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“Bioneers: a Navigation System for the Future”
by Hannah Apricot Eckberg

“Action is the best antidote to despair.” These are words of wisdom from Nina Simons, co-founder of the organization Bioneers. Through a yearly gathering, on-line radio show, videos, and other community outreach, Bioneers seeks to use social transformation to heal the planet. From members of the Faith Movement to practical engineering and scientific solutions, Bioneers offers pathways of inspiration that can radically change the world.

The Meta Theme of the organization is: how can our community work together to transform the planet in a healing and collaborative fashion.  Bioneers brings together a community of Social Change Makers working to improve lives with vanguard scientists using practical solutions to healing the earth, the environment and people. It is a truly community driven organization, sharing the great stories of our time to help the light of passion within each of us shine brighter.

October 16-18th, 2015, marks the 26th Bioneers gathering, held at the Marin Center, in San Rafael, about 30 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. For those wishing to attend in person, the organization is offering a discount code (listed at the end of the article). Or check the website for a list of Bioneers’ Resilient Communities Network for local gatherings that live-stream the plenary speeches and host local workshops. Information on the Central Coast gathering held in San Luis Obispo can be found at www.ecologistics.org/centralcoastbioneers.

As someone who has attended the main gathering several times, I wondered “after 26 years of Bioneers, what will people find this year that is different from the past?” In a recent conversation with the organization’s Executive Director Joshua Foust, I was able to pose this question.

“There will be a deep familiarity, yet a tremendous amount of newness,” offered Joshua. Bioneers likes to say “we bring together the “greatest minds of people you may have never heard of, working on practical solutions to the most pressing issues of our time.”

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This year’s inspiration will come from Eriel Deranger, who is fighting to win the rights of nature in the struggle against the Tar Sands project in Canada. Henk Ovink is a Dutch water engineer who hosted a contest to see how we can use the processes of nature to create hurricane mitigation efforts. Ben Knight is a young man from New Zealand who has created a social democracy platform that could help catalyze many of the efforts talked about at Bioneers and beyond. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a 14-year old Aztec from Colorado has started a social movement called Earth Guardians. Science fiction author and eco-futurist, Kim Stanley, will offer a different perspective on what our future may look like living with Climate Disruption.

Art is the backbone of Bioneers. This year that will be more evident then ever. Youth participants have been working in creative engagement with organizers to bring more art to the event as a vehicle for social transformation, and means to inspire the future this young generation wishes to create.

Youth participants have long been a key to the Bioneers event, and even more so this year. There will be hundreds of young participants, many there on scholarships, and many representing their Native American tribes.

For the first time ever, there will also be a Millennial Tent, offering a specific gathering place for the next generation of Earth Sterwards to seek solution-based wisdom from each other and the older generations at Bioneers. The Leonardo DeCaprio Foundation is helping sponsor the special Millennial area, which will have a special focus on the Divest/Invest Movement. These 20-something year olds are asking crucial questions about how to move large amounts of money away from fossil fuel industries to regenerative businesses that will help create the world they want to live in. This gathering space will provide an area to seek the mentorship needed to create a blue-print, a navigation system, for the future.

Bioneers is often thought of as “people pioneering methods to protect the biosphere.” However, for those who have participated, or by listened to talks broadcasted throughout the year, the meaning runs much deeper. It is about relationships, to each other, the planet, and the future. The inspiration gathered is shared through networks of friends, more then networks of social media. The ideas work like nature, and spread like mycelium. As Joshua at Bioneers said, “Revolutions don’t happen on the front page of the New York Times.”  

The revolution Bioneers is inspiring is a Revolution of the Heart, a new perspective that helps move us from despair to action.

Throughout the year “a Theater of the Mind” can be found at Bioneers.org with recorded talks gathered at the main event. Community networking can take place on-line, year round to help keep that inner light of hope within us shinning bright all the time. For those able to attend in Marin, use discount code SOLUTIONARIES50  to save $50 on a one-day pass, and  SOLUTIONARIES75 for $75 off a 3-day pass. Register at Bioneers.org.

“Passion is where hope lies, it changes the conversation from despair to hope,” said Joshua at the end of our conversation. We all have a passion project that lights us up. Bioneers is here to help grow that passion and encourages us to share it with others as much as possible. This way we can all move from despair to action.

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Hannah Apricot Eckberg is an environmental journalist raised on the Central Coast. [email protected]

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