Change Gonna Come – by Kenny Ausubel

Change gonna come. That much is for sure. The big wheels are turning and the burning question is what that change is going to look like. In truth, it’s up to all of us to create the future we want, which is a constant though-line at Bioneers.

Although the National Bioneers Conference is a big tent and a forum that presents diverse viewpoints, we hold progressive values that include social and racial justice, democracy, equity and freedom. Those values and voices infuse the program this year with some of the most visionary and practical approaches on the horizon – and in the trenches right now.

And be forewarned: Although some of our speakers are well-known, our stock-in-trade is “the greatest people you’ve never heard of.” So be prepared for happy surprises and discoveries.

Danny Glover will inspire us with a keynote call to action to reclaim our citizenship and make the world we want. Danny is best known as a world-renowned actor and director, yet he ought to be equally famous for his lifelong progressive activism. Over the decades, Danny has been at the visionary forefront of the progressive struggles for social and racial justice, unions and worker rights, farm worker rights, the anti-Apartheid movement, and resistance against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Danny will also join the Mother Jones panel on Media Mojo for Social Change, with filmmakers Katie Galloway and Gay Dillingham.

Our old friend and exceptional youth leader Billy Parish will deliver an electrifying keynote about his work with Solar Mosaic, one of the breakthrough companies disrupting the energy sector. It’s promoting “100% Clean Energy For and By The People” with a model of distributed energy AND distributed ownership for small investors – like $25! This leading young change-maker-turned-entrepreneur is showing how, in this generation, we can shift from fossil fuels to a world 100% powered by clean energy in ways that make all of us richer, healthier and happier. Billy will participate on a top-flight panel about Disruptive Financing Innovations for Distributed Energy and Sustainability with Rabobank Vice-President and renewables financing master Marco Krapels, and Angelina Galiteva who is at the forefront of the rapidly spreading 100% Renewables movement.

The Indigenous Environmental Network Executive Director Tom Goldtooth’s keynote on Stopping the Privatization of Nature and Commodification of Mother Earth will raise the voices of indigenous peoples who are asking the world to reevaluate our relationship to Mother Earth, turn away from destroying, privatizing and commodifying nature, and tturn instead to indigenous wisdom with "indigenuity." Tom will highlight the Idle No More movement sweeping Canada and helping stop the Mordor of Tar Sands. Tom will participate in other sessions in the Indigenous Forum, which he helps organize (see the Indigenous Forum program).

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, the exceptional leader of Green For All and its national work creating green jobs for underserved communities, will dive deep into Motherhood and Leadership: how the experience of becoming a mother has created a deepened personal sense of urgency in her work to create a healthier and more just planet. Phaedra will join the panel on Building the Movement for a New Economy featuring Bob Massie of the brand-new national New Economy Coalition of 40 groups, and David Levine of the American Sustainable Business Council, which is emerging as a countervailing force of small and medium-sized businesses to Beltway Big Business lobbies. It may blow your mind to learn how fast and far this movement is growing.

The lifelong change-maker, Buddhist scholar and peace, justice and ecology activist Joanna Macy will share the essence of her wisdom about what it takes to be fully present in holding both the light and the dark of these cathartic times. We will present Joanna, now 84 years old, with a Lifetime Contribution Award.

And that’s just some of the morning keynotes. Each afternoon you can choose from multiple diverse breakouts, and every year we get anguished complaints from participants who can’t decide which amazing session(s) to attend. We take that as a compliment, but it is a dilemma. You’re on your own.

We have several  first-rate sessions on Eco-Nomics and the burst of creative responses building Capitalism 2.0. “Redesigning the Corporation and Its Supply Chain for Social and Environmental Values” will present a provocative dialogue about the Rainforest Alliance’s work with major corporations, in this instance Chiquita and Unilever, to “mainstream” sustainability. New York Times blog editor Andy Revkin will host this inside view of the fundamental shift in big companies toward true ecological sustainability.

