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Bioneers Conference 2010

Bioneers Conference Oct 15-18
The annual Bioneers conference is held this weekend in San Rafael, CA. More presenter information and webcasting links at We will be posting reports from our correspondent at the conference, Michelle Victoria, on each day's events.

Michelle Victoria October 17, 2010, San Rafael, CA
Bioneers Conference Plenary Session
Leading with Our Hearts
Michelle Victoria

Today we heard from Kenny Ausubel about the ongoing activities of Bioneers beyond this conference. More partnering is taking place including working with National Geographic to bring the Bioneers message to even more people. There was a Bioneers Global Conference this year in Holland and already results are manifesting from this meeting. The collaborative project Dreaming New Mexico is growing and a methodology is being created so that other states can use this as a model.

After Kenny we had a real treat to preview a short cut from Louis Schwatrzberg's film Naked Beauty. This is a breathtaking film bringing us into nature in a way that few of us have probably ever experienced. The excerpt that we saw showed the crucial interdependence of plant and animal, and the magic and fragility behind that. Louis also spoke about the beauty of nature and how it touches the hearts of all of us, opening us to our connection with nature and our selves.

Peter Warshall spoke on the Dreaming New Mexico project. . . I love that this is in fact a project where participants were asked to dream, and dream big. What was posed was the following: What would New Mexico look like if an ideal, sustainable system was implemented, based on the reality of the land and natural conditions?

Then came Mary Gonzalez, California Director of the Gamaliel Foundation whose mission is to assist community leaders to create grassroots organizations so that ordinary people can impact the political, social, economic and environmental decisions that affect their lives.

Save Our Sperm
Mary was followed by an unusual pair: two large sperm who came to send out an SOS- that is, Save Our Sperm . Evidence is pointing to the relationship of toxic chemicals and reduced sperm counts not only in animals but in humans. Alternatives to these toxic substances exist and it is time to let out legislators know that we want them and will no longer be guinea pigs in this chemical experiment. Please visit the web site and you will be able to ask your member of Congress to co-sponsor the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 (HR 5820), the strongest toxics reform bill ever introduced.

The next speaker was John Warner, an accidental chemist and co-author of Green Chemistry-Theory and Practice. He is far from the picture that I have of a chemist and he told us the first question that we must ask if we want to get rid of toxic chemicals and it is, why are these chemicals in products in the first place?

Andy Lipkis, the founder of TreePeople, was our final speaker. I had never heard Andy speak before and his level of enthusiasm after forty years of work has only grown, like the trees he has been planting since he was 15. It is obvious that he loves what he does and the ways that TreePeople is making a difference is far more than I ever expected.

To sum up todays Bioneers Conference Plenary Session I would say that the message was to work from our hearts. When our work is driven by passion and conviction it no longer feels like work, we seem to have unlimited energy and ideas, and somehow, it often feels as if assistance just shows up when we need it most. I am not implying that it is easy, sometimes we actually take on even more than we might if we were strictly motivated from our head. We go after what our heart is pulling us towards and contend with the details once we are already in the process. This is a new way to live our work, but this way is growing and todays speakers were examples of this approach to life and work. (excerpted from 'Day Two of Bioneers-Leading with Our Hearts' - read the complete post at SmartLifeWays) -MV

Michelle Victoria October 16, 2010, San Rafael, CA
Bioneers Conference Opening
A Message of Engagement
Michelle Victoria

Nina Simons and Kenny Ausubel Today was the official beginning of the 21st Bioneers Conference. We were welcomed by Joanne Campbell a Coast Miwok Elder, one of the indigenous people from this area for thousands of years. Sometimes I think that we forget what a young nation we are and that there are many who may be far wiser than us, who have been living on these lands far longer than we have, and certainly more harmoniously with the earth than we have been. As I heard in one of the panels today, industrial agriculture has been the experiment (not organics) and we see that it is not working well.

But do we have the will to change this? Because change must involve many more of us than are engaged today. If I can sum up the message that I heard today it would be that we all need to re-engage in our political system, in our communities and with the youth of this country and the world. We need to become political activists letting our leaders know that we care about the food that we eat and the environment. To let them know that we are aware of the serious issues that we are facing but that to ignore them is no longer an option because they will not go away...and this involves issues as far reaching as immigration as well as ending our use of coal, not to mention a trillion dollar military budget.

A lack of political will, and integrity, in the face of lobbyists has brought the US to being a real loser in the shift to renewable energy and the creation of a dynamic green sector. China is the largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels-maybe this should come as no surprise since we have been more than willing to shift so much of the manufacturing sector in a myriad of industries to China. Germany has almost as many jobs in the green sector as they do in the auto industry and Sweden is implementing new food policies that will transform not only the countries diet but also their use of fossil fuels in utilizing low carbon farming methods. Kenny Ausubel, one of Bioneers founders and co-CEO with Nina Simons, reminded us that nature rewards cooperation and that interdependence is unavoidable, two concepts that we must adopt in facing the issues of the day. The new goal of the economy needs to shift to resilience. - ('Conference opens' continued at -MV

Michelle Victoria October 15, 2010, San Rafael, CA
Bioneers: Pre-Conference Farm Tour
Michelle Victoria

farm tour Yesterday began the runup to the Bioneers Conference, with a few pre-conference intensives and events. I attended the farm tour and we began the day at the vibrant San Rafael Farmers Market. This farmers market is 27 years old and is one of eight markets that the Agricultural Institute of Marin operates. The Sunday San Rafael market is the third largest farmers market in the state, with an amazing variety of vendors, prepared food and its lots of fun. I remember walking it last year when I was at the Bioneers conference and I stocked up on goodies for the rest of my trip in Northern California.

The theme of the day was diversity for sustainability... the antithesis of the current conventional agricultural model of mono-crops. At the market we met with three growers each providing a different model for sustainable farming. In order for farmers to be sustainable it is crucial that each recognize their own goals as well as local conditions to make what they do viable. There is no one size fits all here, and that is what makes it sustainable.

We met with Star Route Farms, the oldest continuously certified organic grower in the state. The cool coastal climate in the area is ideal for lettuces and Star Route Farms really took off selling mini-lettuces to Chez Panisse in the 70s.Today they sell exclusively to restaurants and at farmers markets. The farm is on 40 acres and they have diversified into other crops that make sense for them and they also farm 20 acres in Southern California in order to have produce available all year round.

Next we visited with Arrowsmith Farms. Shelley showed us what is possible on a smaller piece of land. This two and a half acre farm is in Sonoma county, an area primarily known for their wines. Arrowsmith is a beautiful example of how a small piece of land can support diversity and this is the key to making it sustainable and providing something to sell at the farmers market just about year round. A variety of produce including squash, figs, tomatoes, cucumbers, even some raspberries were available as well as their small batch honeys and skin balms. Tulips were recently introduced so that in early spring they could keep bringing something to the farmers market. In learning about growing organically they discovered that having ducks and chickens were an efficient, and non-chemical, way to keep bugs away so that also provided them eggs to sell at the markets . . . (continue reading "Pre-Conference Farm Tour" at -MV

The Story of Stuff
The Story of Stuff
Don't miss this amusing survey of the consumerist reality and it's toxic consquences. (99% of our production is trashed within 6 months!) (Story of Stuff)

Fruit Song
"Fruit Song"
What are we going to eat in the future, 10 billion of us? What about fruit? A rumination on nature's special food, at the Biomagic blog.

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