A Bioneer is a pioneer for the environment, one who celebrates, honors, and collaborates with the connected web of life that we are part of. The term was coined by the founders of a popular annual conference called Bioneers that takes place each fall in the Bay Area. This year the event commemorated 30 years of inspiring people from all walks of life, and building bridges between solution-creators, culture keepers, artists, scientists, and policy-makers. In addition to a short recap/overview of some of my favorite highlights, we will look at how the movement is evolving and building up momentum beyond just a yearly local gathering.

The sheer diversity and number of brilliant presenters makes it impossible to honor them all in a short blog but hopefully you will be encouraged to take a deeper dive by browsing the Bioneers Website after reading this. It is fair to say that Bioneers is an open community, where friendships are the foundation of partnerships and collaborations. It is a cross-generational, cross-cultural, gender-balanced marketplace of ideas and creativity that needs to be shared and experienced by everyone. That’s why the call to deliver this inspiration via social channels, media, and word-of-mouth is so important!

Women put Heart at the Center of the Movement
Eve Ensler is Tony Award-winning playwright, performer. She is a renowned activists on behalf of women’s rights who is most widely known as the creator of The Vagina Monologues, which has been performed all over the globe. Women’s issues are closely tied to environmental issues and indigenous issues as they are expressions of colonial domination culture. Myself and Eve both wrote on this important issue in the build up to the One Billion Rising Movement in 2013. Mine was on Huffington Post while Eve blew the door open in her Guardian Piece. This is one example of the ways collaborations fused with social media can create far-reaching ripples and bring movements together in solidarity!

Native Youth Mural at Indigenous Forum


…the raping of the Earth through ecological destruction by the corporate powerful, pillaging resources for their own coffers with no concern for the Earth, or the indigenous peoples, or the notion of reciprocity; the rape of the poor through exploitation, land grabs, neglect; the rape of women’s bodies through physical violence and commodification, where a girl can be purchased for less than the cost of a mobile phone.

-Eve Ensler, The Guardian

Now seven years later and Eve is speaking at Bioneers about her own personal traumas and journey of healing. The centerpiece of her keynote this year was about the power of apology which is the theme of her newest book. Nearly everyone in the auditorium was moved to tears as she detailed her story of writing herself an apology from the perspective of the man who raped her. 

HATCH Director of Development, Jared Silverman (right), and myself in front of
Attitudinal Healing Connection Youth Artmobile at Bioneers

She conveyed the deep healing and freedom that happens in such a painful process as it liberates both the victim and the perpetrator. She then masterfully went on to relate this process to the process of healing the wounds of colonialism, patriarchy, environmental devastation, and the trauma endured by our indigenous relatives throughout history. It was literally one of the most profound talks I have ever witnessed and the weekend was full of this caliber presentation.


It can no longer be about anger, it has to be about healing.

-Terry Tempest Williams, Bioneers Keynote Presentation


Valarie Kaur, a seasoned civil rights activist, award-winning filmmaker, lawyer, faith leader, and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project, focused her keynote on the personal experience of giving birth. When someone with her collection of accolades, struggles, and successes tells you that birth was the most significant experience of her life, it really sinks in. She has spent her life championing love as a public ethic and wellspring for social action. Her talk culminated by connecting it to the current global crises we face in one succinct question:


What if the darkness in our country/world is NOT the darkness of a tomb, but the darkness of a womb?

-Valarie Kaur, Bioneers Keynote Presentation

The Birth of a New Paradigm
As Valarie pointed out, in birth the feeling of dying always precedes new life. The world is in turmoil and many fear the future but the Bioneers community is flowing over with solutions, love, and inspiration. Though Bioneers has been going for 30 years it still feels like the very beginning of this, soon to be, global movement!


We are straddling the old world — the civilization that’s dying — and the one that we’re all midwifing toward a healthy, regenerative and diversified birth. Sometimes it can feel awkward and scary, but it’s also a super exciting place to be.That’s what Bioneers is all about, for me — making the new world that’s being born visible and palpable, in all its glorious pluralism, in community.

-Nina Simons, Co-Founder of Bioneers

Nina Simons, Bioneers Co-Founder, talked about the importance of bringing the ethos of Bioneers to a wider audience through the use of social media. I applaud this idea and have been enjoying listening to their award-winning podcasts recently. The timing is ripe because we are seeing the emergence of sophisticated online campaigns sprouting up everywhere.

Getting Social
One such campaign is Amazon Uprising which focuses on celebration, consumer education (how investments and supply chains enable ecological destruction), while targeting the banks who fund the destruction of the rainforests. We also have amazing organizations like Tree Sisters who have built a sizeable online community by producing compelling media to raise funds to hire women to plant trees in developing nations. Let’s all make an effort to support the Bioneers Facebook Page and share some of their valuable content in our own networks as this is an important way to grow the movement!


Hope is a verb with its’ sleeves rolled up.

-David Orr
Paul Hawken Keynote Presentation

Climate Change, a Solutions-Based Approach
Paul Hawken is completely shifting the narrative around Climate Change and it is absolutely refreshing! His recent book, Project Drawdown, lists 100 simple solutions that empower individuals to make the changes that will help us avert a climate catastrophe. I had the pleasure of helping Pachamama Alliance launch a wonderful free online course about reversing global warming based on Paul’s work. During his keynote presentation he showed the futility of “stabilizing greenhouse gasses” as many have suggested and instead reminded us that we must and will drawdown greenhouse gasses thus reversing global warming.

He spoke about how the language we have been using in the climate movement is bound to and entwined with war, inequality, and colonialism. We don’t need to battle climate change, conquer global warming, or tackle environmental issues. We need to listen to the feedback that is coming from this extraordinary system of life that we are part of and we need to respond… with love! 

Change Begins Within
The climate movement is filled with passionate people who love our planet, but unfortunately for those outside the movement we often come across as evangelical, hysterical, and pushy. This is not always the way to win friends or be received with an open mind. Hawken dispels this approach by reminding his audience that we are not here to change other people, we need to change ourselves. Fear and hysteria are the opposite of what we need because they close our minds and we will need the full power of creativity to navigate the years ahead.


Problems need to be discussed in the context of solutions.

-Paul Hawken

A Planetary Evolution, not a Revolution
I already feel remorse at the endless list of brilliant presenters that I haven’t been able to include in this brief recap of Bioneers. The art, the children, the indigenous leaders, the music, the independent films, the after-party, and the gentle breeze that blew across the lake while we sat on the grass eating lunch each day were divine beyond words. Please take some time to participate in this movement by utilizing your social networks to spread the word, by engaging in meaningful conversations, and actions to make a better world for all of us.


We need to institute legally enforceable rights for nature. Clearly intelligence is pervasive throughout nature.

-Kenny Ausubel, Bioneers Co-Founder

Bioneers may be 30 years in the making but this is only the very beginning. A new dawn is upon us yet there is much work to be done. May that work be filled with the humility to apologize for our mistakes, a compassion for those who are yet to wake up, and a love for eachother. Let our lives be an expression of gratitude for this beautiful planet that we are fortunate to share!

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About Author

Jacob blogs for Huffington Post and others in addition to Culture Collective. He specializes in social media, and cross-platform (or trans-media) content and campaigns. Meditation, playing piano, exploring nature, seeing live music, and going to Hopi Dances are some of his passions. As a co-founder of unify.org, Jacob lives for community and believes that we are all interconnected with our own special gift to offer the world.

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