who are these people and what are they up to?

Something is going on.  It's not easy to describe, and I don't expect to really give it the full treatment it deserves, but at the very least I hope that this will encourage some interest, in something very much worth being interested in.

They have a website, and the general information below is drawn from that.  I also participated in a recent gathering, and the main text below is based upon that experience.

General Information (in their own words):
"Founded by Kenny Ausubel in 1990, Bioneers was conceived to conduct educational and economic development programs in the conservation of biological and cultural diversity, traditional farming practices, and environmental restoration.

Our vision of environment encompasses the natural landscape, cultivated landscape, biodiversity, cultural diversity, watersheds, community economics, and spirituality. Bioneers seeks to unite nature, culture and spirit in an Earth-honoring vision, and create economic models founded in social justice.

Restoration addresses the premise that "sustainability" is problematic in the context of an environment that is already depleted. As Paul Hawken has noted, sustainability is simply the midpoint between destruction and restoration. The goal of Bioneers is restoration, addressing the interdependent array of economics, jobs, ecologies, cultures, and communities."

This is basically what you call an understatement, which I hope my description of the conference below will illuminate.  I fell into this in a kind of accidental way, looking for something on the Internet, when I came across a reference to something at a local college, Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona (Prescott College is a very unique school, concentrating on a liberal education, with an emphasis on the environment - it has more vans than class rooms, so everyone can travel all over the Southwest for direct experience).  This led to their website (the College's) and then it lead to a notice about the College participating in a satellite conference sponsered by the Bioneers.  I had heard about this from a friend (Dawn) already, and decided to go the next morning (that's when it started), hopefully able to talk my way past the fee, because I was living on a very fixed income at the time, with little room for a $60 weekend conference fee.  Heather, the local manger of the conference gave her okay, and it was a grace filled blessing in many ways.

In general terms the conference was organized with each morning (9a.m. to 1p.m.) devoted to presentations (sent to Prescott via satellite) from the main conference taking place at the Marin Center in San Raphael, California.   Thus were our mornings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday organized, while the afternoons were local (Prescott) panels, put together by Heather and her cohorts.  While the afternoons were very valid, the speeches sent over the satellite each day were rather astounding, leading the eighty or so of us in the satellite TV audience in Prescott to both cheers and tears.  I made numerous notes, which follow:

Each day the organizers of the conference, the husband and wife founders of Bioneers (Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons) took the stage to give introductory remarks to start each day, and then also introductory remarks to each speaker.  I did not take very many notes on their remarks, even though they were quite intelligent,  pointed, and frequently wise and amusing.  Perhaps I should have.  What little I have, I will report.

In what follows, I will write the name of the speaker, which will have behind it any relevant URL to their background and work - after which I will related what impressed me (again, without doubt, not getting all that could have been gotten).  The name, with its URL behind it, is followed immediately by the provided title of the talk.

I also occasionally disagreed, or had some inspired complementary thoughts.  This will appear [in brackets] as part of the regular text.  In addition, there were what I am calling - special turns of language - which I will highlight with italics.  It should be kept in mind that what is below is from notes and memory, both of which are naturally prone to error, so to a certain extent what I have put in the mouths of others needs to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

Friday Morning Plenaries:

from the introductory comments: Theory of One.  Be here, in one place.  Make one new friend, get one new idea, and make one new resolution.  Nature invented us [assumes correctness of Science's view of evolution - actually Spirit invented us and invented Nature as part of our material Home, see The Quiet Suffering of Nature].  This is not the information Age it is the Age of Biology.

first speaker:  Janine Benyus: Biomimicry:  Emulating Life's Genius and Grace: [she sees many things as wrong, much in world bad - common view to whole conference, thus we need to fix things - i.e. change this and that]  Diversity displays for us 4000 solutions to our problems [a metaphor, not exact number], and we need to keep [preserve] them all, as we don't know in advance which will be needed.   We are here  (conference  and our later acts) to  reimagine the world.  A symptom of global warming - species are moving north, seeking climate consistent with their needs.  Also pollination is starting to happen earlier in spring.  Our question is what is Nature doing to adapt? How does Nature cope with drought? Pulls water out of air (condensation on flat surfaces).  We need to learn how to take excess CO2 and turn it into a kind of biodegradable plastic like substance - make biodegradable flat surfaces.  Plants will be the means.  Organic photo-electric cells can be grown and will act like biological fibre-optics.  Can make color for clothes without dyes, by layering cloth with various depths of dark and light (moths don't have color in wings, but layers of dark and light, which then produces "color" effect [See Goethe's Theory of Color].  Copy Nature's designs, and put on Internet to keep for-profit companies from grabbing patents.  Be grateful to Nature for instructing us.

