Shaunda Shaw & Shineil Taylor
Brianna Ebony Simpson
Toma Amygdalitsis is enlisting help from his Georgia Perimeter College family in his mission to rebalance the legendary but endangered Aegean way of life on his native Greek island of Skopelos.
As a child, Amygdalitsis roamed Skopelos’ rugged hills surrounded by the azure waters of the Aegean Sea. Even then, he realized that outsiders would eventually discover the natural beauty of the island that had no roads or cars. Skopelos is one of the greenest islands in Europe and has been declared a “green and blue island” by the Biopolitics International Organisation, which promotes international cooperation and education for the environment. The waters surrounding Skopelos are a national marine park, the largest marine-protected area in Europe.
Amygdalitsis, lead technology support specialist on GPC’s Decatur Campus, first brought his idea for the unique partnership between GPC and Skopelos to Dr. Alan Jackson, vice president for academic affairs, in 2010. Faculty and staff quickly joined the team and the first study abroad program was in place in 2011. The program included a service-learning component with GPC students clearing an ancient path on Skopelos.
Amygdalitsis’ GPC team is planning other ongoing development programs with his colleagues in Greece. Their goal is to tie Sporades Islands (of which Skopelos is a part) sustainability projects to GPC’s curricular goals and the college’s broader mission.
“I have personally seen how important it is to broaden our international exposure in order to build global understanding,” says Amygdalitsis. “I would like to be a conduit for further connections between the GPC community and my associates in Greece.”
Amygdalitsis set up the non-profit Sporades Islands Sustainable Life Center to promote the sustainability efforts. The center’s current projects include a green energy program; workshops on how to produce solar, biofuel, and hydrolysis energy; and a campaign to reduce or eliminate plastic bags and aluminum containers. Another goal is to reduce chemicals wherever possible and to clear more old paths.
The center also wants to help sustain the islands’ traditional land and sea occupations. These include stone working, beekeeping, goat and sheep husbandry, olive oil soap production and organic olive, grape, almond and plum farming.
“I hope that GPC faculty, staff, students and sustainability educators and scientists will come share their knowledge with their Greek counterparts,” adds Amygdalitsis. “We also are exploring partnering possibilities with Thessaly and Aristotle Universities for hands-on sustainability projects.”