The philosophy of Bioneers is based upon finding our place as humans in the natural world. It encourages us to see the interconnectedness of all of the issues that affect our lives, as well as the interconnectedness of all life.
Though the main conference is always held in California, for the past five years the national organization has seen the benefit of establishing smaller satellite conferences across the country to expand the energies, inspiration, and local relevance of this important work. All sites are connected to the California conference via satellite to receive the main keynote speakers.
Some of these speakers are nationally known, such as Lois Gibbs, the woman who led the struggle at Love Canal; Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! fame; and Paul Hawkin, a leader in the field of socially-responsible entrepreneurship.
Other speakers are less well-known but are doing groundbreaking work: Thomas Linzey, working on empowering communities to use constitutional law to hold corporations accountable; Tzeporah Berman, working on forest preservation by helping to transform buying practices of major paper and wood consumers like Staples and Home Depot; and Maria Elena Durazo, one of the nations most prominent Hispanic labor leaders work-ing on workers rights issues.
One of only 16 satellite sites, Traverse City will host its 5th Great Lakes Bioneers Conference on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College, October 2022, co-sponsored by two local organizations, SEEDS, and the Neahtawanta Center.
The three-day conference draws people from the local area as well as the Midwest, to learn and exchange ideas on topics such as renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, green building, health care, immigration and more. There is also an afternoon pre-conference on Relocalizing our Local Economy on October 19 at the Heritage Center, sponsored by ISLAND and the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council.
Several offerings distinguish this years conference. There is a special focus on trying to attract teens to young adults, with an ongoing space, How to be a Cultural Revolutionary. Sponsored by Jason and Mallory Glover, of Third Eye Magazine, this will be a creative space for art, writing and ranting. The Media Center, another ongoing space, offers tools and guidance in creating video, audio and print-based media about the conference.
On Friday morning, an inspiring film, When Fried Eggs Fly, will be shown at Milliken Auditorium. It is offered free of charge to any Traverse Area classes and is suitable for children in the fifth grade and above.
For the younger set, there is creative childcare for kids from six months to five years old. An art project will be created and put on display on Sunday.
MUSIC & ART
Music and visual arts are sprinkled throughout the conference: two workshops and a Friday night concert by the Earthwork Music
Collective, a participatory art project overseen by local artist Glenn Wolff and daughter, Lilli. There will also be a film and dance on Saturday night, with both events open to the public as well as conference participants.
While the conferences have been beneficial in bringing people together to share ideas and get inspired by others stories, the work of transforming our world into a more sustainable place continues throughout the year on many levels. The conference serves to promote and strengthen ideas, projects and activities that are ongoing.
Examples of Bioneers-type projects in our region include:
The growth of local food consumption like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, where members buy a share in a farm and receive a box of food throughout the growing season;
the use of local currencies, such as Bay Bucks;
self-reliant energy projects, such as the hybrid bio-diesel BATA bus and the wind turbine erected by Traverse City Light and Power;
the construction of LEED-certified projects like the new BATA transfer station and the Oryana Natural Foods Market renovation now in progress;
and the promotion of certified organic and Fair Trade goods by places like Higher Grounds Trading Company and Unity Fair Trade Marketplace.
Participants leave the conference feeling connected to a growing community interested in changing our everyday actions to have positive far-reaching effects on the overall health and well-being of our planet and its inhabitants.
Eating lunches prepared by area chefs out of local, and organic ingredients, watching independently released documentary screenings, and moving to wonderful local/regional music, we are reminded that living sustainably should also mean living joyfully with many benefits and rewards!
For more information about the conference, go to glbconference.org or call the Neahtawanta Center at: 1 (800) 220-1415.