Central Coast Bioneers Conference 2014 – Growing the Movement

2014 Bioneers Program CoverIt is impossible to attend a Bioneers conference and then walk away untouched, uninspired, or unmotivated to act.

October 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the annual Bioneers conference, a gathering of people intent on creating an equitable, compassionate, and democratic society living in harmony with the natural world. This year’s program theme was Growing The Movement: The World We Want & How to Get There.

Bioneers brings together people of every ethnicity, culture, and creed, from teenagers to elders, indigenous people, scientists, activists, faith leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, farmers, social justice advocates, business people, environmentalists, health professionals, designers, government officials, educators, storytellers, and grassroots organizers.

The multi-day Bioneers conference agenda is jam-packed with speakers, performers, films, hands-on workshops, and field trips.

In addition to the national event held in northern California, at least a dozen groups spread across the country host local conferences in their communities. These groups make up the Resilient Communities Network, previously called Beaming Bioneers. Attendees have an opportunity to view the national keynote speakers and performers via video and participate in local workshops and field trips.

Central Coast Bioneers – Resilient Communities Network Partner

One of the Bioneers Resilient Communities Network partners, Central Coast Bioneers, is conveniently located where I live in San Luis Obispo County, CA.

Ecologistics, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in San Luis Obispo orchestrates the Central Coast Bioneers conference, which draws participants from Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties.

Bioneers Co-founder Nina Simons and Ecologistics Co-founder and CEO Stacey Hunt with Drew Dellinger at 2013 Central Coast Bioneers Conference - Photo: Central Coast Bioneers
Bioneers Co-founder Nina Simons and Ecologistics Co-founder and CEO Stacey Hunt with Drew Dellinger at 2013 Central Coast Bioneers Conference – Photo: Central Coast Bioneers

I discovered the Central Coast Bioneers conference in 2012 when an announcement in the Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter newspaper caught my eye. The event seemed interesting so I bought tickets for my spouse and me.

It was a joyous and thought-provoking three days and spurred us to action. I recounted the experience in two posts, Bioneers – Revolution from the Heart of Nature and Central Coast Bioneers – Breakthrough Solutions for People and Planet.

We attended again in 2013 and came away informed and inspired, with an even longer to-do list. I commemorated the occasion by writing Bioneers 2013 Conference – Turning Vision into Action.

iFixit Repair Cafe at 2013 Central Coast Bioneers Conference - Photo: Central Coast Bioneers
iFixit Repair Cafe at 2013 Central Coast Bioneers Conference – Photo: Central Coast Bioneers

Central Coast Bioneers Conference – 2014

October 2014 marked the fifth anniversary of the Central Coast Bioneers conference and our third time attending.

National Keynote Speakers and Performers

We watched the national keynote speakers and performers on a big screen in the main auditorium. A few of my favorites are noted below:

Paul Stamets hefting a huge mushroom, showing the audience how mycelium networks communicate and transport water and nutrients through vast interconnected underground webs, and describing how fungi can help heal the earth.

Severine von Tcharner Fleming, a young agrarian, engaging the audience with her enlightening and sometimes humorous talk about the challenges faced by young farmers trying to gain a foothold in today’s agriculture industry.

Xiuhtezcotl Martinez, the 14-year-old director of Youth Guardians, standing in front of a crowd of thousands and delivering his presentation with poise and passion.

Robin Kimmerer quietly and eloquently speaking of plants and the lessons we might learn from them if we listen.

Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman, the Climbing PoeTree duo, embodying beauty and power while captivating the audience with their spoken-word poetry performance.

Note: click on each presenter’s name to watch a video of their presentation.

Local Keynote Speakers

Our local keynote speakers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, John Foran, Corrie Ellis, and Summer Gray shared their work with The Climate Justice Project.

Local Field Trips

One field trip took us to Kukkula Winery, an 80-acre farm growing wine grapes, walnuts, and olives mostly without irrigation (dry farming) and no pesticides. The winery buildings and owner’s home were built with green building materials and passive solar techniques.

Kukkula Winery Vineyard - Photo: Kukkula Winery
Kukkula Winery Vineyard – Photo: Kukkula Winery

We also visited Tierra Nueva, a cohousing community of 27 homes built among an existing 5-acre avocado orchard. Members of the community share a common house with dining and recreational facilities, a fully equipped workshop, and a food and flower garden. Residents care for common areas, get together for group meals and activities, and run the community in a collaborative manner.

Tierra Nueva Cohousing Community - Photo: Tierra Nueva
Tierra Nueva Cohousing Community – Photo: Tierra Nueva
Entertainment, Food, and Books

Afia Walking Tree and Michaelle Georlitz energized us in the mornings with their amazing drumming on a fascinating collection of percussion instruments.

The Centrally Grown food truck arrived just in time to feed the hungry lunchtime crowd. We enjoyed delicious grilled chicken and veggie tacos.

Volumes of Pleasure Bookshoppe was back again with their onsite bookstall offering a selection of books relevant to the conference topics. I purchased several books to add to my collection.

