For my first interview I decided to speak with Jeff Fowler, a fellow TESOLer at MIIS. After sitting with him at the Samson Center and hearing him talk about Peace Corps and the wicked foot infection he got, I thought “Hey, everyone should hear about this!” Jeff agreed, and here we are.
Jeff Fowler is a MATESOL candidate at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He received his B.A. in Criminal Justice and Psychology from Hamline University in 2007.Â He returned to the states in 2009 after teaching English in Madagascar for two years with the Peace Corps.
Tom Philpott is the Food and Ag blogger for Mother Jones, and the former editor of the online environmental news site Grist. He spoke at the closing plenary of the 2012 EcoFarm Conference at Asilomar Conference Center. Listen to his compelling treatment of America’s regulatory regimes and biotech agribusiness companies versus organic and sustainable agriculture. He also discusses the plight of farm workers and alternatives to current institutionalized oppression many experience.
Tom Athanasiou, Founder and Executive Director of EcoEquity and author of Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming, speaks as part of the Fall 2011 Sustainability Speaker Series. Hear the complete talk below.
The twenty-second annual Bioneers Conference took place in San Rafael, California, with thousands of attendees.
The weekend focuses on Bioneers’ manifesto, which is “to inspire a shift to live on earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other, and future generations.”
The year’s theme was “From Breakdown to Breakthrough: Transforming Civilization in the Age of Nature”.
Speakers included the author and feminist activist Gloria Steinam, mushroom expert Paul Stamets, and energy policy savant Amory Lovins.
In addition to the mainstage luminaries, forums, breakout sessions, art installations and musical interludes abounded.
Bioneers showcases social and scientific innovation.
The goal? To connect people and solutions.
The conference deals with ideas of equity and interconnectedness, with special focuses on including youth, women, and the concept of “indigeneity”
– which deals with the question of how to “re-indigenize” our societies and selves.
I wanted to learn more about this concept, and attended an interactive program called “Restoring and Honoring the Sacred Feminine and Sacred Masculine”.
I left my shoes with a pile of Clarks, Keens and Merrills outside the round tent on ‘Council Circle Island’.
Sharon Sloan is a Council practitioner, and opened the session by inviting attendees to share their stories.
“We worked together to begin to create a center – you know, an open space here where we’re bringing forward what is meaningful for us and offering it to be seen by the group with our words, or maybe with our songs, or maybe with our silence, or our prayers, or our poetry, or our stories, that are personal to us. Not our ideas about or what the guys on the stage say, but what is the personal experience that speaks to what is the sacred masculine? What is the sacred feminine?”
Sloane’s co-presenter, Ilarion Merculieff, is an Aleut traditional messenger.
“And for us to work together, young white woman, you know, older indigenous man, we’re walking over here together this morning and I’m going so fast – I’m like 2 feet in front of him – he says ‘you’ve got to slow down’ – I slow down back and we’re walking side by side but the next thing you know I’m 2 feet in front of him – because we’re late! But we were right on time. And it’s a beautiful dance to be in relationship in the way we are – to explore the agency of timeliness and fast pace and the communion of being where we are in the time and in the moment.”
Sloane says that Council is held all over the world, often with very rigid and specific traditions.
“So what we’re inviting you into today is a hybrid space – this is a new space – that we are co-creating together with the basic simple offering being to speak from and listen from the heart. So would you like to join us in this experiment? Would you like to do this with us? Yes.”
“So in honoring the hybrid of traditional forms of Council as Ilarion brings and the way that it’s come to me to carry we’re gonna honor going with the direction of the sun…”
“And it doesn’t have to be serious. Okay? Spirituality includes humor!” Laughter.
“So let us begin with the feminine. Here’s the question – what do you know, what is your direct experience of the sacred feminine in your life?
“I have many experiences of the sacred feminine, and have for my whole life. But what came to my mind right away that gave me the butterflies to speak is my experience of the fierceness that I will hold when I protect my children.”
“I’m feeling a lot of memories – I’m having a lot of memories – i had a miscarriage earlier this year and significant complications, and so much of the lesson of that and the ceremony around it is that the feminine principal is all the faces and phases of life, and that it’s letting in my own feelings of everything I feel and experience, creating a much wider space in community for feeling our feelings and placing the lens of that towards how we steward life.”
“I’m feeling a really big open-heartedness that I associate with being open and connected to the earth, and to the web of all that is. And for me when I go to that place, has enough space that it can encompass all the spectrums of our existence. Whether that is tragedy and terror and fear or beauty and bliss or creativity or boredom or ordinariness, there’s room for all of it.”
