Ok, I’m hooked.
Day 2 at BIoneers was bliss from beginning to end. Maybe it’s just the luck of the draw in choosing from the rich bounty offered beyond the plenaries, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself all day…
I’d still like to see a more open format for the break-out sessions, but I did notice how much personal interaction & networking was happening on the grounds between sessions, and how well connection is fostered in the range of evening opportunities offered. There is a lot of vitality here, and the organic integration of age and race is truly remarkable.
Again, the plenary was spectacular (btw, these plenary sessions are all available as downloadable mp3s or CDs online in the Bioneers store – they’re sold individually or as a set), starting with the impressive young Clayton Thomas Müeller from the Indigenous Environmental Network
who began by asking permission to speak from the ancestors of the
peoples of this land, saying "I come here humbly, in a good way."
This gentle but powerful beginning was followed by a hard-hitting challenge from Thomas Linzey, co-founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, leveled at the efficacy of Regulatory Acts, which only regulate the flow of destruction, and the assumption that our environmental efforts are made within a democracy, where the majority rules.
To illustrate this last point, Linzey took us back to our legal system’s roots in English property law, showing that it was created to secure the expansion of empire, & based on the protection of property – favoring the rights of a small group of nobles against the majority of possible dissentors at home. He went on to quote John Adams and other authors of the Constitution, our ‘founding fathers’, revealing their priviledging of the power elite over the rights of the people (which back then of course did not include women, or people of color). Rather than being the product of democracy, Linzey asserts, we are actually living in a corporate state.
The hits just kept coming… Linzey was followed by Carl Anthony, past director of the Earth Island Institute who was likened by the woman who introduced him to the "mountain" that June Jordon called on to describe Martin Luther King. She left the stage in tears, deeply moved by the importance of this powerful black man in the white dominated field of the environmental movement. And this charistmatic black man was indeed instrumental in bringing the threads of justice, race, and class issues to the fore and weaving them into the warp of environmentalism, in the service of making it relevant to all peoples.
Anthony projected a wonderful film about the origins of human beings, which unveiled the centrality of the black race in that history and showed how we can all learn from the lessons we see reflected there.
Anthony was follwed by an Amy Goodman, on fire with her message about the need for independent media and the importance of protecting it – including the crucial importance of net neutrality. She went on to blast the White House Press Corp, who she called the ‘Access of Evil – trading access for truth’, and media giants who have favored profits and the protection of the powerful over the sacred oaths of their profession.
I think Amy Goodman has matured beautifully – in the past I’ve had trouble with what I’ve perceived as her tendency to create or stir polarity and opposition, rather than provide true neutrality or even better, find a perspective that would foster more positive results, but today I was struck by her deeply compassionate humanity, and her obvious service towards making a better world.
The afternoon sessions I chose were both just amazing experiences…
Most striking was the first, called ‘Women’s Leadership in Transforming Culture’. Maybe it was the smaller panel (Sarah Crowell, Susan Griffith, Sofia Quintero & Joanna Macy) or maybe the skill of the moderator (Akaya Windwood), or maybe it was the easy cooperation between the panelists, or the fact they they were all women, but this session really flowed with energy and creativity and true interaction. The talk went deep & got personal; it brought several people close to tears, and it brought in the ‘co-madres’ in the audience so that we all felt a part of it and knew the power of women’s leadership in our own bones and hearts.
The second, ‘Nature, God, and String Theory’ with Brian Swimme, Leonard Susskind and Mary Evelyn Tucker, moderated by Bokara Legendre, was much more abstract and to tell the truth I could barely follow Susskind’s over-simplified presentation on string theory but it was fascinating to see these great minds grapple with the big questions.
Bokara is obviously a professional and she did a brilliant job of keeping the conversation lively, posing several provocative questions and calling on the expertise of Science, Religion & Cosmology (represented by each of the panelists) for answers to the great mysteries.
I resonated most deeply with ME Tucker’s learned expositions of religious and philosophic interpretations of our origins, particularly Confucianism’s placing of the human in the cosmology of heaven and earth. Over and over she was succinct in her responses, and poetic without losing objectivity.
There was an interesting point in this deeply astute and knowledgable discourse when no one countered Susskind’s assertion that mathematics was chosen as the language of reality because it was the only logical option, and I had to agreed with his own admission to being a ‘killjoy’ when he responded to a question about whether the universe is alive by dryly asking for a definition of ‘alive’.
But I loved the session, even though Swimme was strangely reticent to speak to a number of Legendre’s questions, or say much of anything beyond his inital assertion of the magic of life and how beautiful the world is from all perspectives – which was plenty for me, by the way – and it occurred to me that there might be some academic politics at play here.
All in all a wonderful day, and I’m very much looking forward to this next, last one… and to following the ripples from this event’s vast seeding for good.