Practicality and spirituality intertwined at Stevenson College this past weekend at the UC Santa Cruz Bioneers Conference as speakers advocated for climate justice. Presentations on ocean fisheries, Native American land trusts and “Buddhist economics,” which balances economic growth with happiness, were some of the workshops at the weekend-long event.
The conference centered on the pursuit of climate justice through the lens of different disciplines, such as science, humanities, economics and faith. Of the roughly 30 people who attended, the majority were long-time Santa Cruz residents, including several UCSC alumni. Organizers attributed the lack of student attendance to the conference being held on Memorial Day weekend, but were grateful for the turnout nonetheless.
“We really wanted people to have the option of attending a wide range of events, be it spiritual, activist rooted, environmental or body centered,” said Sarah Belle Lin, third-year environmental studies student and emcee for the conference. “The overarching banner pushes for social and environmental justice by promoting cultural change. Everything you learn from this conference ultimately ties back to that.”
The conference was modeled after the National Bioneers Conference that draws 200 people annually to Marin County. Speakers at UCSC’s conference included environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, UC Santa Barbara professor John Foran, UCSC professor T.J. Demos and Student Alliance of North American Indians co-chair Ray Lebeau.
Each speaker stressed the importance of community involvement, with the majority of the presentations incorporating concepts of collective action and spiritual and emotional consciousness.
“We’re not, at this point, going to win this fight one individual action at a time,” McKibben said. “That means join together with other people in movements that are large enough to change policy and save our planet.”
Santa Cruz residents in attendance said they were interested in learning how to best advocate for themselves and the environment in their daily life.
“I was always wanting to know how to heal myself and my planet […] knowing that the system is very sick,” said Sheila, a Santa Cruz resident who preferred to give only her first name, “so I just keep attending classes and taking in little bits. It’s another tile within the huge mosaic of my body of knowledge.”