At the end of Day 3 of the 2017 Bioneers Conference, we’re tapping into our emotions. As so many of our amazing speakers throughout the weekend reminded us, what we feel is as important as what we know, and our hearts deserve equal footing with our minds. We’ve found ourselves emotionally supported but also emotionally challenged each day that we’ve joined you, Bioneers. We’ve asked ourselves whether we’re doing enough, we’ve felt our hearts swell with happiness hearing about the successes and efforts of those around us, and we’ve realized that there is so much pain but also so much love on this little planet of ours. We’re ready to dig deep.
Here are some of our favorite moments from Day 3.
Morning Session — Keynotes
Bioneers co-founder Nina Simons opened today’s keynote sessions by reminding us that hard times are upon us, but it is often when we, as humans, are grief-stricken or scared that we seem to be most likely to reach out to each other. She relayed valuable lessons that she’s learned throughout her career, including the necessity of trusting herself, her body, and the “council of Ninas” within her. Being emotional is often considered a weakness, said Simons, but she’s found it to increasingly be a strength.
We found Simons’ reference to emotions especially apt as Kandi Mossett took the stage and delivered a deeply emotional, powerful keynote. Mossett, Native Energy and Climate Campaign Organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, is from North Dakota. Her people have been severely affected by oil greed, resulting in unsafe drinking water, reckless population increase without appropriate infrastructure, the introduction of drugs without care plans, and racism. Still, they’ve fought for their land — and it’s often proven to be a losing battle. Mossett told us that we may know about some of fights of Indigenous Peoples, such as the protest of the Keystone XL Pipeline, but there are so many other issues most of us aren’t aware of. It is the responsibility of all of us to learn, to listen, and to act. (Watch a clip of Kandi Mossett’s keynote here.)
“If you don’t think we’re at war then you are sadly mistaken, because we are on the front lines.” Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Enviromental Network speaking on what her people are facing in fighting to protect there water and people from the impact of the extraction industries. #Bioneers2017 #StandingRock
Mariel Nanasi, executive director of nonprofit New Energy Economy, is an exciting example of what happens when people with potential listen and then act. In her keynote address, she mentioned that it was at a Bioneers conference a handful of years ago that she decided she wanted to make a difference — to one day speak on the Bioneers stage. Nanasi lives in New Mexico and was determined to convert as many of her local spaces as possible from fossil-fuel energy to renewables. When she began working toward that goal, just 1 percent of New Mexico’s energy was derived from solar. Through sheer determination, and a reliance upon her community, she’s been able to help many spaces to switch to solar, even as policymakers periodically stood in her way. (Mariel Nenasi broke some exciting news later in the day.)
john a powell spoke to us about the power of “othering”: what happens when society classifies a person or people as different from them — the “norm.” powell suggested that othering has been happening throughout history on an interpersonal and small group level. Today, however, it’s happening on extremely high levels, coming from our institutions and even our president. In order to bring us together, many people attempt something powell calls “sameing,” which is an attempt to ignore our differences and pretend we are all identical. But “the opposite of othering is not sameing,” said powell, “it’s belonging.” He warned us against defining ourselves in opposition to others. Instead, we need to bridge. “We bridge by deeply listening. Listening to the suffering of others, by organizing, with love.”
John Wick, Calla Rose Ostrander, and Judy Holmes gave us hope by showing us that damaged, threatened lands can be brought back from the brink, and that humans can organize to save sacred spaces if we put power behind our ideas.
We were so grateful for the energy and beauty brought to the stage by young activist artists Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Isa Roske and a closing performance by Oakland’s Thrive Choir.
After lunch, a panel about channeling the landscape of power with Thomas Van Dyck (keynote speaker on day 2) and Mariel Nanasi (keynote speaker today) convinced us to take large-scale change into our own hands. “When you are the most uncomfortable, that is the exact point you need to be using the skills you have,” said Van Dyck. “You need to speak truth to power. And it’s uncomfortable. You need to overcome that fear. You need to make them uncomfortable. You need to hold power accountable.”
A workshop on revolutionizing education with trainers and educators — Kate Lipkis, Laura Weaver, and Scott VanLoo — taught us more about how to bring students together. We took part in exercises that made us feel like an engaged, important part of the group.
The youth leadership open mic was bright and empowering, and we looked up to the ways in which young people were willing to use their voices to inspire others.
We looked forward all day to the late-afternoon special indigeneity performance: “The Story of Everything” by Hawaii’s Poet Laureate, Kealoha. This was the west-coast debut of an epic poem that weaves its way through history, mixing music, visual artistry, and poetry. It was truly a breathtaking experience that we hope many others get to enjoy in the future.
We’re so grateful to all who joined us this weekend for your energy, your thoughtfulness, and your willingness to learn. May we step into tomorrow with renewed vigor to join hands with our brothers and sisters and create a future we can be proud of.