second speaker: Fred Kirschenmann: Planting the Future: Transforming Agriculture (is also a biodynamic farmer by experience): first question - why are farmers going broke, their communities dying, and food quality getting worse?  second question - how to transform it? (need to assess current situation correctly and anticipate its directions).  Anomalous fact - increase in productivity is not increasing farmer's wealth - wealth going other direction.  Challenges (confluence of events forcing change): 1) population change; 2) increase productivity coupled with loss of diversity all over world; 3) food needs to be a basic human right; 4) environmental degradation; 5) climate change; 6) increase in infectious diseases in humans; and 7) increase in poverty.   Modern industrial agriculture can't meet this challange.  Need to use biotic interventions with multi-species applications in a synergistic and interactive form. Ease boundaries between tame and wild.  Instead of forcing Nature to give us what we think we want, we take what Nature wants to give us, and find a way to use that.  Last cautious note concerning future - its wars will be fought over water.

third speaker: Maude Barlow: Blue Gold: Water as a Human Right:  Water already crisis.  Mexico City essentially has to move its millions, if it wants to maintain water service - almost nothing more in water table.  China is over using its water to manufacture products for United States.  Corporations trying to own water world wide (recognizing advantage of crisis.  Companies putting water in plastic (non-recyclable) bottles, using scarce third world sources, but meeting more and more fierce local resistance.  Civil Society on top of, but trade agreements try to define water as a good, a service, and an investment, when sanity requires it be recognized as a basic human right - can't be owned, only protected.

fourth speaker: David Suzuki: Restoring Life's Fabric: The Biological Bottom Line: Outlines effects of reductionism in science, especially genetics.  Fan of Rachel Carson - everything interconnected (flaw overlooked by reductionism in genetics).  Helped found Greenpeace.  Concerned that we can't do a lot of stuff, while we remain so ignorant, especially bioengineering. [notes to me: think about nature, no waste, everything interdependent and interconnected.  Human social life has to be the same.  Why would creator make Nature different?  What happens to our understanding of the social if we begin to assume evil has a place, just like all of Nature has a place?  How does that change how we see existence?  Would we redesign away volcanos and tigers?  If no, then what do we do with evil?]  back to David....Air is everywhere...interconnects us...what we breathed out today, we'll breath in again next year (meanwhile the person next to us breaths it in).  Why then do we conceive of Air as this toxic dump site, where there will be no effect?  We are not treating our Mother or applying the Four Sacred Elements properly.  David sees us as animals [whoops!]If we were intelligent, why do we wreck stuff?  Wanted now to go onto Spirit and Love, but ran out of time.

fifth speaker: Van Jones: The Marriage of Social Justice and Environmental Protection: [There is no way to do justice to this man - he cried during part of his presentation, and brought the audience to tears as well (me too)] [another aside to me - is there a natural ecology of ideas, in the mind -- see Emerson, is the theory of memes an early recognition of this?]  He is going to talk about labor, land and love and starts by reminding us that all the stawberries people will snack on at lunch were picked by poor people (labor).  Native American's had no homeless and didn't destroy ecology (land).  And, we all have, or would like to have, friends (love).  After this introduction, he showed us parts of a film on children (adolescents and below) in jail and prison.  They were interviewed, and it was clear how young they were, and how hard their life was in this terrible and unsafe environment.  Several did not want to talk about (expose) the sexual abuse they experienced.  He went on to point out the California has built 21 new prisons during the same time it built only one new college.  He gave again the well known statistics about the huge population in prison for non-violent felonies (mostly due to drug use and sale), and also how a disproportion of these are Black and Hispanic (problem of mandatory minimums - legislature has co-opted normal function of judges to apply justice and mercy according to the real circumstances).  He went on to describe how we now have made this labor available to corporations to abuse and plunder - inside the corporations will work minorities for 10 cents on the dollar, but outside they are ex-cons and can't work in the same field they were forced to work inside.  He called it the gulag economy.  At the end, he said the following: "A movement that is visionary on the environment, but ignorant and indifferent about social justice will fail, and a movement that is visionary on social justice, but ignorant and indifferent about the environment, will also fail."

