2021 Talks

Bioneers 2021 Conference Media Hub

In our 32nd annual conference, Bioneers showcased the connections from ancient wisdom of forests to the visionary struggles of Amazonian First Peoples to protect the rainforest – from the wisdom of trauma for healing to Ecological Medicine and health equity – from the genius of the biophilic design revolution to designing nature-based infrastructures  – from the Green New Deal to regenerative agriculture and the power of soil to sequester carbon – from multicultural healing, eco-feminism and a culture of pluralism to the dismantling of corporate power. 

Please enjoy and share this collection of media from the 2021 Bioneers Conference: videos of the amazing keynotes, panels, performances, and more.

Keynote Addresses

Kenny Ausubel

The Sting: The Role of Fraud in Nature

Nature is sending us extravagant distress signals these days. We’d better get really good really fast at reading her mind. The stakes are too high to keep drinking the collective Kool-Aid.

Nalleli Cobo

On the Frontlines of Environmental Injustice: Standing up to Urban Oil Drilling

An extraordinarily effective Environmental Justice activist since she was 9, Nalleli Cobo shares the story of her trajectory and challenges in fighting an oil drilling site in her neighborhood, and how local struggles relate to the larger global fight for Climate Justice.

Alexandria Gordon

The Power of Young People

A winner of this year’s prestigious Brower Youth Award for her organizing prowess on the “Break Free from Plastic Pledge,” voter registration drives and other student power initiatives, Alex Gordon shares her experiences as a young person working to create a world that can work for everyone.

Alexia Leclercq

Climate Justice Must Be Social Justice for All

For the Climate Justice Movement to arrive at results that are truly “just,” it must be radically inclusive and intersectional. One of this year’s Brower Youth Award winners, Alexia Leclercq, an environmental justice organizer based in Austin TX and NYC, shares her passion about these rarely discussed aspects of intersectionality.

Rupa Marya

Deep Medicine and the Care Revolution

Physician, musician, activist and writer Rupa Marya describes what “Deep Medicine” is and how the new level of diagnosis it offers can address the suffering of our planet, our societies and our own bodies.

Bill McKibben

Why We Actually Need Everyone in the Climate Struggle

Alongside Indigenous and frontline communities, young people have been at the forefront of the global climate fight. Bill McKibben explains why older activists not only need to have their backs, but how we can harness the power of the fastest-growing population on earth—people over the age of 60—in the fight for a fairer, more stable planet.

David Montgomery & Anne Biklé

You Are What Your Food Ate

Geologist David Montgomery and biologist Anne Biklé share the growing body of scientific evidence underlying how soil health dramatically affects the health of crops and animals, and ultimately human bodies. The intimate connections between the life of the soil and the nutritional quality of food points to the profound importance of farming practices.

Nemonte Nenquimo

Indigenous Guardianship is Key to Halt the Climate Crisis

Nemonte Nenquimo, a founding member of Ceibo Alliance and Amazon Frontlines, discusses why respecting Indigenous people’s rights to decide the future of their territories, cultures and lives is critical for the protection of our world’s most important rainforest, our climate, and life on our planet.

Julian Brave NoiseCat

Apocalypse Then & Now

Julian Brave NoiseCat, an activist and one of this era’s most brilliant emerging progressive journalists and thinkers, lays out the case for the moral imperative to assure that Indigenous voices have a central role in humanity’s struggle to address the existential climate crisis.

Manuel Pastor

Solidarity Economics: Mutuality, Movements and Momentum

In a world wracked by income inequality, social divisions, and ecological destruction, can we build an alternative economics based on mutual cooperation and respect for our environmental commons? Manuel Pastor suggests that drawing on our instincts for connection and community can actually help create a more robust, sustainable, and equitable economy.

Suzanne Simard

Dispatches From the Mother Trees

Suzanne Simard, one of the planet’s most influential and groundbreaking researchers on plant communication and intelligence, discusses the dire global consequences of logging old-growth rainforests, and nature-based solutions that combine Western science and Indigenous knowledge for preserving and caring for these invaluable forest ecosystems for future generations.

Nina Simons

From Discipline to Discipleship: Cultivating Love, Collaboration, & Imagination

Nina Simons asks each of us to hear the call to rigorous action needed – both individually and collectively – to eradicate Patriarchy, Colonialism, Racism and Capitalism in this massive era of change… and to build the future our hearts yearn for.

Deanna Van Buren

Achieving Equity in the Built Environment

Architect Deanna Van Buren shares how her studio works to counter the traditional adversarial and punitive architecture that characterizes our legal system by creating spaces and buildings that enable Restorative Justice, community building, and housing for people coming out of incarceration.

