This year’s Bioneers conference drew in crowds of people from the community and around Illinois. Attendees ranged from Knox students to Illinois residents that traveled to the event from Chicago.
Knox’s event serves as a satellite location for the conference, which was originally hosted in San Rafael, Calif. every November. Satellite locations, which are other schools like Knox, receive parts of the program digitally to show at their institutions. This year’s conference was held from Friday, Nov. 6 to Sunday, Nov. 8.
Knox has not always been a satellite location, and Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman remembers the first Bioneers excursions, where he would travel with groups of students to conferences in the Midwest.
“I took six students in 2002 to northern Michigan on a whim. I had never heard of it, I had just gotten a postcard in my box. The second year we went again with 11 students and another faculty member. In 2004 we went with 22 students. By 2009 we went with 63 students to Louisville, Kentucky,” Schwartzman said.
The turnout for Bioneers has increased in recent years after Schwartzman suggested hosting Bioneers at Knox in 2011. This year was no exception.
“Nearly all workshops had double-digit participation and some had over 50 [particpants],” Schwartzman said.
Director of Campus Sustainability Initiatives Froggi VanRiper thinks that this increase in participants is due to better organization of the conference. Student interns contributed by labeling venues and signs and distributing maps to get people off-campus to come to the event.
Additionally, sophomore and Student Senate Sustainability Chair Sofia Tagkaloglou was in charge of advertising for the event. Student Senate contributed half of Bioneer’s funding and President Teresa Amott provided the second half.
VanRiper, Schwartzman and Student Senate worked together to reach out to as many people as possible. They invited Monmouth College, Carl Sandburg College, Galesburg High School, the Galesburg community and the Knox community. Their publicity also spread to other parts of Illinois, and some people came as far as Chicago to participate.
“The more people we have on campus the more enriching it’s going to be,” VanRiper said.
Tagkaloglou still remembers Knox Alumni and adobe house builder Jim Hallock’s ‘69 talk as keynote speaker from last year’s conference.
“He was a Knox alum and he was such a success story. Like, he graduated from Knox and created his own company with earth blocks and formed these sustainable homes. And it’s just like what, I want everybody to do that. It was so inspirational,” Tagkaloglou said.
The keynote speaker of the conference this year was a gubernatorial candidate for the Green Party, Rich Whitney, who talked about the importance of the environment when making political decisions.
For this year’s conference, Knox reached out to “local experts” in Galesburg to give talks about their experiences. Talks such as “Local Weeds Nourish and Heal,” a session on how to change a flat tire and where to bike in Galesburg, and a lunch on sustainable seafood with Sitka Salmon Shares and Iron Spike Brewpub, all employed local experts and touched on sustainable practices within the Galesburg community.
“Our local workshops are always [run by] fantastic people who we’ve recruited in the local area, sometimes as far away from Chicago, and still very impressive to interact with,” VanRiper said.
“I love the term ‘Bioneers’ because we’re taking bio-life and combining pioneers Ñ those who are breaking through to what’s going to create or define the future,” VanRiper said. “We need pioneers breaking through, things that are going to make the future better, more equitable, healthier.”