There was a local panel (Prescott Arizona) on water use that I attended in the afternoon.  A bit depressing.  Mostly they unveiled figures showing that the local acquaifier was being depleted (outgo exceeding ingo) by more than twice the acre feet leaving as was coming in, in rain, snowfall, and other sources.  Local population rising fast, and no one seems to really be thinking about what this is going to mean (doesn't appear much in local politics when zoning board considers allowing new building) in the long term.

Saturday Morning Plenaries:

[note to me: need to remember the so-called bad guys have an individual biography which contains a world view that often justifies their actions - they could be quite moral if we understood the frame of reference in which they are making choices - things are not as morally simple as some folks would like them to be]

first speaker: Paul Stamets: Mushroom Magic: Deep Biology and Planetary Healing: This guy never meet a fungi he didn't like.  Enjoys prowling old growth forests, finding new variations.  Some have anti-viral properties.  When you magnify them under an electron microscope, all the connections are nerve like, suggesting some kind of intelligence.  [he also used some general scientific assumptions, such as the idea of dark matter to explain missing mass in universe (folks don't know yet about the Plane at Infinity, and the source of the life (ethereal) force at the Cosmic Periphery)]  Theoritical images created as regards distrubution of dark matter also look like nerve connections, says Paul.  Some fungi heal toxic environments, metabolize oil spills and de-construct nerve gas.  We need to save old growth forests as a matter of national defense.  Fungi and Nature are intelligent, and we need to engage them as friends and allies.

second speaker: Gloria Flora: Defending Forests: Restoration and Democracy: We need to restore not only nature but also social life, and the future.  Best communication way of humans is to tell a story.  Her story is about 23 years working for the Forest Service.   All natural resource decisions are social decisions, not merely scientific.  Was only 11 years ago, Forest Service began to get around to making ecological decisions.  Was a big fight to get eco-system management to include humans as an aspect of situation, not just trees, plants and animals.  Tells story of when she was managing forests in New Mexico, locals were able to use violence against Service workers with impunity.  Left service shortly thereafter.  What to do?  Write letters, it works.  Vote twice, once at polls, and then at check-out counter.  Practice restoration in own back yard.

third speaker: David Orr: Grounds for Hope, Possibilities for for Change: Told a story, about a Eastern European bus driver that stopped for a drink in a bar, and while he was drinking, 23 mental patients in the bus escaped.  Upon discovering this, he drove on, picking up people who needed rides until he had enough, which he then delivered to the mental hospital, telling the staff there that the patients were quite agitated and very confused.  It was three days before the hoax was discovered.  After this story he explains that we know what to do, however we have to be right and politically effective.  Mostly we need to take back the language, such as patriot and conservative from the politicians.  These words have an orginal meaning that is quite valid.  Taxes are good, is another example of the language war problem.  Left-right divisions are crap, our questions need to be about present and future.   Then he said the big no-no: Property rights can no longer be conceived as absolute.

fourth speaker: Maria Luisa Mendonca: The World Social Forum and New Challenges for International Grassroots Movements: First World Social Forum expected 4,000 but 20,000 came.  Next year 60,000, and third year 100,000.  Basically multiple movements gather to communicate and share [the world mind or conscience] [note to me - the collapse of civilization is also the collapse of the dominant paradigm]  Grassroots movements need a more complex strategy - can't separate issues - each is part of a Whole.  Mostly being presently against globalization and militarianism.  We have to keep in mind that all over the globe grassroots movements follow same goals - yet work independently.  These need to combine protests, civil disobedience and create shared viable alternatives.  There is also an ideological battle, going on over what things mean.  A war of ideas.  Remember, another world is possible.

fifth speaker: Tom Hayden: Democracy against Empire:  What are the relations between protests and what happens at the top?  Peoples' protests are the battlefields of modern history.  It is not ownership, or even stewardship that we need to seek, but rather kinship.  Did a big rant on Republican plans to destroy public programs, by so reducing govenment through tax cuts that there is nothing to spend on social needs.  Says we need the canadiazation of health care, and the europeanization of vacations (got big laugh for that last one).  Said we work too much and elites encourage the need for this, while in Europe they get eight week vacations [fits with my seeing for a long time that we live too fast, and need to slow down in order to actually deal with many social needs and issues]  Repeats - another world is possible.

