This past weekend we had the opportunity to attend the Bioneers conference in San Rafael. This conference brings together professionals who are involved in social, cultural, and environmental change, to inspire others and share the good work they have been doing.
The weekend started out with JU4FJ (Just Us 4 Food Justice). This day brought together youth food justice groups to talk about the work they are doing and learn about new techniques to share their work, from spoken word poetry to Participatory Action Research Projects.
Next the three-day Bioneers conference kicked off. It included many inspiring talks from past Brower Youth Award winners, environmental, sustainability and social justice leaders, as well as performances from poets and musicians. There were workshops on a variety of issues, to expose people to new ideas and help them reconnect with the earth. During this conference FtG had the opportunity to interview several of the presenters to gain deeper insight into projects they are working on.
After a whirlwind weekend of brain packing we had a few “decompression days”. We visited the ocean, the redwoods and the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco. Following that we attended the Brower Youth Awards where we met the recipients and learned about their award-winning projects.
Andres This past week the Finding the Good Traveling Semester attended the Bioneers conference. Bioneers is a three-day gathering where environmental educators and professionals come from all over the world to give conferences and workshops.
Before the conference there was a workshop called Just Us 4 Food Justice, that works with youth to show them the importance of organically grown food, and to raise awareness of food injustice around the world. People that work hard to help people that don’t have the opportunity to have nutritious food. It also inspired me to see many youth that care about food justice.
Bioneers lasted three days. It started early in the morning in the main theater, with great speakers that spoke about social justice and environmental problems as well as solutions. All had done awesome things, mostly for the environment. In the afternoon there were several workshops. The workshops I chose were about Native American culture and environmental issues. But what I liked the most was interviewing some of the speakers, like Darren Doherty. Darren is working in the regrarian movement rebuilding depleted soil ecosystems all over the world. There is something different about hearing someone speak at a conference and having a conversation with him. It was the most inspiring experience to have him give me advice and tell me about his life. He spoke about how he wasn’t very good in school and failed some grades when he was a teenager. He is a very smart guy and has accomplished great things in his life, so this makes me realize that since school can be challenging for me it doesn’t mean that I’m not smart. Instead of feeling like giving up, it gives me inspiration to keep going.
After Bioneers we had a “decompression” day to relax, journal, and meditate in a beautiful redwood forest, and at the beach. The next day we spent the day in San Francisco at The Academy of Sciences which is a hands-on museum. We learned about physics, biology and the history of California. We had dinner in Chinatown, and in the evening we attended the Brower Youth Awards, an award for youth that are doing projects that help the environment.
This past week definitely changed my life in some way. I heard very good presentations, workshops, and met great people. But what I think changed my life the most was the overall experience. It has opened my eyes to a whole other world of opportunities. Before I thought that there was only one thing I was to do when I finished high school, and that was to go to college and study engineering or something like that, that I didn’t want to do. Now there are so many things I want to do like travel and work on environmental solutions. I even feel the desire to go to college, because I have seen so many colleges and careers that interest me, and I have the opportunity to do all of these things.
I feel extremely privileged to have all these opportunities. I don’t want to feel bad that I can do these things and others can’t, but I want to recognize the privilege, not waste it, and do something good with it.
At Bioneers I learned not what is wrong with the world; I am already well aware of that. I learned about solutions and what I can do to help. When people ask me, “What is an event that has shaped the person you are?” I will finally have an answer. Thanks to Bioneers I am now more certain of what I want to do. However, until I do those things I am floating in the void between the ‘me’ I had cast many thoughts ago and the ‘me’ I am still in the process of molding. Being at Bioneers shifted me from that old mold into a place of creation, which is exciting but also terrifying.
Last summer I took a service trip with Global Student Embassy to Nicaragua. I worked with the people who live there, who do not have access to their own seeds, building gardens. Subsequently, part of my new-self creation has revolved around my desire for food justice.
Then, at Bioneers I got the chance to interview Maya Salsedo, a passionate youth leader. Through her work with Food What she was awarded the Brower Youth Award. She is now the youth coordinator for Rooted in Community (RIC), a national grassroots network that empowers young people to take leadership in their own communities. Maya has the unique and powerful position of being both a youth and a mentor to many, including me.
I have lived a privileged life. As I enter communities of those who have lived in poverty without the right to healthy food or even the right to save their own seeds, that privilege has turned to guilt. Because I felt comfortable around Maya I was able to ask the question I felt nervous even asking myself: in a world were the majority of environmental youth organizations focus on helping underserved youth and youth of color, where do I, as a white middle class female, fit in? Her response answered so many more questions I didn’t even know I had. She allowed me to realize that privilege is the freedom to do all you can to make a difference without worrying where you get your next meal. We talked for a bit after the interview and she said that she appreciated the questions I asked her because they made her think more deeply about these issues.
My talk with Maya mixed with the inspirational environment at Bioneers forced me to think again about questions I had previously mulled over then abandoned. The most prominent is what is my role in our world? I arrived at several different conclusions.
The world with all its environmental issues, social injustice and corruption is here to shape me. Underneath the layers of pollution and devastated soils the earth is telling me and anyone else who will listen what it needs to survive. Some of us are told to educate underserved youth, start political campaigns, fight for food justice, or create alternative ways of living. I am not sure what the earth is telling me to do quite yet but something became quite clear to me at Bioneers. I think what the earth is telling all of its listeners is that its time to join everything together; all the movements, all the people and all the solutions. I could have easily misunderstood Mother Earth through the layers of chemicals and co2 but until I get better reception or a different message comes through I hope this is what I can call one of my “conclusions.” Without my interaction with Maya I think the flood of emotion and realizations would have remained unexamined. I wish I had gotten the chance to tell her how much my talk with her shaped the person I am and the person I want to be.
Letter to my dad and mom
This last week I attended the Bioneers Conference near San Francisco and I wanted to tell you that it is an eye opening experience. It was amazing and at the same time it was sad, because I can see that humans don’t care about the environment except
how it can make them money. At this conference I met many people that do care about making this a cleaner planet, and this was something that was mind-blowing for me because they are not solely interested in making profit, they are making projects to help the world.
An architect from Canada, Jason McLennan, gave a talk about living buildings. Living buildings don’t need an outside source for water or electricity, instead they create their own electricity with solar panels and they capture water from rainfall. This was something that really inspired me and I found it astonishing how much can you help the environment and at the same time make an incredible project.
I want to invite you to come and see this for yourself and realize that there are a lot of ways we can help this world. It starts in our house, in our way of living. Mom and Dad, I know you like this world so why not try to make it better for the next generation?