Published by Kerry on 17 Oct 2010 at 11:05 pm
One of the things the Bioneers conference does best is to cause one to reflect on the personal, the sacred. As I listened to the star-studded keynotes in beautiful San Rafael, I recalled childhood days, recycling soda cans to save rainforest acres, and felt again… this is possible.
Paving the way
The quality of speakers at Bioneers is always high, and today was no exception. Today Lynne Twist, john a. powell, Gloria Feldt, Anthony Cortese and Jane Goodall graced the stage and lent us a little of their courage and wisdom.
To do justice to all the insights the speakers provided would take several pages, so here are just a few highlights from each speaker, and a tip for each on what you can do.
Nobility in fundraising
Lynne Twist of the Pachamama Alliance taught us not only about setting precedents, like including nature’s rights in a constitution, but also, in her later fundraising segment, to think about philanthropy as one of the noblest acts, a reallocation of funds towards our deepest values. She encouraged the audience to look at some of U.S. society’s most revered figures, like Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and Mahatma Gandhi, as master fundraisers.
What you can do: Give generously or raise funds for the cause you believe most passionately in.
Systemic thinking saves
john a. powell of the Kirwan Institute pegged institutionalized systems as the root of our problems. We want to aim for high synergy societies that allow for individuality and community, he said, but currently we are in a low synergy society, which is zero sum. Individuals advance at the expense of others. So long as we perpetuate these harmful systems, he argued, we will continue to treat fellow humans as the Other, and refuse to see the connections between each other and the natural world.
What you can do: Practice shifts in thinking and tolerance, and talk to people from different backgrounds on a regular basis, with an open mind.
Controversy as an instrument of change
Gloria Feldt, women’s activist and writer of such books as No Excuses, brought controversy front and center. “Can you use it to change minds?” she asked us. She used her own early position as a teen mother, and the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, to examine women’s perceptions of their own power (they have more than they think), and to help break down the barriers of the fear of ridicule and reprisal that stop many from taking action. “State your case the way you want to say it,” she urged, so that no one else frames it for you.
What you can do: Take small steps to speak up or act on issues you feel strongly about, that you fear you may encounter resistance on, and practice strategies to counter that resistance.
Higher education as a powerful leader
Anthony Cortese, president and co-founder of Second Nature, recommended that the environment be incorporated into every field of university study. He said, “[Chemistry, physics and bio departments] act as if they’ll still be around when the world ends.” Under his leadership higher education is greening. Community colleges have 46% of the students and are taking serious action to green the workforce. He announced just under 700 universities have signed on commitments to climate control, the first sector in the U.S. to do so.
What you can do: Support local students and educators who are working towards sustainability, and volunteer in efforts to green campuses and mindsets.
Roots and shoots of hope
Jane Goodall, respected researcher, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, began with her humble roots as a girl observing a hen laying eggs. She acknowledged a strong advocate, her mother, who never laughed at her dreams and encouraged her to stand by her convictions. This advice came in handy when she at first was told by professors that her observations of chimpanzee personality must be false. “They are so like us,” she said, noting similar brains, blood, love, family, true altruism, as well as a darker, sometimes violent side.
Like the other speakers, she noted the grave peril the earth, and the chimps, are in from many directions: human population growth, unsustainable resource consumption, climate change, and more. She also acknowledges the importance of the people, in her program TACARE, which assists villagers whose livelihoods depend on forests near a chimp reserve. In her extensive travels as a speaker, she encountered many youths losing hope, and began Roots and Shoots, a youth program to help animals, people, and the environment, which in turn returns hope and energy to her.
She noted four key sources of inspiration for her: Roots and Shoots, “the human brain in combination with the heart,” “the resilience of nature,” and “the indomitable human spirit.”
What you can do: Support the chimps of Gombe and elsewhere, and support local community projects to help animals, people, and the environment, such as Roots and Shoots.
I was struck by the unifying threads in the speeches, above all urging us to look within to our most deeply held values, preserve balance, spread respect for nature and each other, and act now.
Photo by Ben Sutherland
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