Local afternoon panel which had a lot of value - Attorney Robert Lyttle of the Cheyenne-Arapaho People, and his wife, Carletta Tilouse, a Havasupai (lives down inside Grand Canyon), spoke about various First Nations troubles and issues.  She told of solid waste problem for them (huge pile of no longer functioning appliances (TVs, microwaves, refrigerators, washing machines etc), that are too costly for the tribe to helicopter lift out of the Canyon.  He spoke of the history of the U.S. Governments having forced Tribes on Reservations to take up Constitutions that imposed on them Tribal Council forms of Government (voting in 9 or 10 people to run everything), instead of traditional governing means (makes for a confusing situation, because traditional peoples do not put themselves forward, do not "run" for office).  This enabled the Government and Businesses to only have to get 5 or 6 votes of Tribal Council to form a majority in support of various mineral rights contracts, rather than having to convince whole tribe.  Worked for awhile in some places, but now there is a big struggle inside the reservations to keep this from happening.  Especially near the Canyon, because of uranium deposites right on the surface on lands bordering the rim.  Recently defeated selling of mineral rights by the Wavapai tribe, but even so the companies are back at trying to sell their troubles (90,000 uranium claims near the rim).  Lots of poverty on reservations, and people have a lot of myths about what the gaming industry means for the Nations.  Law gives only 30% to companies that run the casinos, and in most cases the tribes run the casinos themselves.  But their needs are huge, so if the casino makes 30 million, and the tribe needs a new high school at 10 million, the money goes fast.  Also laws force spending on social needs, so it isn't that tribes have lots of money for for their own pockets.  In addition, not all casinos very profitable, of 16 or so in Arizona only 4 or 5 make a lot of money - mostly they just employ reservation people (provide jobs).  Longer range problem is that local governments aren't going to take this long, and will themselves allow casinos outside reservations to compete, in which case when that happens the Nations will be stuck with dying business that can't compete with casinos more profitably located.  Then there is all the money that went missing in the Federal Government Indian Trust Fund - several billion dollars.  Would be nice to just get the Government to settle, and get on with stuff.  Main thing is that the Nations have lots of legal troubles, and most don't have the money to afford the right legal representation, which is why Lyttle and Tilouse and others created the Red Rock Foundation, Inc. P.O Box 5248, Carefree, Arizona 85377, so send some money.  Questions?  Robert Lyttle's e-mail is

Sunday Morning Plenaries:

Introduction suggested we might need a new creation story, but I thought maybe we just need to better understand the old one.

Then came what for me was the only seriously discordent note in the whole conference, a "performance" by a supposed comic calling himself Reverend Billy, from the Church of Stop Shopping.  He played an evangelical Christian preacher, with great exageration, making quite offensive fun of the so-called "type" while trying to insert an environmental message.  We couldn't see what went on in the audience in San Raphel, but in Prescott the watchers split into two groups with less than a third thinking this was all quite funny and joining in (he wanted people to stand and mimic the religious ecstasy common to certain Christian gatherings).  Obviously these folks had never been to a real Black gospel service either, much less have any sympathy for the religious feelings of others, or the importance for many of the expressison of joy that is potential in the celebration of the rite of Christian worship.  This was so odd, because you know this group (the Bioneers) would never have mocked in this way either Islamic, Jewish or Buddhist rites.  Someone needs very much to put a stop to this guy.

