing all the decadence? See all these negative trends in destroying so many high quality lifestyles just for the sake of some very narrow interests being corporate or even some individuals, really provoked my thoughts even further.
I started gathering my old friends together and we started this movement. And what we realized is the fact that the Western civilisation is reaching the point of decadence. So either we will go down and we will just share the history of many other civilizations that lived here in Europe before or not. Our unique advantage is the fact that we have tremendous data available in real time about the entire world on our screen. Can we do something with this data and actually, instead of going down and disappear, lead the transition into a new structure into a new civilisation with the new foundation, just to not to go too deep into it? I’m inviting everyone who wants to learn more of it to join us around the web page or join any of our events.
Let me just share with you some very long term, maybe even provocative goals that we set for ourselves. So having Ecocivilisation as a new destination, we said, OK, in order to really behave and to join global forces, because climate change is one of the topics that is really joining the entire world in collaborative participation, then we need to set ourselves a really ambitious goal. So we said, let’s work towards Earth being a eco-zone of our galaxy, being the eco-planet of our galaxy.
The other very interesting fact, which is very obvious, but sometimes the most obvious things you don’t see is that in the past, whenever climate change was happening and of course, planet Earth had many climate changes already in its history, all the people or tribes that existed at that time had enormous space to move around, and the changes were happening slowly enough that they could even change the continents and survive, and even perpetuate further what happened with us. The entire planet is claimed. So there is no space to move. Any kind of migration is declared today almost as a war. Any kind of migration really causes enormous troubles. So we have to figure out how to deal with climate change in the place where we are in order to avoid major conflicts. So these are two very motivating factors.
We also understand that in order to achieve this transition, we will need to go deeper into physics. And I feel that in the next 20 years, we will discover yet another level of loss of physics, which will help us to organize ourselves better, to understand relationships better. And somehow I feel that the next decisive factor to spill over to transition into this new ecocivilisation or framework, will be relationships. We’re going to talk about the relationship-based civilisation. I’m very excited about it, and it’s great to be able to co-create and to be able to unleash and discover things that, of course, are around. But we just need to see them and we need to remember them. So that’s the purpose. It’s to really hold a space for these new ideas to emerge and to bring people of goodwill together and help to manifest those ideas for the good of our entire species and humanity.
Your previous professional and life experience has certainly contributed to the birth of the idea of Ecocivilisation. This includes your political career, especially in the European Commission, where you were the European Commissioner for Transport in the period 2014-2019. If we move out of our mindset, and move to traditionalist thinking, we would say “how come a woman in that position.” Let’s be more serious now: it is certainly not common for women to be in management positions in industry and transport policies – which certainly needs to change. What was your work on that function in that area like?
Violeta Bulc: All together, my political career was like a vortex, and when I came to Brussels and was appointed as a commissioner for Transport, I took it as a great challenge. My background is computer science and my experiences for a long time. I worked in telecommunications in Silicon Valley, where I studied and worked for a while. I was part of the team who deployed the first TCP IP network in a corporate environment in the world. Then coming back, returning to Slovenia, I took over the Department of Carrier Business at Telecom Slovenia. So all this helped me to develop this network based view, and transport is very similar. It’s a network based topic, but of course, that itself is not sort of taking away this excitement of being a woman in the dominant the male world.
And I know that I was really surprised when I saw the figures, for example, that the entire workforce in transport in Europe, around 20 percent of the workforce were only women. But when you look deeper, the well-paid jobs showed even more dramatic numbers. For example, there were only three percent of women as airplane pilots, only two percent of train drivers. Very similar statistics for ship captains, a little bit better for truck drivers – around four percent. So yes, by all means, that was one of the priorities that I tried to engage around immediately and we started Women in Transport Action Plan.
We started to encourage women who worked in transport to share their stories to become role models. We organized a declaration that many stakeholders signed and started to raise this issue within their own corporations in transport portfolio to bring women on board. What encouraged them really is the good stories the different ladies were sharing.
For example, a lot of interest was in logistic company where they could not get young people on board and they could not get women on board. So one of the head of HR department went to see the premises just to see what was the reason. And of course, she was shocked when she realized that there were no, for example, separate toilets or showers for women and men, that the premises was very neglected. So the first thing they did, they improve the infrastructure and then they started to invite women again to come for interviews and to try to attract them. The number of women started to grow, but to their surprise, the number of young people came along. So when the women started to become part of the workforce, young people find it much more interesting, and that was a double positive effect.
Just one of the stories, and maybe another one that I share, is that one of my trips when I was returning back from Italy to Brussels, I came on a plane and all of a sudden I realized that both the pilot and the co-pilot were women. So that was quite a historic moment with the Brussels Airlines. Things started to change. That showed me, if a political will exists and if you set quotas, to help us in the transitional period because it took centuries to establish this kind of polarity, we need to use now very effective tools in order to bring the balance back.
I was very happy how the positive effect started to show when we made the commitments, when we brought media on board, when we started to really share the story. And I didn’t feel as a woman in transport sector, I felt as an innovator. I felt very much welcomed and especially when this dynamic started to happen and this taboo topic of women in transport was removed, all of a sudden it was a much more pleasant atmosphere, and my position on that was very strong all the time. I said, if you want to address the challenges of the society, if you want to create services for society, you better have a society at the table when you create those offers. Meaning in Europe, we have fifty one percent of women, forty nine percent of men in the society. So we need to get close to this balance if we want to address the needs and we want to grow as a business as well.
That was kind of motivating position, and I’m glad that this continues to be the case. I’m glad that these numbers are rising and employers are realizing more and more often when they have a mixed teams. They have a much more holistic capacities and qualities that evolve out of the workforce.
Just another very interesting story: there was a truck company which started to employ women. The argumentation why they did so was that they realized that women caused much less damage to the vehicle, because they drive a more stable way, they use less fuel, they maintain their vehicles better. And last but not least, that they are much more communicative with the client and they bring important information back that they hear from the client, and that was very helpful in a customer relationship management. You know, life is a dynamic system, so when male colleagues realized that those are the qualities that the company is appreciating, they started to reshape their behavior. So it was a double win. And this is what I mean when I say society. We really help each other to create a holistic solutions because our minds work differently. The way how we see the world, we see it through a different lens. And once you bring this together, you really get a stable, sustainable solutions. This is a win win situation.
Photo: Csilla David