In her talk at Bioneers 2016, Biomimicry Institute co-founder Janine Benyus shared a headline she’d seen in the news, titled “Biomimicry: Hippie nonsense or corporate game-changer?” Her response: “I like to think it’s a hippie game-changer for corporate nonsense.”
Biomimicry is just one example of an approach to innovation that is receiving global attention. It seeks to create sustainable, equitable systems like those that surround us in our environment. This use of nature as guidelines for how to structure society can transform the world as we know it for the better. And as Janine explains, this is not hippie theory; we are seeing this epic shift take hold in mainstream paradigms.
Last week, a team of stokers attended the annual Bioneers Conference in Marin just north of our SF office. Of the myriad conferences available for industry professionals to attend, this one is a shining beacon and not to be missed.
If you seek to be inspired, if you need to recharge, reaffirm, and reignite those fires that first prompted you to be a part of an equitable and environmentally conscientious movement, Bioneers is where you need to be.
Why we go
We go to the Bioneers Conference to be reminded of our common humanity; to experience the people and actions at the heart of the social equity and climate justice movements, and to understand that all of the good work being done by so many across the globe is invisibly woven together by strong, unbreakable, interconnected roots that only continue to strengthen.
We go to be reminded of the power of creativity and art to communicate and inspire. It is easy to question whether they really make a difference in addressing the most pertinent problems that our world is faced with today. Not only do they make a difference, but they are absolutely fundamental as they inspire solutions and pave the way toward actualizing those solutions.
In a word, we go to Bioneers for perspective. Our professions are often siloed, making it too easy to forget our common goal and our place in the Earth community. Bioneers provides a look through all of the lenses you need to regain a greater perspective of what exactly we fight for every day. The understanding of the connection between all of our seemingly isolated efforts is crucial to our sense of purpose and the impact of our work.
(A very small sampling of) What we learned
Exceeding our expectations, the schedule boasted some of the most informed, influential, and unorthodox leaders across the globe. But even more compelling were the guests on the roster that we didn’t know; the unassuming, unfamiliar names just waiting to deliver a walloping dose of electric verbal shock when their time came to take the Bioneers stage. Each speaker offered a new perspective on the shift toward human-nature harmony and connectivity, demonstrating it over and over again throughout the conference. A few of the countless inspiring talks included:
- Heavy hitters Janine Benyus and Bill McKibben delivered outstanding perspectives on their respective specializations: “The Ultimate Symbiosis: Biomimicry as a Cooperative Inquiry” and “What Winning the Climate Change Battle Looks Like.” Few individuals have the verbal dexterity and acumen to speak on complex topics with more earnestness, sincerity, and finesse, while simultaneously incentivizing you to join their cause.
- Bren Smith, a commercial fisherman turned sustainable ocean farmer and founder of GreenWave, a revolutionary restorative 3D ocean farming model, demonstrated how we can feed the world using a network of zero-input 3D ocean farms totaling the size of Washington state. His desire is to transform “fishers” into restorative ocean farmers and build the foundation for a new food system. Bren illustrates a perfect example of how to transform a destructive trade into a sustainable—and even regenerative—industry, with benefit for all involved.
- Environmental justice pioneers Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil spoke about their organization, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), that works with communities around the world facing fracking, pipelines, factory farms, and other threats. They are empowering communities by working against the notion of “nature as property” and corporate privilege. While discussing the current legal system, Mari made the riveting statement that “the system is not broken, rather it is working perfectly.” Thomas and Mari urge us to put pressure on the current legal system to birth an entirely new system of environmental protection.
- Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a 16-year-old Indigenous rapper and activist with Earth Guardians, left the audience slack-jawed after delivering a fiery and at times almost improvised speech dotted with off-the-cuff anecdotes of his young perspective regarding the legacy of pollution we are bequeathing to his generation. The humbling talk from the teenager was as spontaneously heart-warming as it was heart-wrenching. The announcement that Xiuhtezcatl has been invited to join the Bioneers Board in 2017 was particularly impressive.
- Danny Kennedy energized attendees with a positive outlook on renewable energy, illustrating how by 2040, $4.6 trillion more will be invested in renewable power generation over fossil fuels and nuclear. Along with inspiring stories of countries committed to renewable energy, Danny shared that solar jobs have grown 123% in the past five years, showcasing the remarkable job market via clean and renewable power.
- Kian Martin, an Iranian-American non-binary trans femme was unequivocally the most unsuspecting, surprising, and inspirational guest speaker we had the privilege to hear. In what was probably the shortest time slot in the Bioneers roster, Kian packed a condensed, one-two punch of climate activism and social justice straight in our faces. Kian represents those defining moments we all experience in our lives; those singular events that solidify our intentions and steer us towards what’s next. We’re grateful to them for providing that.
And that’s only a quick look at six of the talks from the action-packed three-day conference. This begs the question, how many more are deserving of that stage and a platform from which to rally us into action? We’ll surely see them next year at Bioneers 2017.
What you can do
If you want to join this community of innovators, scientists, change-makers, artists, and activists, mark your calendar for Oct. 20-22 next year for Bioneers 2017. And if you have just a little time to spare, here are 5 things you can do right now to get familiar with this movement:
- Read Co-founder and CEO of Bioneers Kenny Ausubel’s opening remarks from Bioneers 2016.
- Sign this petition to call on the Army Corps of Engineers to block the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- Watch Bren Smith’s TEDx Talk on how his restorative 3D ocean farming model reimagines the fisherman and the American diet.
- Learn about the One Billion Rising Movement, the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history.
- Stay connected with the Bioneers radio series.
Never underestimate the power of one activist, one artist, one innovator, or one warrior of the earth. Each being has the potential to make meaningful change. Working together, there’s no telling what we can accomplish. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
This post was collectively written by some of stok’s Bioneers 2016 attendees: Anjanette Green, Kristen Magnuson, Nicolette Sanfilippo, and Lindsey Flanagan. Together they represent members from stok’s Performance Design and Certifications & Branding teams.