Colorado Bioneers celebrates its 10th year

Innovators gather again in Boulder to discuss new, sustainable ways of living


Every autumn,
people in Colorado see posters inviting them to attend something called
Bioneers. They see leaflets at local coffee shops and at the Farmers’ Market. They
hear people talking. The excitement heard in past attendees voices inspires a
curiosity — but, what the heck is Bioneers? Some, like me circa 2008, questioned
if it was something like a pioneer or an engineer, or perhaps it has something
to do with biology? After being involved with Bioneers for the past five years,
I’ve realized that my initial thoughts weren’t so far off.

Bioneers is
an event and a collective group now approaching 20,000 members nationally who
are looking for innovative ways to approach age-old and modern issues, not
unlike pioneers past and present who seek new prospects. Many Bioneers are
engineers, either professionally or personally, seeking creative and novel
projects to help synthesize the human/planet relationship. And, the bio part: If
nothing else, Bioneers is about life — the celebration, understanding and
respect for all that inhabit Earth. Founder Kenny Ausubel coined the term in
1990 to describe an emerging culture. Bioneers are social and scientific
innovators who collectively seek a future environment of hope.

Bioneers is
the preeminent gathering of environmental visionaries who offer practical
solutions to the most pressing environmental and social issues of our time. In
its 23rd year as a national conference, Bioneers uniquely and authentically
connect the dots between environment, health, social justice and spirit.

Boulder, one
of 20 communities in North America with a Bioneers satellite forum, will
celebrate its 10th anniversary Nov. 9-11 at the CU-Boulder campus. Ten years ago, just 100 people attended the Colorado kick-off
and the event was composed of 13 national plenaries and six breakout sessions.
This year, attendance is expected to reach about 800 and the conference
includes the 13 national plenaries and 36 sessions and field trips.

“Not only
has the quantity increased, but, more importantly, the quality of Bioneers has
as well,” says Marianne Martin, associate director of CU’s Environmental Center,
which hosts the event in conjunction with Transition Colorado, Naropa
University, the Center for ReSource Conservation, Restorative Leadership
Institute, Boulder’s Best Organics and Woodbine Ecology Center as well as the
support of sponsors and partner groups.

“The CU
Environmental Center has proudly carried the torch for the past decade to
continue and grow the Colorado Bioneers event in the Front Range,” explains
Martin, who has been involved in the production of every Bioneers conference in
Boulder since 1993. “This local Bioneers event fuses many issues and serves as
a hub for sustainability. It is empowering to the community to participate in
an event focused on local innovation, ideas and solutions while gleaning from
the national vision and inspiration.”

This year’s
conference, titled “From Breakdown to Breakthrough: Reimagining Civilization in
the Age of Nature,” will create opportunities for sharing, learning and action
by bringing together the region’s progressive ideas, people and organizations.
The key themes are resilience and indigeneity.

describes the focus on resilience as our ability as a community to maintain
strength during taxing times.

“It really is
about the strength of our community and our knowledge and our tools,” says
Martin. “It’s about the economy and ecology and society. We have to be strong
enough to create social and ecological networks that are smart and will last
the test of time.”

The other
central theme, indigeneity, is a program of Bioneers that promotes indigenous
leaders and indigenous knowledge as a critical path to support all people in
learning to honor bio-cultural landscapes, indigenous life ways and a “reconnect
place” for the restoration of social and ecological balance on Earth.

“This year
we are honored to have over 10 indigenous presenters sharing their wisdom with
Bioneers participants,” says Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish, co-director of
Woodbine Ecology Center. “Indigenous science offers a way of knowing that can
provide a crucial complement to the tools of Western science as we address the
challenges of our time.”

Other issues
that will be addressed include local food, energy and climate, and sustainable

“This is
such an inspiring and successful event,” Martin says. “What counts for me in
terms of success is hearing people say that Bioneers changed their lives, that
it redefined their path, that it helped them redefine what they should be doing
in terms of their careers, studies and personal life. Bioneers really makes a
difference in worldviews and that’s awesome.”

information about Colorado Bioneers can be found at