This weekend, students and community members learned everything from how to help reduce food waste to how to survive the apocalypse at the annual Bioneers conference.
According to executive chef Joseph Peterson, one of the speakers who presented a talk titled “What is an Apocalypse and How Do I Survive?”, some of the best things to remember during the apocalypse are that human bodies are meant to be vegan, and that a pack of cigarettes will always be a good bartering tool.
This is the eighth year that Knox has hosted its own pollinator event of the larger Bioneers conference, which happens in San Rafael, Calif. every year. The conference focuses primarily on environmentalism and sustainability. These smaller events, which were formerly called “satellite conferences,” show some of the talks from the larger October event on video, in addition to having their own keynote speaker and locally-led workshops. About 100 people attended the Knox conference this weekend, says Director of Sustainability and Bioneers organizer Debbie Steinberg.
This year’s keynote was titled “Fighting for Safe Water in Flint, Michigan: Perspectives on Community-Driven Lawyering” and was presented by Sarah Tullman, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Tullman spoke about how the NRDC worked with activists within the Flint, Mich. community to enact change, and to have the Michigan government take action to give Flint clean water.
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman was inspired by Tullman’s talk.
“We’ve heard a lot of negative stuff about how we can’t accomplish anything and she was certainly clarifying that that wasn’t the case, that there’s a lot of progress being made,” he said.
Both Schwartzman and Steinberg said that they saw a greater number of people from outside the immediate Knox community this year than in previous years.
“It’s always great to have these conversations. These are folks, some of whom I’ve never met before, but they’re very excited,” Schwartzman said. “
Local workshops included a talk by alumna Abby Pardick ‘10 on community schools’ impacts on the communities they serve, taken from her knowledge as a community school coordinator at Coit Arts Academy in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Assistant Professor of Dance Kathleen Ridlon gave a talk titled “From Plastic Bag to Costume and Choreography” about a dance performance in 2010 focused on our consumption of plastic. Student costume designers made several elaborate costumes for the piece using only plastic bags.
“Reflecting on [it] 10 years later, all the issues they were talking about are the same. Or maybe we were just seeing through our current eyes,” Steinberg said on Ridlon’s talk.
Speakers also came from outside the Knox community. Pete Vogel of the Food Rescue Partnership in the Quad Cities gave a talk titled, “Grassroots Effort to Increase Food Rescue and Reduce Food Waste.” Vogel discussed the partnership’s efforts to ensure uneaten food ends up with people who need it, and out of landfills.
Sophomores Isaac Hughes, Jo Hill, Grace LaDuca, and Poornima Tat gave a talk titled “One Fair Wage” about the importance of raising the minimum wage in Illinois, especially for tipped workers because employers are not required to pay them the minimum wage.
This year also saw the first opening night performance of music and dance in Kresge. Sophomore Milo Camaya and junior Soleil Smith played a few songs and Terpsichore Dance Collective gave a dance performance. Associate Professor of Anthropology-Sociology William Hope and his daughter Marina Hope sang and played guitar and ukulele, respectively. Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Ben Farrer’s band “Environmental Buddies Department,” which also consists of Assistant Professor of Physics Nathalie Haurberg and Visiting Assistant Professor Jon Anderson performed various songs as well.
“Bioneers always inspires me,” Schwartzman said. “In some ways I selfishly … put into hosting it or offering it because I always go and it’s really impactful and inspiring.”