Fixing instead of fretting

‘Bioneers’ focuses on solutions for the future


Boulder’s Bioneers sets out to conquer fears of something much scarier than the typical Halloween mask: Visions of a post-peak-oil apocalypse, pictures of the collapse of the world food system, the dismal view of a country run by corporate monopolies.

Bioneers sets out to curb the panic with a solutions-based approach to some of the issues facing the planet.

“Every workshop is geared toward a tool or a some sort of a solution,” says Marianne Martin, associate director of the Environmental Center at the University of Colorado, which coordinates the event. Bioneers will include more than 30 presentations and workshops from local presenters covering economics, business, localization and food issues as well as sustainable building.

“It has such a variety of offerings that there’s kind of something for everyone, depending on what they want to focus on,” Martin says. There’s a mix in the pace of the presentations, and some include activities like touring Cure Organic Farm to see their off-the-grid greenhouse.

“One of the things that I love about Bioneers is that one, it’s comprehensive, it’s holistic, it looks at our ecological predicament and social justice,” says Adam Brock, director of operations at the GrowHaus, a nonprofit food justice center and indoor farm in Denver. “I also appreciate that it’s participatory group conversations and interactive workshops, so you really get to be face to face with some of these change makers and are inspired to become a change-maker yourself.”

Brock, who has appeared on previous panels at Bioneers, will be giving a talk on looking to ecosystems for lessons in how we grow our communities, like applying the principles of transplanting a plant to a person moving into a new community.

“I think so many people at this point are aware of the problems that we’re facing in all different areas of our society,” he says. “But Bioneers — and my presentation — is really about saying, now that we’ve identified those problems, where can we look for solutions, what’s already happening on the ground, and how can we replicate those best practices?” One of the presentations will come from Adrian H. Molina, also known as Molina Speaks, a participant in the artist/activist group, who will be presenting from his Build 2020 Manifesto.

“The government, corporations, think tanks, international banking organizations — the major power brokers of the world — they have agendas and plans for the year 2020, for 2030, for 2045. They have plans that are socially engineering the future, not necessarily in a conspiratorial way, but there are plenty of plans for the way they want the world to look in the future,” Molina says. “I think it’s critical that as everyday people, we set our own agendas for what we want for the future.”

In an era in which technology is rapidly sweeping along to eventually leave laptops and iPhones as “caveman-era” devices, Molina says, his presentation urges people to empower themselves to consciously create the future, before other forces build it for them.

“It’s centered around the next 10 years of life on this planet,” he says, “and what we need to do to establish a more sustainable reality for the next generation, for the generations to come.”

The Build 2020 Manifesto, as he released it in March of this year, is a 75-minute oratory project mixed with hip-hop music. At Bioneers, he says, he plans to present a version that involves the audience, both during the presentation and in terms of what they take home.

“I feel like I provide a lot of context and a lot of information, but I try to leave things open so everybody takes away from these presentations what they need to personally,” Molina says. “My goal is not to indoctrinate people with any sort of message, or to steer people in any sort of direction. It’s more to wake people up to what they need to do in their communities.”

Bioneers originated 21 years ago as a national conference, before spreading to local events 10 years ago. This Bioneers is Boulder’s ninth. Going local has meant giving Bioneers presenters a chance to key into the issues facing local communities, and get engaged with small-scale, local solutions, according to Martin.

“I think what Bioneers does is, because it sets a vision and solutions out there, it changes people’s perspectives,” Martin says. “It gives them new ideas it invigorates and inspires people and kind of keeps them going.”