Thank You Central Coast Bioneers Volunteers

2014 Central Coast Bioneers Program CoverThe Central Coast Bioneers conference is made possible by a small group of volunteers who undertake the herculean task of planning and putting on the event all while fulfilling their day-to-day responsibilities and working at their day jobs.

Imagine the myriad of tasks, large and small, the volunteers accomplish throughout the year culminating in several hectic days during the conference. They do everything from searching for potential sponsors and asking them for money to providing a water station for filling up reusable water bottles at the venue.

I feel deeply grateful and indebted to Stacey Hunt, Michael Jencks, Celia Zaentz, Amanda Smith, and Nadia Brenner of Ecologistics, Inc. and all the volunteers who give of their time and expertise to bring the magical experience of Bioneers to the California Central Coast.

Ecologistics Secretary Amanda Smith and Ecologistics Co-founder and Board Chair Michael Jencks with Kenton Smith at Elkhorn Slough Reserve - Photo: Central Coast Bioneers
Ecologistics Secretary Amanda Smith and Ecologistics Co-founder and Board Chair Michael Jencks with Kenton Smith at Elkhorn Slough Reserve – Photo: Central Coast Bioneers

Have you been to a Bioneers conference yet? If not, mark your calendar for next October and check out the Bioneers website to learn more about the national conference or to find a Resilient Communities Network partner near you.

Help grow the Bioneers movement and Resilient Communities Network by volunteering, making a donation, or better yet both.

See you next year!

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Bioneers 2013 Conference – Turning Vision into Action

Have you ever been to a business conference where presenters not only cried on stage but weren’t ashamed of crying? Bioneers is an annual conference unlike any you have ever attended.

Bioneers is not a business conference per se, at least not in the traditional sense. Attendees won’t hear speakers talk about how to increase sales or improve employee engagement. There are no workshops on how to effectively use Internet ads or find hidden profit dollars.

The Bioneers conference brings together people across the spectrum of humanity to work on the business of restoring and sustaining the planet we live on. Presenters do tear up and so do attendees.

What is Bioneers?

Bioneers is a nonprofit organization founded by Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons in 1990. Kenny coined the term Bioneers.

2013 Bioneers National Program National Cover - The Inquiry of Gaia ©Jo Whaley“Bioneers are social and scientific innovators from all walks of life and disciplines who have peered deep into the heart of living systems to understand how nature operates, and to mimic ‘nature’s operating instructions’ to serve human ends without harming the web of life. Nature’s principles—kinship, cooperation, diversity, symbiosis and cycles of continuous creation absent of waste—can also serve as metaphoric guideposts for organizing an equitable, compassionate and democratic society.”

I like to interpret the definition in its broadest sense. We can all be Bioneers.

A major Bioneers activity is an annual conference held in northern California. Beaming Bioneers organizations around the country host local conferences where attendees see and listen to the national speakers and performers via video and attend local workshops.

Central Coast Bioneers – Beaming Bioneers

2013 Central Coast Bioneers Program Cover - Beth AlexanderWe attended our first Central Coast Bioneers conference in October 2012. I read about the conference in the Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter newspaper and bought tickets for my spouse and me. We came away from the 3-day conference enlightened, inspired, and spurred to action. We actually did things we’d been thinking about. For instance, we bought a community supported agriculture share from the Los Osos Valley Organic Farm we had visited, and engaged A.M. Sun Solar to install solar panels on our roof.

Bioneers 2013 Conference – Turning Vision into Action

I bought our tickets for the 2013 Central Coast Bioneers conference almost as soon as the email announcement landed in my inbox. I started laughing when I saw the conference title Turning Vision into Action. We are still working on our list from last year, so I wondered what actions we would add to it after this year’s conference.

National Keynote Speakers and Performers

The keynote speakers and artists we watched via video were as diverse as their topics and performances. I was spellbound. A few of the many highlights included:

  • Janine Benyus describing biomimicry with such joyful enthusiasm I wanted to run outside and study a tree.
  • Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins talking about motherhood and leadership with tears running down her face. I felt a connection and understanding even though our worlds are far apart.
  • Alixa and Naima, the Climbing PoeTree duo, performing their spoken-word poetry and movement were beautiful and powerful, amazing.
Local Conference

Nina Simons - Bioneers Co-FounderWe were fortunate to have Nina Simons attend our local conference to share some stories in person. She is a gifted storyteller; she radiates warmth, joy, and genuineness. Nina talked about how humans are hard-wired for story. Information and facts do not change people’s minds. A more compelling story might. What she said resonated with me and is perhaps the most important thing I heard at the conference. I believe improving my storytelling ability will help me in my own work.

We attended workshops about co-ops, divesting investment portfolios of fossil fuels, electric car adoption, social and environmental implications of nanotechnology, and the flow of thinking in our minds. We bought several books, enjoyed music by local artists, and checked out the iFixit repair café.

It was another uplifting and thought provoking weekend.

We are thankful to Celia Mingus-Zaentz, Stacey Hunt, Michael Jencks, Amanda Smith, and all the volunteers for staging the Central Coast Bioneers conference. We are looking forward to attending again next year.

If you have not been to a Bioneers conference, mark your calendar for next October and check out the Bioneers website to find a Beaming Bioneers group in your area.

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