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Great Lakes Bioneers Conference

Anne Stanton - October 12th, 2009
A Weekend of Inspiration
The Great Lakes Bioneers Conference kicks off on Friday

By Anne Stanton 10/12/09

If you’ve always thought Traverse City has a huge contingent of people who want to do right by the planet, you’d be right.
Traverse City is one of only two cities in the state to host the upcoming national Bioneers Conference. Now in its eighth year, no city in the country has served as a satellite host for as long as Traverse City. Last year, the Great Lakes Bioneers Conference ushered in a record 1,000 people through its doors.
So what is Bioneers and what goes on at the Traverse City conference?
Bioneers is a national nonprofit group that began operating out of New Mexico 20 years ago. The group believes humankind needs to take its cues from nature to make the world a better place to live. Its key philosophy is to work together, not competitively. The group holds a national conference each year in San Rafael, California.
The Bioneers Conference features the country’s top thinkers on just about anything that pertains to being alive—health, environment, social issues, and spirituality. This year’s most well known names include Dr. Andrew Weil, a guru of holistic health, and Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Sharon Flesher of Traverse City plans on attending most of the weekend with her daughter, Leah, who has just started home schooling.
“The thing about Bioneers is you may go there for one thing, but invariably you’ll find something else. The first time I went there, I listened to this mushroom guy, Paul Stamets. He did this talk on mushrooms and how they can be used to absorb toxins from the dirt, cure diseases; he went on and on. His passion just blew me away.”
Although the multitude of workshops, speeches, and activities seem daunting, there is a rhythm to the three-day event, which starts October 16 at Northwestern Michigan College’s Milliken Auditorium.
Each day starts with a local keynote speaker followed by area talent giving workshops on a wide range of interests, from weatherizing your home to making an animated movie to calming allergies with herbs and natural remedies.
At noon, you break for an organic lunch, which, of course, uses largely local ingredients.
In the afternoon, you can sit in Milliken Auditorium to watch the speakers on a large screen, or, if you’re the antsy type, go to a workshop or two in Scholar’s Hall. There are several workshops geared for families, and children are welcome at all the lectures (there’s also an activity room with crafts, napping spots, and a nursing area).
“The word conference doesn’t do its justice,” said Tara Ward, a part-time staffer who spends the year coordinating the annual event. “There’s a coffee and tea café, a community art project, student films, documentaries and music. The word conference seems so serious, but the national speakers come with a positive message. They bring a good energy that we can do positive things for the world.”

The fun continues at night, with a reception for participants at Scholar’s Hall on Friday night. Open to the public—not just the participants—are the following events:
• On Friday night, enjoy a performance put together by the Earthwork Music Collective, a group of independent singers and bands at Milliken Auditorium. Starts at 8 p.m.
• On Saturday night, the movie, Fiercelight, will be shown at the State Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Activists around the country are interviewed about their work and what inspired them.
• If you like funk and R&B, check out Jamie Register and her six-piece posse, the Glendales, at the Waterfront Conference Center, beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
The Great Lakes Bioneers Conference was “birthed” by Seeds, a nonprofit group, and Neahtawanta Center eight years ago. Major donors include Denis and Martha Pierce and Oryana Natural Foods Market. It’s also supported by dozens of sponsors and underwriters.

Go to glbconference.org for info. Register, at Scholar’s Hall, drop in for one or all three days. Reduced rates are available (70% of all attendees qualify). NMC staff, students, and faculty attend for free, as well as children ages 12 and under. If you have questions, call 947-0312.

 
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