Front Range Bioneers Conference fosters planetary discussions

CU Boulder hosts 13th annual summit

Courtesy of Marianne Martin

When international visionaries and leading innovators come together to discuss the planet’s most pressing environmental, health and social justice issues, nothing but positivity can come out of it — that or at least thought-provoking conversation and some lively debate.

In its 13th year, Boulder’s Front Range Bioneers (FRB) — a Bioneers Resilient Communities Network event — will host a weekend with over 35 sessions, workshops and field trips that focus on topics of regional importance from Oct. 23-25. Organized by the CU Boulder Environmental Center, the events will take place at different locations on campus with check-in at the Eaton Humanities Building. With nearly 100 local presenters and special activities for teens and kids, the FRB conference will also re-air sessions and keynote addresses from the National Bioneers Conference, taking place in San Rafael, California, Oct. 16-18.

The National Bioneers Conference was dreamt up in 1990 by filmmaker and journalist Kenny Ausubel who founded former seed company, Seeds of Change, and who authored Hoxsey: When Healing Becomes a Crime. The term bioneer refers to a “biological pioneer,” or “social and scientific innovators who are mimicking nature’s operating instructions to serve human ends,” according to the Bioneers’ website. In the past the conference has hosted speakers such as Naomi Klein, Jane Goodall and “the greatest people you’ve never heard of.”

“Bioneers is a movement that looks to link solutions and find common ground toward restoring the planet in this critical time. As climate change and population growth propel natural and human systems toward their tipping points of crisis, the growing trend toward decentralization and greater localization is an ecological, economic and political imperative,” says Marianne Martin, associate director of the Environmental Center at CU Boulder and lead producer of the FRB event. “Building from the bottom up through communities, cities, counties, states and regions is among the most productive and realistic pathways to substantively advance resilience.”

Just a few of the topics to be discussed at this year’s FRB conference include: “Engaging in the Anti-Nuclear Movement,” put on by Rocky Flats Nuclear Guardianship; “Creating Supportive Re-entry Ecologies for Criminalized Persons,” by local keynote speaker Lisa Calderon of Community Reentry Project; and “Stories from the Front Lines of the Local Food Revolution,” with a panel of expert journalists, business owners, Ph.D.s and city workers of Colorado who will weigh in on the power of food localization. The conference’s opening keynote address by biologist and author Jon Young, who wrote What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World, will be open to the public free of charge on Thursday night.

Over the course of the conference’s 13 years, the approach to climate, food security and indigenous knowledge has become more complex, connected and innovative, according to Martin. And because the FRB conference invokes “inspiration and an urgency to act,” many people who go will chart a new course in their career, or for those who are already active, it will strengthen their work, she says.

One such example is Eliot Kersgaard, co-chair of the CU Biomimicry Club, which focuses on natureinspired innovation. Kersgaard and his group had attended a previous FRB conference where they met presenters and their future mentors, Marie Bourgeois and Martin Ogle, a retired civil engineer for the Environmental Protection Agency and founder of Entrepreneurial Earth LLC, respectively. This year the club will host their own session, “Applying Biomimicry Solutions to the Food Systems Challenge,” which will take place Saturday afternoon.

“Our design idea is to link together parts of the food system which are currently disconnected [as a way] to promote mutualistic relationships,” Kersgaard says. “Many marijuana growers discard their soil after a single grow. This is a valuable resource that could be used for growing food. … We could contact organizations in the metro area, such as urban gardening groups, in order to identify which groups could be in need of soil and when. We then close the resource loop by transporting the excess soil to an area of need so that more food can be grown locally.”

Whether your interest is biomimicry, international women’s rights, the intersection of food, race and justice, water resiliency, indigenous people’s rights, workable economics systems or poetry, the Front Range Bioneers Conference has something for you to check out. A full, detailed program schedule, along with information about parking, food and the Bioneers Kids Camp (put on by Feet on the Earth), can be found at bioneers.

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