first speaker: Severn Cullis-Suzuki (David Suzuki's daughter - he was fourth speaker on Friday): Remember the Future:
[note to self - what is "harvested" from human social existence - experience is turned into capacities and a changed and altered nature of the individual human spirit, which being eternal carries that change into future incarnations] [further note to self - what is the natural ecology of the own mind?  What about human physical and spiritual emancipation - our growth beyond Nature, to something higher?]  This young woman (20 something), basically told stories about her life, a lot of which had to do with having serious scientists and environmentalists for parents, growing up in British Columbia, and traveling and meeting Native peoples locally (BC) and in Brazil.  At age 11 or 12 she, with some friends, on their own initiative, formed an organization - the ECO, or environmental childrens organization.  They worked locally (BC) for a time, and then rasied some money for four of them to go to the Earth Summit, in Brazil in 1992.  They had an information table, but soon came to the attention of certain folks who then invited one of them to speak to the whole meeting.  So at age 12 she spoke in that plain way only children can do to a bunch of adults, and received a standing ovation.  Here is the link to that speech, which every political and business leader in the world should read every day.

second speaker: Percy Schmeiser: The Theft of the Ark: How Genetic Engineering Throttles Seed Diversity and Farmers: Of all the stories told, this one is the most horrific and depressing.  You can get details on his website, I'll just report a quick overview.  He's a Canadian farmer, and seed keeper, and at some point Monsanto's genetically modified and patented Canola plants were found in a ditch along side his farm.  Some small amounts were also found in his fields.  Monsanto sued him, and thus begins the tale.  The lower court judge ruled, that regardless of how the plants got there (wind, birds carrying seeds, whatever), because they (the plants) were there, he had to pay Monsanto a fee.  He also lost the first appeal.  The full story really is worse (obnoxious contracts forced on farmers, Monsanto having its own enforcement arm of paid ruffians and so forth).  The good part (see website) is that this has become a celebrated cause and various groups have joined in the battle in the Canadian courts and legislatures.

third speaker: Devra Davis: Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution: Was born and raised in Denora, Pennsylvania, where in 1948 a "killer smog" caused the death of dozens, and the illness of the whole town.  She writes books about pollution and health (a working scientist of much renown).  Told stories about Denora, and London "fog", and other tales of horror.  Spoke of what is called the precautionary principle, which is to not take certain risks, but instead Be Safe, which is a health related environmental organization.  She ended with a line from the Talmud to the effect that: "not for you to complete the task, but you must begin it."

fourth speaker:   Judy Baca: an artist - apparently a substitute speaker as there was no title in the program for her, or any biographical material.  She is a large scale public muralist, best know for the Great Wall, a half mile mural on the ethnic history of California, that was done with the help of a lot (over 400) of at risk youth, taking eight years to complete.  She told the story of this wall, and other works (an international traveling peace wall).  Many slides and pictures.  She ended with these words: "Peace is not the absence of War, but an active concept and presence, something we have to achieve each day", which she attributed, I believe, to the Hopi Indians.

fifth and final speaker: Oren Lyons: The Roots of American Democracy: Native American Elder and Chief, Mr. Lyons spoke very plainly and directly.  He began, with what he characterised as the most important matter to be communicated today: "get together and vote this administration out of office and down the road."  Then told two stories.  First story was how the Natives on the East coast instructed our Nation's founders in the ways of democracy (you can get some details from this book - Forgotten Founders: How the American Indian Helped Shape Democracy, and then there is the story of the Peacemaker, which should be read in any case.).  He pointed out that we didn't quite get it right (too much politics), so he went on to explain how the Onondaga, and their partners (several other Nations) generated leaders.  How the female head of a clan would put forward a certain man, and then the whole clan would vote whether they agreed or not.  If not, she had to pick another.   If the man passed this vote, then the whole tribe would vote.  Same result - if didn't pass, she had to go back to the beginning.   If he passes at this level, then the whole collection of tribes gets to consider.  This is then "democracy", and a good way to pick leaders (chiefs).  After this second story, he told what he thought, from many conversations with others, about global warming.  Its like the dimmer switch, which you turn higher and higher, and then click, at the top, it goes off.  So we are going to get warmer and warmer, and then Nature will go click, and it will start to snow for a hundred years (new ice age), so everything can be healed.

So, there is the story of the Conference, which I hope has been helpful to any who have read this far.  Thanks for taking the trouble.

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