Monday, November 30, 2015

National Bioneers Conference Report-Back

Melissa Ott, the Office Manager and Events Coordinator in the Sustainability Office, shares her experience at the National Bioneers Conference.

For 25 years, the National Bioneers Conference has connected thousands of people with practical, visionary solutions for humanity's most pressing environmental and social challenges." This year was my first time attending the National Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, CA, and it was a powerful experience that was made possible through a scholarship from UCSC's Common Ground Center. Bioneers, for me, brought the many threads of "sustainability" - environment, people, ecology, biodiversity, diversity, justice, equity, celebration of difference, purpose, conservation, conversation, art, climate, water, community, etc. - into a beautifully, vibrantly, amazingly woven cloth that held all of the attendees in its embrace for a weekend, bringing us in contact with new ideas and new people, encouraging us to sink into the realities of our world in their fullness. It was challenging to face some of those realities in their fullness--such as injustices, racism, and lack of inclusion within the sustainability movement and throughout society--but it was also necessary and important and motivating to participate in being the change. And of course many of those realities that I faced at Bioneers were beautiful examples of ways humans have brought justice and love and compassion for people and planet into the world and into their work. 

Throughout the weekend, I witnessed inspiring speakers such as Paul HawkenRinku Sen of Race Forward, author Kim Stanley RobinsonBen Knight of Loomio, storyteller Michael MeadeSaru Jayarama of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, and many others. I learned about work taking place to identify the most worthwhile approaches to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, such as reducing food waste, adding compost to soil, and capturing energy from tides and waves in our oceans. I heard about experiences individuals and organizations have had in illuminating race disparities and inequities in sectors like the labor, media, and food industries. There was even a dance party on the agenda for Saturday night, and it was a unique way to process the weekend's teachings, experiences, and ideas through movement. The conference was an amazing experience! I have brought back to UCSC with me a renewed inspiration to be the change I wish to see in the world and support my fellow banana slugs in the exciting, necessary, and oftentimes challenging work that we face in making the world more just and thriving.


Eight year old Lorelei Browman hangs her wish "of black and white together" for the Singing Tree Mural Collective Project at Bioneers 2015. Photo via: Susanna Frohman Photography
"The deepest part of the human soul is imagination." - Michael Meade performs with John Densmore at Bioneers 2015 during one of my favorite presentations. Photo via Josué Rivas Fotographer
Rinku Sen spoke about inclusion and social justice as a keynote speaker and as moderator of the "Racing Up Your Movement" session at Bioneers 2015. Photo: Josué Rivas Fotographer

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