First-ever Bioneers in Durango conference launches
| Kate Grace MacElveen and Will
Hays, seen here at the Durango Mountain Park, will be hosting
the firstever Bioneers in Durango conference, along with the
FLC Environmental Center, on April 2-3 at the Smiley Building.
The event will feature workshops, lectures, films and other
activities centered on finding solutions to social and environmental
problems./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
Will Hays counts his attendance at the annual Bioneers conference
in San Francisco as one of the most inspiring and thought-provoking
experiences he’s ever had. He first attended the global
gathering of “biological pioneers” in 1999 and saw
firsthand efforts to create practical but visionary solutions
to the globe’s social and environmental problems. Hays and
his partner, Kate Grace MacElveen, hope to bring some of that
same inspiration to Durango next week. On April 2 & 3, the
pair with the help of the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center
will host the first Bioneers in Durango, a combination of workshops,
films, presentations, information booths, food and more.
was founded in 1990 by Kenny Ausubel with a mission of encouraging
environmental restoration and traditional farming practices and
rescuing biological and cultural diversity. Since that time, Bioneers
has developed a strong social justice component as well as an
international reputation. “It clearly started as an environmentalist
oriented organization focused on healing the planet,” Hays
said. “Along the way, they figured out that social ills
are a big part of that problem. You can’t heal the planet
when extreme poverty and injustice are widespread.”
And while talk of the ills associated with growth dominate much
of Durango’s conservation scene, don’t expect to hear
about them at next week’s Bioneers in Durango. Hays stressed
that the greater conference and its local offshoot are positive
and solution oriented. “There’s quite a bit of awareness
about the problems,” Hays said. “There are also solutions
out there, and we know how to fix a lot of the problems. We don’t
necessarily need more science. We need action.”
At the core of Bioneers in Durango is the fact that there are
numerous “biological pioneers” currently doing good
work in the local community, according to MacElveen. In this spirit,
MacElveen and Hays are taking nominations for local Bioneers who
will be recognized at the conference.
“This is a regional opportunity to network Bioneers and
spread the message so that the local community can understand
the efforts at sustainability being made by their friends and
neighbors and to share information,” she said.
Hays talked about sustainability, saying: “First you have
to talk about restoration because we’re behind the curve.
The other component is creating systems and choices and ways of
living that go into the sustainable realm.”
As for the often-used term “sustainable,” Hays explained:
“It creates a situation where all needs are met in the present
and the condition for meeting those needs in the future are all
addressed. It also hinges on the premise that I can’t meet
my need unless you’re meeting your need.”
MacElveen added that the major direction of Bioneers in Durango
is that this equation is being satsified on numerous fronts locally
and that knowledge should empower the community. “People
will understand that it’s possible,” she said.
As evidence, MacElveen pointed to a growing, local sustainable
agriculture movement, increasing numbers of alternative fuel-sources
for buildings and automobiles, growth in natural building techniques,
and the viability of nontraditional justice and sustainable business
practices as well as other examples.
“We want to say this is where we live and this is happening
here,” she said.
And while the event may seem to have a green bent, Hays stressed
that there should be something of value to everyone in the community.
“We want anyone and everyone to come,” he said. “This
is not exclusive or just one political viewpoint. There will be
ideas that should be helpful to everybody in the community.”
At the heart of the Bioneers in Durango will be the screening
of actual Bioneers conference presentations. They range from California
Redwood activist Julia Butterfly Hill discussing “Direct
Action on Behalf of the Earth” to activist and writer Maude
Barlow speaking on protecting and conserving water. Other topics
include genetic engineering, ecological design and the value of
social justice to environmental protection.
“All of the presentations are relevant to Durango,”
said Michael Rendon, FLC Environmental Center director. “Although
they’re people talking on general subjects, we’re
all dealing with the same issues.”
Off the screen, local Bioneers will lead workshops and discussions
on a variety of social and environmental justice issues. Currently
slated are discussions on wild food, permaculture, sustainable
design and efforts to help sustainable growers become a viable
part of the local economy.
“The idea is to have some fun with it,” Hays said.
“It’s not all a downer. We want to connect these people
with the community. One of Bioneers’ major thrusts right
now is networking and providing avenues for people to connect.”
Hays added that anyone attending the conference should walk away
equipped with new tools for handling life in La Plata County and
the world at large. “There’s inspiration, and there
are practical ideas,” he said. “Personally, I want
to be inspired, and I want to know what to do with that inspiration.”
And Bioneers in Durango is already shaping up to be a success.
“What has been really thrilling to me is to feel the community
support with which this event has already been met,” MacElveen
concluded. “As soon as people hear about it, they’re
very excited and immediately want to be a part of it.”
Bioneers in Durango will take place at the Smiley Building on
the evening of April 2 and all day April 3. A complete schedule
of events will be published in next week’s Durango Telegraph.
KDUR also will air the Bioneers Radio Series at 5 p.m. on Friday,
March 26, and Friday, April 2. KDUR can be found on the FM dial
at 91.9 or 93.9. For more information or to volunteer for Bioneers
in Durango, call 375-1170.