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Nov. 1 – 3 Bioneers Conference looks at environmental, social challenges

Wed, Nov 13, 2013

In building strong communities, it’s all connected. It’s inescapable. What we do to each other and to our planet, we ultimately do to ourselves. Building strong and resilient communities is about building just relationships within our families; our neighborhoods; our places of work; and at every level of human interaction, including our relationship with planet earth. We disregard and abuse those relationships at our peril.

A new Chicago group has taken this message to heart. Through the efforts of the Eco-Justice Collaborative and with the support and encouragement of the Pierce Family Foundation, Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago (GLBC) was born. An independent, self-organized member of the national Bioneers Network, GLBC hosted its first annual conference at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2012. This gathering took a holistic view of issues facing our city, understanding that the earth and its natural systems, cycles and patterns have much to tell us as we seek solutions to our greatest social, economic and environmental challenges. Using the legacy and principles of nature, international, national and local leaders, along with people from throughout the city, explored ways to address issues as diverse and dissimilar as resolving urban conflict; producing healthy food; building local economies; and conserving energy.

As Kenny Ausubel, co-founder of the National Bioneers network, has so eloquently stated:

“Nature’s principles — kinship, cooperation, diversity, symbiosis and cycles of continuous creation absent of waste— also serve as metaphoric guideposts for organizing an equitable, compassionate and democratic society.”

On November 1-3, Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago brings its second annual gathering to Roosevelt University in Chicago. Under the theme “Celebrating Community Resilience,” this year’s Bioneers’ event will bring together leading innovators from all walks of life to exchange ideas, build networks and inspire a shift to live on the Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations. “This will be a fun, action-oriented gathering for people of all ages and experience levels. We’ll hear from local and national experts about how to scale up proven methods that help us adapt to a changing planet and heal and restore damaged eco-systems” said Carolina Cifuentes, a member of the local Bioneers planning team.

Unlike any other event in this city, Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago has planned a three-day gathering that will offer opportunities for education, discussion, and action intermixed with music and celebration. The program will include a main stage with seven keynote speakers on topics ranging from hydraulic-fracturing for natural gas to saving honey bees to stopping violence in Chicago.

Professor David Orr, author and environmental visionary, leads off Friday as he discusses his work on the Oberlin Project, leading the way in campus and community sustainability. Friday also will offer six world cafe sessions on FOOD, WATER, WASTE, ENERGY, SHELTER and COMMUNITY RESILIENCE, each hosted by a keynote and Chicago-area environmental and social justice leaders. Friday night concludes with an informal reception and a presentation by ecologist, cancer survivor and activist Dr. Sandra Steingraber. Dr. Steingraber will talk about the new environmental movement in Illinois, begun last spring to stop industrial-scale hydro-fracking in Illinois.

Saturday and Sunday will roll out keynotes such as Albert Bates, visionary and co-founder of the Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology; author and human ecologist John Michael Greer; and gang-violence expert Ameena Matthews, subject of the film “The Interrupters.” Ameena will explain why stopping the violence in Chicago and cities nationwide is just as important to becoming resilient as solving its environmental challenges. A special visit by performance artist and activist “Reverend Billy” of the Church of Stop Shopping will continue the day, complementing over 30 workshops, interactive panel discussions and skill-shares on environmental and social topics. Performances by the all-women African drumming ensemble Sheboom, and Nathaniel Braddock and members of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band International will close out Saturday and Sunday’s lineup.

While the annual conference may seem like just another green event, the organizers see the Bioneers gathering as one part of a larger plan to open spaces and forums where Chicago’s visionaries and activists can come together. With enough support from local organizations and community activists, Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago officials say they hope to attract local organizations and community activists to the event, in order to lay the foundation for on-going collaboration among all Chicagoans who care about creating a healthy and sustainable city for themselves and future generations.

For more information and tickets to the November conference at Roosevelt University, go to www.bioneerschi cago.org.

By Prepared Materials
Great Lakes Bioneers

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