The following Bioneers 2016 Highlights offer glimpses of what I captured, including brief perspective through my lens. Access the full breadth of Bioneers 2016 and more year-round at Bioneers Radio and official Bioneers Highlights - Recharged and Reconnected at bioneers.org.
My own agenda during Bioneers 2016 was directed as much by my passion for interspecies and intraspecies peacemaking as by trauma and to receive support for my healing. Thankfully, Bioneers conference serves this personal agenda with understanding that one's personal health status reflects and contributes to the community's health status.
Art has been called the bridge between existing culture and the culture evolving. This because the arts allow a window, absent of judgment, to the darkest and lightest aspects of the collective psyche. Performance pieces that invite audience participation, as with works of Eve Ensler and Afia Walking Tree, and documentary films like ʻĀINA: That Which Feeds Us' equally invite the observer to question everything. And questions beg answers.
The arts presence at Bioneers Conference includes documentary films, poetry, music, sculpture, and painting, through to expressions more clearly considered for healing purposes, such as council circle, yoga asana practice, and grief ritual.
Bioneers 2016 on stage performances included Eve Ensler's new piece Coconut: A Mystical Journey into a Woman's Body and Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman's (Climbing PoeTree) poetry. And Deb Lane and Afia Walking Tree opened each day with drumming.
Outside and throughout the event, Toni Mikulka shared her Giant Puppets, including Kirtland's Warbler (below) and Day Schildkret shared his Morning Altars (above). And Louis Masai, renowned British artist and eco/social activist brought his cross-country painting tour, The Art of Beeing, for hands-on workshop highlighting the importance of all bees.
Bioneers 2016 kicked off with a free screening of Before the Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio's latest effort to communicate that global climate change and mass species extinction are real, really related to human activity, and that now is the time to act. The film is the product of a three-year exploration on Leonardo's part. If you missed the global broadcast at National Geographic, please see the screening schedule a Before the Flood.
At 36:05 Leonardo says "We have to practice what we preach". For this, Leonardo has received judgment given his chosen lifestyle, one applauded and aspired to by those raised in the "American Dream". Leonardo is a shining example of one who lives the peak of this Dream while no doubt desperately wanting the associated nightmare to end. Leonardo's lifestyle includes extensive air travel, which is known to be a costly and excessive use of fossil fuels and materials. I've devoted a separate post to this matter of lifestyle choice with specific attention to air travel since this behavior is cause for tension among community advocates and I've flown more in 2016 than in the decade before that I may carry on with my creative practice and spend time with my son. My 2016 air travel from Montana to California included the quick round trip to attend Bioneers Conference. See 'Before the Flood - Slow Down'
The nightmare of the American Dream, whether seen through a narrow focus on human suffering or expanded focus on the whole community, is inseparable from the Dream itself. Neither personal nor planetary peace will be realized until there exists visible respect for everyone's sovereignty and fundamental rights and responsibilities of existence.
intersectionality and peacemaking
"How can we care if we don’t grieve?"
- Jeremy Hance, Frog goes extinct, media yawns / The Guardian
Bioneers Conference 2016 was woven with intersectional justice and peacemaking dialogue, as is in keeping with the nature of the organization and its visionaries, Nina Simons and Kenny Ausubel. These dialogues included a presentation by Ericka Huggins', former Black Panther and political prisoner, on The Role of Spiritual Practice in Social Work, and a panel hosted by Jessica Sweidan (co-founder Synchronicity Earth) on Making Peace with Earth by Protecting Biodiversity (pictured at top) with Mark Plotkin (Amazon Conservation Team), Kate Horner (International Rivers), Chris LaFranchi (One Reef), and Robin Moore (author of In Search of Lost Frogs).
A compassionate standard of Bioneers Conference is audience participation in recognition of the weight carried by those in service to community within a system that encourages competition among individuals rather than collaboration in the interest of communal thriving. Ericka Huggin's presentation included guided meditation, which served to calm and center the mind otherwise at risk of being overwhelmed to the point of shutdown in response to absolute tragedies like the murders recorded at #SayHerName. Ericka is among those who exude a centered, whole compassion so helpful and challenging to maintain when one is constantly thrown off-center by the murder of women and children. Pray mercy for human hands robbed of their innocence by guns manufactured to be faster than humans can heal.