Panel Discussions

Averting a Hot, Toxic Endgame: Strategizing & Mobilizing for Climate Justice

Eriel Deranger, co-founder and Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action
Leila Salazar-Lopez, Executive Director of Amazon Watch
Osprey Orielle Lake, founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)
Nina Simons, co-founder of Bioneers


As the IPCC reports, climate destabilization is happening far faster than even the most pessimistic scientists had anticipated. The chaotic results are now visible to everyone around the globe. The situation is urgent, and failure to take immediate large-scale action would be catastrophic, but extractive industries and corrupt governments are barreling ahead with business as usual, wreaking havoc on our planet’s water, air, lands and living creatures, including people. Women, BIPOC and youth leaders are taking many of the strongest stands and implementing innovative tactics in this, the most important, crucial, existential struggle in history. Join three visionary climate justice leaders as they share their strategic insights.

Biophilic Infrastructure: Letting Nature Lead the Way

Ben Goldfarb, award-winning environmental journalist and author of Eager: The Surprising Secret Lives of Beavers and Why They Matter
Dr. Crystal Kolden, Pyrogeographer and Assistant Professor in the Management of Complex Systems Department at UC-Merced
Ariel Whitson, Director of Education and Community at TreePeople
Teo Grossman, Bioneers’ Senior Director of Programs & Research


For all the ink and pixels spilled over the past year on political infighting about what qualifies as “infrastructure,” one of the most notable omissions has been any real mention of the natural world. The biosphere we all inhabit is, fundamentally, the infrastructure for life itself. As we know all too well, humanity has, for the most part, neglected, destroyed and actively pillaged many of the natural systems that support our continued existence by cooking the climate, unleashing a looming micro-plastic apocalypse, triggering a tragic global decline in all biodiversity benchmarks and more.

What will it take to turn our attention towards the rebuilding of our natural infrastructure, for the benefit of all life and human society? How can built infrastructure elegantly and respectfully engage with and support nature? The answers are not easy, and our understanding of these systems is only just scratching the surface of the evolutionary timescales that nature functions on. However, we know enough to get started – and, unsurprisingly, it often begins with letting nature lead. In this discussion, experts and leaders dive into what a more enlightened, effective, biophilic and biomimetic infrastructure conversation needs to look like.

Designing Futures for Health & Justice

Rupa Marya, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at UCSF and co-author of the brand new: Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice
Deanna Van Buren, M.Arch, groundbreaking activist architect and Executive Director of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces
Sonali Sangeeta Balajee (host), founder of Our Bodhi Project


To achieve the profound socio-economic, environmental and political changes we so desperately need, many of our societal systems will require intensive re-visioning. Key professions such as medicine, architecture/design, and the law (among many others) will need to embrace far more socially engaged worldviews and on-the-ground practices. In this dynamic dialogue, two leading figures who have been cutting-edge, exemplary models of how passion for social justice can inform professional life share their thoughts on what it will take to radically transform professional paradigms.

Embodied Healing Approaches to Personal, Generational, and Socio-Political Trauma

Dr. Ruby Gibson (Lakota, Ojibwe, Mediterranean), author, educator and healer, co-founder and Executive Director of Freedom Lodge
Staci K. Haines, educator, advocate, healer, co-founder of Generative Somatics and author of The Politics of Trauma


Trauma has perhaps never been more widely prevalent than it is now, nor more varied in its causes: personal stress, familial history, racial discrimination, poverty, oppression, climate disaster, etc. These times are really stretching our capacity to endure, so they require ever more effective healing and self-care modalities that include the taking of our personal inventory and adjusting our beliefs and lifestyles. In this panel, two master Somatics practitioners and teachers share insights and explain their methods.

Indigenous Activism NOW: Talking Story With Clayton Thomas-Muller and Julian NoiseCat

Clayton Thomas-Muller (Mathias Colomb Cree/Pukatawagan), ‘Stop It At The Source’ Campaigner with 350.org
Julian Brave NoiseCat, Director of Green New Deal Strategy at Data for Progress
Alexis Bunten (Unangan/Yup’ik), co-director of the Bioneers Indigeneity Program


Clayton Thomas-Muller and Julian Brave NoiseCat are nationally and internationally acclaimed Indigenous leaders in the fights against climate change and the accelerating, human-induced destruction of our ecosystems. When they aren’t on the front lines organizing movements to protect the planet, Clayton and Julian work as accomplished writers penning penetrating analyses of the connections between settler colonial capitalism, broken social and political systems, trauma, and environmental disaster. They also happen to have a deep friendship. In this intimate conversation, these two exemplary leaders share the story behind the story about how their lives intersect with their activism and discuss their new projects and their hopes for the future.