“My first experience with the sacred feminine of course was with my mother. She taught me about what it is to actually experience a deep connection with self and then subsequently with connection with all of life. It actually – she set the template for that for me. To the point that as I grew older I could feel all of life, I could actually feel the life in the wind, I could feel the life in the rocks, I could feel the life in the water, I could feel the life in the animals, I can feel the life beyond a normal kind of conventional energetic exchange with another human being. Profound connection to the point that I knew that every human being is divine. Every human begin – I knew it, thanks to the divine feminine in my mother who passed it along to me. There is no separation, and I was fortunate at such a young age to know it through my own actual connection in my unique way, with everyone. I see everyone, every time, they’re sacred. When I do that, there is no separation. The masculine and feminine begin to unify. Which is our spiritual challenge, I believe.”
Merculieff says that achieving a balance will be difficult.
“The women have a big challenge as do the men with this ,because we have been in a period of masculine imbalance for 4-6 thousand years. That the collective energy consciousness at a deep subconscious level of women is rage. Passed down from generation to generation to generation to generation from extreme violence and violation. It is a psychic energy that as soon as you are born a woman inside of your mother’s womb is downloaded from the lineage of your mother. Then you are born physically into this world and you tie into the collective consciousness of that pain and that rage. And then you have your own life experiences in a world that is filled with masculine imbalanced structures. And men acting in a way that they have totally forgotten – they’re stuck in the first and second shakras and objectify women … that has created the imbalance that is destroying mother earth. And now mother earth is waking up to say no more.”
Sloane says it’s possible to overcome this imbalance without demonizing the masculine.
“And to do that with the divine masculine in these times when we’re coming out of this long line of patriarchy and oppression is radical. Not to violently overthrow the masculine and say this has been bad, this has been terrible, but to re-member, to redefine, and to embody again what is sacred about the masculine.”
The Council with Our Relations ended with reflection on what had occurred, and what to take forward.
“Just in the short amount of time, so much wisdom has been shared here. And I think each of us will probably take something home we didn’t have before. This is what happens when we have a collaboration inside and outside – to open up hearts, to share, it’s such a simple thing but people are so afraid of it until they actually do it. Then it becomes so much easier to open up our hearts. Ultimately it will be the people of the fire will change the world. And the fire is the heart. All of the prophesies around the world share it in one form or another – it is the fire in the heart. I encourage you to keep – as unsafe as it is in places to go to – that we have automatically shut our hearts down to the point where they’re closed almost all the time. Open yourself up. Protect yourself, but not to the expense of closing your heart. Because it’s going to take courage to do what we need to do, to change, and the first step of courage is the biggest step, because it’s deciding to make yourself vulnerable because I’m going to open up my heart regardless of the circumstance, other people can change because of that. Thank you all for being here, thank you for the sharing, so powerful.”
This session was only one of dozens, but it captures the dynamic, idiosyncratic and inclusive nature of the conference.
Bioneers engages both the cognitive and emotional centers of humanity, trying to forge new connections and advance society’s understanding of ourselves as individuals and as a species.
Learn more about the annual conference, and their year-round educational programming, at bioneers.org.
Kevin Fingerman is a Ph.D. Candidate at UC Berkeley in the Energy & Resources Group, and the Vice-Chair and Steering Board Member at Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels.Â Hear clips from Fingerman’s presentation on biofuels and life-cycle assessments (LCAs) below, or listen to the entire talk.
I had the opportunity to interview Andy Kimbrell, the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety, at the recent Justice Begins with Seeds Conference in San Francisco. CFS currently has five cases in the courts to regulate or restrict GM crops. As Kimbrell says, “at CFS we don’t get passive aggressive, we just get aggressive – we just sue.”
Listen to Kimbrell rip the industrial meat system, particularly Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, known as CAFOs, and the e-coli contamination they spread… see the transcript below.
As part of my Environmental Policy Masters program I am researching the industrial food system, conventional versus organic agriculture, and developed an interest in genetically modified organisms.
I attended the first Justice Begins With Seeds Conference to deepen my understanding of the issue. This feature highlights some of the activists I interviewed, and their concerns. I’m still unclear on what the impacts of GMOs are, especially on human health, but I wanted to give voice to the critics, who I think are often overlooked in the general media stories.
Conant says the common narratives are:Â Feeding the World is only possible withÂ Biotech,Â Innovation versus Fear (which also includes the Green Revolution in Africa),Â Separate but Equal (GMOs and conventional seeds can comingle), andÂ The Big Green Narrative, which is aboutÂ commodifying all life forms based on carbon.Â See the partial transcript below.