Of all the peacemaking practices offered during the biodiversity panel, I was thankful to hear Robin Moore note the greater impact of sharing individual life stories versus the sharing of numbers lost and surviving. Longing of such intimacy inspires the poetry I write and guides me to emphasize the strangeness of determining an appropriate response to loss based on numbers. Robin's point, exemplified in the overwhelming response to Cecil the lion's killing, is sadly unnoticeable in the telling of Toughie's, the last of Rabbs' fringed-limbed treefrogs, death.
I look today at pictures of Toughie, his proportionately huge eyes, and weep. I grew up with living frogs, not just a muppet, who plays banjo and sings about rainbows. I recall, as a child, holding toads and frogs in my hands. In the late 1970's, toads and frogs were not hard to find and rather quite easy to catch.
If I have any recommendation to possibly improve upon the breadth and depth of what Bioneers Conference offers, it is to fully weave sovereignty and grief dialogue into interspecies and intersectional justice and peacemaking dialogue. I was viscerally disturbed by James Nestor's presentation 'Making Contact: New Approaches to Cracking the Communication of Whales and Dolphins'. James is author of author of Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean tells Us about Ourselves,
James described how a diver, attempting to record whale language, suffered paralysis for many hours after being prodded by a babe. The general assumption, I gathered, is that a whale coming close to divers and recording devices signals the whale's interest in communicating through this means of exchange, with no consideration that the whale may be offended and bothered, even hurt, by the presence of the observers and the technology. If I were to attempt contact with an individual and suffered paralysis during the exchange, I would receive this as a signal to stay away or determine another way to be in touch. Hubris is to think it is my place to understand what whales are communicating with one another. Ignorance of human telepathic sense is my assumption that I need technology to understand what whales may be interested in communicating with me.
Two male presenters at Bioneers, Will Keepin and Ilarion Merculieff, spoke of the need to integrate the feminine and masculine aspects within individuals and society at large. Both emphasized the ultimate failure and hazards of present-day technologies and social norms. When the feminine aspect is fully integrated, individuals are sensitized to hazards and will refuse, as much as is possible, to participate in that which is unnecessarily expensive for, and thus harmful to, individuals as the collective. Integrating the grief response within dialogue on peaceful co-existence with other species is critical for ending violent response to conflict.
pure genius: collaboration and synchronicity
"Earth is (already) great."
- a joint message from Biomimicry Institute and Biomimicry 3.8
Another among the keynotes at Bioneers 2016 was Janine Benyus' update on Biomimicry. I am in love with Janine Benyus' brilliant vision and outlook, and the genius she and her team bring through at Biomimicry Institute and Biomimicry 3.8. Please spend time exploring and engaging as you will with this promising work.
Bioneers Conference is like stepping into the kitchen of synchronicity that is a touch harder to recognize in the grand room. Among the synchronicity this year for me was meeting up with Jennifer Leigh Smith of Community Carbon Trees - Costa Rica.
Jennifer spoke of her work with women planting trees in Costa Rica, emphasizing the importance of paying these women reasonably for their labor. Through ensuring living wage for the women in her community, Jennifer has seen mothers go from appearing diminished to appearing sure of themselves and their worth. Planting trees, if they are to grow to maturity and thrive in community, is about much more than the number of trees planted in a year. As much as ever, trees are vulnerable to human needs and desires. For trees to remain standing, humans need to be standing strong and sure in community. Regenerating forest is about regenerating community and humans regenerate community by supporting one another through thick and thin.
This is a very thin time for most that may grow much thinner before we collectively reap the rewards of Biomimicry and other regenerative, life-affirming works. The bloodletting of communities must stop and will stop as losses are fully grieved and wounds, long endured by the disenfranchised parts of ourselves, healed so to remove the walls dividing.