Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bioneers by the Bay

Creativity is all about putting things together and seeing what happens. The Egyptians invented soap by mixing animal fat and alkaline and noticing that the resulting substance cleaned things. Picasso stuck bicycle handlebars to a seat and made a bull's head. And the Marion Institute of Marion, MA does it each year by bringing together a wide variety of dedicated people who are determined to change the way the world works.

October 22-24 was the sixth annual Bioneers by the Bay, a gathering devoted to exploring ideas and action in the areas of health and healing, sustainability, green economics, environmental education, spirituality, and creative and equitable ways of living together on the planet. The event runs in conjunction with the original Bioneers, a large gathering that takes place at roughly the same in San Rafael, CA.

A few of this year's highlights at Bioneers by the Bay:

Diane Wilson, the Gulf Coast shrimper who decided to take on the oil industry that was polluting her homeland, gave a keynote speech that make everyone in the audience feel like they could triumph over injustice!

Steve Brown, Toni Saunders, and Cassandra Saunders, a white man, an Africa-American woman, and a young poet who has cerebral palsy presented a graphic, occasionally uncomfortable, and unforgettable workshop on how power and privilege affect our lives in many ways—most of them subtle and taken for granted.

Young people attended in large numbers, presenting programs, telling their stories, and sharing their visions. If you ever assumed that American youth think only about retreating behind their cyber screens, it's not so! They are planting organic gardens at their high schools, taking a long look at the future and their own parts in it, working to end coal-burning in their states, singing rap songs about justice and inclusivity, and fired with determination to take care of their world.

Antwi Akom, founder of the Wangari Maathai Center for Economic, Educational, and Enviornmental Designn, talked passionately about the need to revolutionize education in America, especially in the inner cities. He is heading numerous project to synthesize green jobs, climate change, and educational equity.

My own workshop on Radical Joy for Hard Times was held in New Bedford's Whaling Museum. We began with everyone in the group talking about some aspect of nature that they're worried about, and then launched into a discussion of how we deal with these difficult feelings of loss, guilt, and anger. I offered a meditation for coping with what often seems like overwhelming despair and discouragement. At the end, for our Act of Beauty, we formed a human snowflake under the giant whale skeletons suspended from the ceiling.

It is estimated that about two thousand people attended the gathering. What invariably happened was that when any two or more of them got together for a few minutes, ideas, partnerships, and possibilities quickly arose.