Indigenous Pathways to a Regenerative Future

Sikowis (Plains Cree/Saulteaux), founder, Great Plains Action Society, speaker, writer, and artist
Nick Estes, Ph.D. (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe), historian, author, Professor at the University of New Mexico, co-founder, The Red Nation
Alexis Bunten (Unangan/Yup’ik), co-director of the Bioneers Indigeneity Program


Indigenous Peoples already do “green jobs”—they integrate cultural values into business activities and protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity. In order to transform our economies through Indigenous-led solutions, we need to uplift movements and stories inspired by Indigenous resistance. To do this, we must change the culture of philanthropy and impact investing, which still largely circulates in privileged circles. In this panel, we explore how to transition from colonial-capitalism using Indigenous-led strategies that offer us pathways towards an equitable and regenerative future.

It’s Time the Psychedelic Community Gave Back: The Indigenous Reciprocity Initiative

Joseph Mays, program director of the Indigenous Reciprocity Initiative
Bia Labate, Chacruna Institute co-founder and Executive Director
Daniela Peluso, cultural anthropologist with extensive experience working with Indigenous communities in Peru and Bolivia


The psychedelic community owes enormous debts to the Indigenous cultures that, over millennia, developed the use of consciousness-modifying substances, which laid the basis for the now ever-expanding interest in and use of these medicines. Indigenous peoples are also very often the best protectors of what’s left of global biodiversity, so finding effective, concrete ways to help support these groups’ struggles to defend their lands and rights is of utmost importance to all of humanity. So far, though, while the psychedelic world is replete with romanticized language about Indigenous worldviews, it has done very little to offer genuine, large-scale tangible support that actually reaches frontline communities, and as enormous amounts of venture capital are now pouring into the psychedelic domain, this is the time to act. The Chacruna Institute’s Indigenous Reciprocity Initiative (IRI) was created to fill that void.

Laughter as Medicine: The Power of Native American Comedy

Jackie Keliiaa (Yerington Paiute/Washoe), Oakland-based stand-up comedian, writer, actor and producer
Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), co-director of the Bioneers Indigeneity Program and renowned artist/photographer


They say “laughter is the best medicine,” but the most powerful medicine of all might just be American Indian comedy. Native peoples on this continent developed rich and complex humor traditions in response to centuries of oppression and the intergenerational trauma of ongoing settler colonization. Jokes were and are used to reflect on life’s ironies, impart wisdom, build relationships, and help heal from pain. Comedy can be one of the most effective tools in the arsenal of Indigenous strategies of deep cultural resilience, and as we emerge from this global pandemic and continue to struggle with dire threats to our people and the planet, we need the healing medicine of laughter more than ever.

Lessons from the Underground

Suzanne Simard, Ph.D., professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia and author of the current best-selling Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest
Anne Biklé and David R. Montgomery, a wife and husband team of scientific researchers who have produced groundbreaking work on the microbial life of soil
Arty Mangan, director of Bioneers’ Restorative Food Systems Program


We humans tend to look mostly around, sometimes up, and occasionally down, but even then, only at the surface of things. It turns out, however, that all of life on Earth actually depends on the extraordinarily dynamic life hidden beneath our feet, in the incredibly complex interrelationships of plants, bacteria, fungi, insects and minerals that make our continued existence above ground possible. In this session three of the world’s leading specialists on different aspects of those underground ecosystems share their cutting-edge research.

Nature + Justice + Women’s Leadership: A Strategic Trio for Effective Change

Osprey Orielle Lake, founder/Executive Director, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
Amisha Ghadiali, intuitive therapist, meditation and yoga teacher
Naelyn Pike, renowned young Chiricahua Apache activist
Nina Simons (host), co-founder of Bioneers


As ecological destruction, climate destabilization, the global pandemic, and all forms of historical and current injustice are converging to initiate a near-death experience for our species, learn from a group of wise women as they discuss why the combination of honoring, respecting and learning from nature, being motivated by a deep quest for justice, and cultivating the leadership of women can provide a potent, three-pronged strategic path for getting us to a world we want.

Our Power: Exemplary Young Activists—the 2021 Brower Youth Awards Winners

Sonja Michaluk, 18-year old NJ-based young scientist and citizen science activist, founder of the Conservation Communities Initiative
Peter Pham, 22, San Jose, CA-based environmental and transit justice activist with Turnout4Transit
David Baldwin, 18, Fort Lauderdale-based invasive plant researcher and activist with Everglades Restoration Ambassadors
Artemisio Romero y Carver, 18, Santa-Fe, NM-based artist, poet and organizer, co-founder of Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA)
Mackenzie Feldman (host), founder/Executive Director, Herbicide Free Campus


The Brower Youth Awards, named after the late, legendary environmental giant, David Brower, are one of the most prestigious prizes for youth activists, and we at Bioneers are delighted to be able to highlight the work of this year’s cohort of winners, an exceptional array of young mobilizers, organizers and paradigm-shifting leaders, who discuss their activist trajectories, the challenges they face, and their aspirations for the future.

