Sunday, May 1, 2016

2nd Annual UCSC Bioneers Conference Report

By Mani Sandhu, Education & Outreach Team Associate for the Sustainability Office 

Bioneers is a national organization that is dedicated to social and environmental justice for all of humanity through practical and innovation solutions. They promote a philosophy that emphasizes the intrinsic value and wisdom that the natural world has to offer. In fact, the National Bioneers Conference has developed an efficacious core of innovation and collaboration for achieving social, cultural, and environmental justice through their annual conference in Marin County that attracts more than 2000 scholars, visionary activists, and innovators.

Here at UCSC, I had the privilege of not only attending the 2nd Annual UCSC Bioneers Conference, but also helping plan the event. Some of the purposes of the UCSC off-shoot of the national Bioneers conference were to expand the dialogue and to bring awareness to issues and connect at the local level. The event featured around 54 speakers and 30 workshops by community members, activists, scholars, and students--all related to different "tracks" of sustainability such as eco-nomics, women and youth leadership, indigenous knowledge, media, nature/culture/spirit, restorative practices for food systems and the bio-sphere, and ecological design, literacy, and medicine.

I was able to attend the plenaries and workshops of moving speakers such as Chairman Valentin Lopez of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, Executive Director of Bioneers Joshua Fouts, Marco Vangelisti of Slow Money, permaculture and aquaponics expert May Meyers, author and Director of Stanford Forgiveness Project Dr. Frederic Luskin, Lindsay Andrews and Chris Omer of the Santa Cruz Homeless Garden Project, and many others.

I learned about how disenfranchised groups are bringing awareness to race and socioeconomic disparities, as well as food and labor inequalities. Some examples I heard about include the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band's efforts to restore lost traditional ecological knowledge and reintroduce it to land stewardship; Lightwood Pictures' film illuminating the benefits of discovering sustainable solutions to preserve local land and food; and Kelsey Ott's plenary on the significance of seeing someone for their mind, perspective, personality, and values instead of focusing on the preconceived notions, prejudices, and stereotypes based on physical appearance that are enforced by our society and culture everyday.

Additionally, I learned that we must begin to consider our natural resources as capital assets that provide a significant, sustained flow of economic benefits and require investment in order to properly conserve them, how peaceful environmental and social protests can be strengthened by university support and facilitation, and how to campaign and outreach to fight against current systems of injustice. It was both thought-provoking and gut-wrenching to hear about the injustices committed against the environment and people everyday. However, as such, the conference was also an enlightening outlet that allowed us to collaborate and come together to find creative solutions to combat these issues.

The two-day conference was an eye-opening, prolific experience of transformation, connection, and community that filled me with inspiration and empowerment to help create a just, sustainable world.

Ken Foster of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping made this beautiful mandala out of "waste" materials like beer mash, tea, and other natural materials in his workshop titled "Mining the Urban Waste Stream."
Dr. Fred Luskin speaking about the power of forgiveness on Sunday.
Mira Michelle hosting a workshop on Sunday titled "Building Resilience: at the Personal, Community, and Ecological Levels."

To check out the rest of pictures from the weekend, click here!

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