"We are bloated with information but starved for wisdom" -- Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey. Photos via Jaymi Heimbuch
Bioneers is a marvel of grassroots organizing. The annual conference brings together the top minds within the environmentalist movement to talk about everything from the most cutting edge technology changing how we understand our planet to the hands-on projects that spread that knowledge to every human around the globe. This year's conference featured the likes of Jane Goodall, James Hansen, Gary Hirshburg, and Gloria Feldt, among dozens of other major leaders in sustainability. But the best minds can't do much if they don't have an attentive audience. The conference sets the stage in so many ways to help these great thinkers and doers rebuild our world.
Thinking is a Political Act
Once you get people inspired to act, having immediate outlets for them helps keep the ball rolling. Bioneers has plenty of booths with information about current political issues where attendees can learn more, and make a difference on site. One such booth that had attendees stopping by in droves was the Plug In America booth, which also educated visitors about prop 23, a California ballot item designed to kill legislation requiring a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. If there's ever a time to get people educated and riled up, it's right before elections...
Art and Activism
Art is a big component of Bioneers, providing both an outlet for thoughts and emotions about the issues presented, as well as a way to boost awareness among viewers. For example, the massive bird below was quite a draw for attendees, and once you approached it, you realized it is made entirely from trash... beach trash. Dozens of volunteers collected marine litter from coastlines in Oregon and created something they hoped would express the scale of the problem of plastic pollution. It worked!
It was a perfect jumping-off point for the artist to answer questions and share information about how so much litter ends up in the ocean, the problems it is causing, and what can be done about it.
The creative thinkers behind this project (and its source of inspiration, the photos by Chris Jordan of birds killed by eating plastic) are a big part of stirring reactions and momentum for the movement.
Other Ways of Doing
Bioneers is great about showing people alternative ways of doing things. Each year, booths feature everything from bikes as a better form of getting around to community banks and green investment strategies as better ways to make your money work for both you and the environment. The conference is never short on alternatives.
But while the conference in San Rafael, California does an amazing job at giving an ideal platform from which the top minds can speak and make the greatest impact on audience members, Bioneers doesn't stop at the limits of the Marin Conference Center.
Beaming Bioneers to Billions
Eventually, we might hit billions of people tuning in to what goes on at this annual event. For now, the numbers are smaller but still impressive. This conference, twenty satellite locations participated in the event, with a live feed of the talks set up at venues around the US, Canada and even in Scotland. It allows the participation of people who can't or choose not to travel to California for the event. The more eyes and ears grabbing ahold of the amazing information and stories shared at this event, the better.
It's through this kind of conference -- one that puts the major movers and shakers in front of an attentive, insightful, inspired audience who are willing to take the lessons and run with them -- that will help rebuild the world. The fact is, the top minds in climate change are only the best when they have a whole slew of ready and willing people to enact what brilliant ideas they dream up.
I've yet to attend a conference that manages as high a degree of connecting the superstars of the environmental movement with the people on the ground. That's how change happens.
Read more about Bioneers 2010
Bioneers 2010: "The Shift Has Hit The Fan"
Bioneers 2010: James Hansen and the Million Letter March
Bioneers 2010: Kids Rise Up Against Climate Change
Bioneers 2010: Gary Hirshberg Explains How To Scale Up Sustainable Foods
Bioneers 2010: John Warner on Making Better Chemists as Key to Green Chemistry (Video)
Bioneers 2010: "Washed Ashore" Art Exhibit Explores Plastic Pollution with Giant Beach-Trash Bird