The Bioneers Conference is an annual gathering of social and environmental activists from all over the world which provides many kinds of opportunities for its participants to engage in the idea of sustainability, and what it means to create a “sustainable” world. The conference achieves this by offering many types of lectures and activities, including speaking panels, dance workshops, collaborative art, policy debriefs and much more. The theory behind the inclusion of so many types of learning opportunities is that there is no one perfect or right answer for solving all of the problems we are currently facing; instead the issues require a multitude of perspectives and lenses to provide solutions that then must be implemented by various types of people across the globe.
The programming of Bioneers heavily emphasized solutions and current strategies for facing up against some of the twenty first century’s biggest challenges. These challenges included both long-term issues like climate change and also more immediate social justice concerns facing American society today and the undeniable links between the two. Activists from the Black Lives Matter Movement and those on the front lines of the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline were both there to share their experiences, insight, and stories with us. The intersectionality of these two movements, how directly linked climate justice is to racial justice and indigenous sovereignty was illustrated beautifully through words, dance and song. These social change leaders were deeply inspiring to all of us, and have encouraged us to bring a deeper commitment to direct action that fosters justice back to the OSU campus.
It was immensely refreshing to both be a witness and a participant in conversations about the various structures of oppression such as racism, capitalism, patriarchy, hetero-sexism that impact individuals abilities to participate in the conventionally offered solutions of environmentalism. Without the acknowledgement of these issues we cannot move forward in the creation of a more ecologically sound and socially just world. Acknowledgement of the issues in such a public manner also created a space for those who may have felt unseen or marginalized to be acknowledged and recognized in their struggles, which is imperative to building resilient communities.
Particularly inspiring and influential were the times in which we saw youth leadership around the issues. Some examples of this included Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, an indigenous sixteen year-old climate change activist and leader of the global conservation organization Earth Guardians. Xiuhtezcatl shared his experiences through both traditional presentations and hip-hop performances. On the last day he collaborated with spoken word duo Climbing Poetree for a performance that was as memorable as it was impactful.
More than any one specific solution, the feeling of being in a room full of people committing their lives to social change was immensely activating and inspiring. We heard so many people share the ways that they have made their dreams for a better world a reality, and it encouraged us to conceptualize the ways in which we can constructively build a vision of a better world in both our time at OSU and beyond. Social change must come from the collective will, it is not something that one person can do on their own. The interconnectedness of the environment, humankind and non-human life was emphasized as heavily as the intersectionality of the experience of oppression and the multitude of fights against it. From Bioneers we took the message that only through unity with each other and the planet we share with so many other beings may we find true sustainability. With immense gratitude, we bring this back to OSU to share, in our programming, our relationships, and our activism.
Brought to you by Katheryn Crane, Jacob Parsons, Caelin Alba, SSI Coordinators.