Monday, October 22, 2007

Bioneers boosts hope, fosters inclusion

This past three days I attended the 18th annual Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, CA. For the past 18 years Bioneers has been held there, at the Marin County Civic Center. I live about a 10 minute drive away. I've always considered myself to be at least 50% a counter-culture fellow, but I'd never gone to Bioneers. Without having investigated much, I'd considered it more of a new age festival than a practical, educational opportunity. (So maybe I've been less counter-culture than I've wanted to believe.)

I went this year because, as I changed my focus to climate change, my wife, Nancy, thought it would be a good for me to mix it up with more "environmental types." Little did I know.

No, I did not learn much about how we will adapt materially to changing climate. And no, I didn't make connections with people who might fund my work - at least not to my knowledge. But the 3-day experience was invaluable for the inspiration it brought, and the optimism it bred.

One of the greatest obstacles to adapting to any new environment is the attachment to the old environment. And in American consumer culture, much of that old environment is composed of the conveniences of the modern life that depend on the factors that are causing our climate to change. Look at our dependence on the petroleum-burning engine and the stubbornness with which so many of us cling to the freedom to drive gas guzzlers. Adapting to $10/gallon gasoline is going to be difficult and painful for most Americans.

There are countless other examples. And there are many solutions that can make that adaptation less extreme - more of a transition to other means of transportation, to other sources of food, to less harmful chemicals, to more ecological clothing. Bioneers was more about the hope for such futures than about tearing down the establishment. It was about creativity and care for human life in our approach to the future. It was definitely not a consumer-oriented program. But it included a mix of science, spirituality, compassionate activism, and community building.

I learned that in Climate Frog's presentation of future scenarios, where radical climate change is likely to force social transformation in countless localities, it will be much more effective to foster trust and mutual caring than to foment conflict by jamming change down people's throats. Taking the long view and planning well in advance, communities can come to agreements for mutual benefit and make sure that all residents are included in the decision making. Adaptation must be an inclusive process.

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