Sacred Manhood: An Intergenerational Conversation on Trauma and Healing for Boys and Men of Color (“BMOC”)

Jerry Tello, co-founder of the Healing Generations Institute and the National Compadres Network
Jason Seals, professor of African American Studies at Merritt College
David Bouttavong, outreach specialist for Poverello House and board member of the Laotian American Community of Fresno


Many boys and men of color have to grapple with very potent intergenerational traumas deeply linked to the racism, oppression and systemic inequities their communities have had to endure for so long. The Covid Pandemic has unfortunately exacerbated many of these underlying dynamics, resulting in increased levels of domestic and community violence in many neighborhoods. This session, facilitated by internationally-recognized author, community leader and healing practitioner Jerry Tello, offers an intergenerational conversation among young men, elders, and middle-aged men of color. They explore the deep traumas they and their communities suffer from, and how to develop strategies of responsibility and accountability that face the truth, but also create conditions for deep healing and prevent these wounds from undermining our families, communities and selves.

Scaling Up Permaculture

David Holmgren, co-originator of the Permaculture concept
Maddy Harland, co-founder and editor of Permaculture magazine
Mark Shepard, author and regenerative farmer
Penny Livingston (host), renowned leader in the field of Permaculture


Permaculture, based on the ethos of “earth care, people care and fair share,” has provided millions of people the principles and tools to live and work in right relationship to the earth and to produce and harvest abundance without degrading the environment. At a time when the world is desperate for a new approach to living on the planet, can permaculture scale-up to create the global ecological and social changes that are needed for human survival?

Solidarity Economics: Our Economy, Our Planet, Our Movements

Manuel Pastor, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at USC and Director of its Equity Research Institute
Natalie Hernandez, Associate Director of Climate Planning and Resilience at Climate Resolve
Nailah Pope Harden, Executive Director of ClimatePlan
Chris Benner (host), the Dorothy E. Everett Chair in Global Information and Social Entrepreneurship and a Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology at UC Santa Cruz


Solidarity Economics is an economic frame that recognizes that people are not just individuals, but also members of broader social groups and communities, that people are motivated not just by self-interest, but also by caring for others and a desire for belonging, and that we can and should build our economy not on an embrace of individuality and competition, but rather on a sense of commons and our shared destiny.

Tell It to the Judge, Big Oil

Antonia Juhasz, author and investigative journalist
Michelle Jonker-Argueta, attorney for Greenpeace International
Carroll Muffett, President of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
Jason Mark (host), editor in chief of Sierra magazine


The drumbeats demanding that the fossil fuel giants be held accountable for sparking the climate crisis are getting louder. Here in the U.S., more cities, states, and counties keep filing lawsuits seeking compensation from the oil giants for climate-related damages and to fund adaptation projects. Last spring, a Dutch court found multinational Shell Oil guilty of violating human rights and ordered the company to slash its emissions, and many other international lawsuits against fossil fuel corporations are pending.

Keynote Addresses

Rising Appalachia – “Stand Like an Oak”

Rising Appalachia, a renowned musical ensemble founded by Leah Song and Chloe Smith, is rooted in various folk traditions, storytelling, and passionate grassroots activism.

Rupa & the April Fishes – “Growing Upward”

Rupa & the April Fishes create a “powerfully evocative” (LA times) sound that pulsates with the pluralism of US culture, celebrating the art of resistance through a wide musical palette.

Naima Penniman – “These Gardens are Blueprints”

An artist, activist, healer, grower and educator committed to planetary health and community resilience, Naima Penniman is the co-founder of WILDSEED Community Farm and Healing Village, a Black and Brown-led intentional community focused on ecological collaboration, transformative justice, and intergenerational responsibility.

“Waking Time” by MaMuse

MaMuse is a musical duo (Sarah Nutting and Karisha Longaker) fed by folk and gospel traditions that has been together 13 years, with the goal of creating uplifting music that opens hearts, nurtures a love of life and “inspires the world into thriving.”

“False Alarm” by Alixa Garcia and Ryan Amador

“The song is a cry for our attention, not toward a debate over facts and data, but an essential, intrinsic, recommitment with the Earth. We wrote from a not-so-distant future about the world of consequence, and about the children who are inheriting that world, looking back at us, wondering what we did and what more we could have done.” – Alixa & Ryan

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