Bioneers conference offers sustainability solutions

By By Arthur Raymond

By Arthur Raymond

A three-day conference featuring presentations about environmental restoration as well as biological and cultural diversity kicks off today at Westminster College.

The gathering is the first annual Salt Lake version of the Bioneers Conference. The national group, founded in 1990, advocates for solutions to a variety of progressive issues. Utah State University will also be hosting its fourth annual conference. Westminster and USU are among 18 schools holding satellite events tied to the main conference in San Rafael, Calif.

Alexandra Parvaz, co-director of the U student group Sustainable Environments and Ecological Design, or SEED, is one of the organizers of the conference. She expects that the national and local presenters will offer insight, strategies and “inspirational stories that will help people see how to make our communities more sustainable.”

Parvaz will be among the featured local presenters at this afternoon’s session, as part of a panel discussing permaculture.

The founders of the group, Ken Ausubel and Nina Simons, describe their mission as promoting “practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies for restoring the Earth and communities.” Their diverse approach is based on recognition of “connectedness” in the realms of ecology, human health and social justice. Ausubel most recently worked as an advisor for and appears in Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental documentary “The 11th Hour.”

National speakers for the event include naturalist Jay Harman, CEO of Pax Scientific; Judy Wicks, a national leader in the living economy movement; and Winona LaDuke, a two-time Green Party vice-presidential candidate. Sixteen speakers will be presenting via satellite from the main conference, with local sessions held between the plenary presentations.

A variety of local speakers is scheduled, including numerous U faculty and students. Besides Parvaz, these include professors Kent Udell, Keith Bartholomew, Kelly Bricker and Hans Ehrbar; Office of Sustainability fellow Lindsay Clark; and Daniel Dustin, department chair from the College of Health.

The keynote speaker for the Salt Lake event will be Cheryl Charles, an educator, author and organizational executive whose presentation is titled “The Ecology of Hope — Building a Movement to Reconnect Children and Nature.” The keynote address is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Planning for the first annual event has been going on for months, said Kerry Case, director of Westminster’s Environmental Center. Previously involved with the USU version, Case said Salt Lake City is a perfect new host sight, with a community of involved and motivated people seeking the same goals as the Bioneers group.

The cost of a three-day pass to the conference is $40 for students and $115 for non-students. Single and two-day registration options are also available.

For a complete schedule and details, go to the U’s Office of Sustainability website, www.sustainability.utah.edu. Students interested in the U’s SEED program can find a link there, too.

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