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Bioneers Conference promotes living in sync with nature

More than 10,000 people will gather in person and by satellite in 18 communities around the nation, including Spokane, to explore innovative sustainable ways to live in sync with the web of life.

For the second year, local organizers will provide a satellite link to the annual Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, Calif., and local workshops Friday through Sunday, Oct. 17 to 19, at Spokane Falls Community College. 

The word, “Bioneers,” comes from biological pioneers and refers to the Collective Heritage Institute, a New-Mexico-based nonprofit that sponsors the event to connect people from different disciplines to explore solutions to environmental and socio-cultural problems.

Founder Kenny Ausubel coined the term in 1990 to describe social and scientific innovators who promote the idea of people living by nature’s “operating instructions.”  The principles include kinship, cooperation, diversity, symbiosis, continuous creation, and creating an equitable, humane and democratic society.

Patty Gates, organizer of local workshops, said the Spokane gathering taps the region’s diversity.

Five years ago, she and several others from the New Priorities Foundation, where she is now executive director, attended the San Rafael conference. After learning about the Beaming Bioneers Satellite Conference, Spokane attendees decided they would save the energy of travel and reach more people.

Patty, an educator with School District 81 for 21 years, has worked 10 years with New Priorities funding environmental activities.  She described some local workshops.

One features Center for Justice’s Spokane River attorney, Rick Eichstaedt, leading a field trip on river management to the wastewater treatment plant, dams, an urban spring and a proposed whitewater park site.

Crissy Trask, who will lead a workshop, “Energy and Water Wise Living: Practical Solutions,” has a website on everyday green living——and has compiled “A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living.”

Spokane workshops will be offered in four sessions Friday and Saturday afternoons.  

Friday sessions include workshops on envisioning Spokane, green-collar jobs, farms and healthy food, becoming a zero-waste society, green living, nature’s tools, changing communities, women in leadership, and public and private partnerships.

Saturday sessions are on indigenous spirituality and the environment, helping veterans heal, returning the Lower Snake River to salmon, wildlife and people, art as a solution, eco-nomics, alternative transportation, local farms, women leaders, reclaiming media and building community.

Patty said Bioneers fits her values, which were nurtured growing up Catholic and now as a Unitarian.  She recalls lying for hours on the floor of a forest in the Skagit Valley as a child, mesmerized by the moss, creek, trees and sky.

“We need to maintain our connection with the earth,” she said.

“I’m encouraged that the faith community is embracing earth stewardship to care for God’s creation by looking at how we live, consume and treat each other.” 

She said more clergy are preaching on ecology and on “bringing the left and right together around a concept they can agree on:  If we don’t have the earth, we don’t have anything.

“Bioneers provides ways to increase involvement in our community, connecting with kindred spirits and renewing our sense of what is possible,” Patty said.

For information, call 209-2394 or visit

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