“Entrepreneurship: Mission-Driven Companies” features some of the most exciting smaller companies founded by visionary innovators, including the founders of Café Gratitude, Nutiva and Mary’s Gone Crackers (a Bioneers sponsor) who will tell the truth about what it takes to align money and mission. Which is, it ain’t easy but it’s worth it.

Huge thanks to our friends at Worldwatch Institute (State of the World masters) for putting together an exceptional concept and group for “Moving from Sustainababble to True Sustainability (or Getting Ready for the Collapse If We Can’t).” We need to go beyond “sustainability” and put our thumb on the scale to tip it to radical restoration. Joining Worldwatch’s illustrious Robert Engelman and Erik Assadourian will be Oberlin’s powerhouse David W. Orr and media innovator  and “Story of Stuff” producer Annie Leonard.

The role of women in this great transformation is also center stage each afternoon. “Women as Democracy Builders: Reclaiming Our Commons from Corporate Power” will illustrate why and how women are so often at the center of democracy movements, with esteemed participants Anna Lappé, Lynne Twist, Leila Salazar-Lopez and Kelle Louaillier.

We’ll have hot-off-the-presses report from the front lines of the brand-new movement around “Mobilizing Women for Climate Solutions,” whose September 2013 founding meeting you can learn about first at Bioneers – and engage with right then and there. Presented by Women's Earth and Climate Caucus and International Women's Earth and Climate Initiative, key leaders recently returned from the Women's Earth and Climate Summit will share how you can get involved in the growing global women's movement for sane climate and sustainability policies.

The iconic leader Betsy Taylor will address “A Hero's Quest: Tapping Our Courage and Unleashing Our Ingenuity to Meet the Climate Threat,” sharing cutting-edge knowledge on developing a shared story and effective narrative for talking to sympathetic but un-engaged citizens about joining the struggle for a bright, clean energy future?

Racial justice is front and center in multiple programs related to “Beloved Community” and equity. Organized and hosted by our esteemed colleague Connie Cagampang Heller who collaborates with john powell and UC Berkley’s Hass Center for a Fair and Inclusive Society. “Beloved Community: An Invitation” will be an emergent conversation including john powell about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful vision of “Beloved Community,” in which all people share in the wealth of the Earth, and where love and trust  triumph over fear and hatred. “Giving Power: Exploring “Situatedness” and Power” probes what makes it difficult for us to embrace our own power and build collective power.

We’re deeply honored to present work you never otherwise hear about to restore Detroit, with huge props to our Beaming Bioneers community partner Gloria Rivera who helped put it together. “Resist, Restore, Re-imagine: Greening Detroit with Resilience” features Three leading Detroit grassroots activists show how Detroit is being revitalized by local action that integrates social justice with environmental restoration. Then “Building Community Resilience from Detroit to Japan” widens the frame with compelling visions for creating community resilience and social healing, including in post-Fukishima Japan. The seasoned organizers include Caroline Stayton of Transition US, Desa Van Laarhoven of Bioneers By the Bay in New Bedford, and Bob Stilger who works in Japan.

We’re also deeply honored to present “Fukishima: A Blueprint for Action” with key players seeking to catalyze an international response and new approaches to this cartastrophe-in-progress. Huge thanks to our old friend and the world-renowned artist Mayumi Oda for sharing this potentially game-changing emergent strategy to cut through the corruption, denial and inertia to catalyze an international emergency response and changing the terms of engagement.

And HOW will this Great Transformation come about?? We’re thrilled to have Joanna Macy and Richard Tarnas take on that question with the idea of “The Role of ‘Heroic’ Learning Communities in the Postmodern Era.” In a time of such critical and rapid historical change, what is the role and cultural significance of "heroic" learning communities, like Bioneers, consciously oriented toward a framework of values, or a vision of the good, which in some manner fundamentally challenges that of the larger mainstream society?


Good luck choosing… and be forewarned: If you want to be sure of getting into the afternoon sessions, get there early — or at least on time! They fill up fast and space is limited. No kidding.