Image: People walking on a crosswalk in long-exposure. Credits to mauro mora on Unsplash.
Audio Editing by: Xu Wangyuxan Blurb by: Marie Hogan Script by: Marie Hogan
It’s easy to feel despair about climate change and environmental destruction. But despair can make it hard to forge connections and take action. According to emotion researchers, hope means believing that you have the power to improve problems, rather than ignoring them. One possible source of hope? Community-building events, where diverse groups of activists can find common ground.
What is Bioneers?
Climate Break spoke with Teo Grossman, Senior Director of Programs and Research for the longstanding environmental conference Bioneers, about how community building events like the Bioneers conference foster hope and catalyze action. Now in its 34th year, Bioneers is an interdisciplinary environmental organization whose annual conference brings together environmental advocates and innovators from a wide variety of disciplines to share stories and brainstorm solutions. Grossman joined Bioneers in 2014 but first spoke there while still a college student in the early 2000s. He says his time at Bioneers has convinced him that community events and storytelling are powerful tools for change.
Throughout its history, Bioneers has been home to new ways of thinking about environmental activism.The annual conference helped spawn major climate organizations like 350.org and inspired some of Michael Pollan’s early work on the food system. Grossman also highlights its role in advancing the Rights of Nature legal movement. Rights of Nature seeks to recognize nature itself – like bodies of water and endangered species – as having legal rights. In 2008, Bolivia became the first country to include explicit rights for nature in their constitution. Other countries have since followed suit.
Bioneers has expanded since its inception, and now includes year round media and educational programming in addition to its annual conference. Grossman says they’re especially proud of their Native-led Indigeneity Program, which includes youth leadership scholarships and forums.
This year’s conference includes speakers from throughout the world of climate and environmental justice, including political scientist Leah Stokes, clean-tech entrepreneur Danny Kennedy, and One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman. Also on the agenda? Conversations about the role fiction writing and narrative can play in restoring hope to the environmental movement, hosted by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson and essayist Rebecca Solnit. Bioneers is holding its annual conference April 6-8 in Berkeley. You can learn more about the conference on their website.
Other Resources for Finding Community
In addition to Bioneers, there are plenty of other ways to find hope and connect with the environmental movement. Interested in making decarbonization your job? Resources like Climatebase and Work on Climate offer centralized job listings and career support. You can also seek workshops and seminars to hear new perspectives on environmental issues. International organizations like Resources for the Future host lectures and workshops to highlight ongoing research, while in the Bay Area, local groups like the SF Federal Reserve and the Commonwealth Club’s Climate One host lectures both in person and online.
Looking for ways to take direct action? Databases like the CA Climate Action Portal map climate action by local government. Research the climate action – or inaction – your local government is doing to find ways to get involved. You may also be able to attend public meetings for your energy providers, where you can meet other constituents and advocate for just and renewable energy. For example, San Francisco CCA Clean Power SF holds regular meetings over zoom that are welcome to the public. To go even bigger, attend public meetings by statewide regulatory agencies like the CPUC, which oversees the rates and investments of California utilities like PG&E.
About the Guest
Teo Grossman is Senior Director of Programs and Research for Bioneers, where he helps lead both conference development and Bioneers’s year-round media production. He studied environmental science and management as a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow at UC Santa Barbara and first began working with Bioneers as a Program Manager in the early 2000s.
Ethan: I’m Ethan Elkind, and you’re listening to Climate Break — Climate Solutions in a hurry. Today’s proposal? Using community building and public events as an antidote to climate despair. Teo Grossman is Director of Programs for Bioneers. The Bioneers conference gathers environmental leaders annually to exchange innovative ideas. After Covid, Grossman says the climate movement needs these spaces more than ever.
Teo Grossman: Bioneers is an opportunity for people who are working really hard on creating a better future for, for people and planet to come together, connect and learn, and celebrate, and figure out what comes next.
Teo Grossman: I think that’s a big part of what Bioneers is about, is bringing together people from disparate movements who are working really hard in their own individual channels and might not know each other, might not realize that in fact, the work they’re doing in the frontline environmental justice space is very similar to the work that might be happening in tropical whale conservation effort or a regenerative farming campaign.
Ethan: Grossman sees first hand how by learning from each other, attendees leave more hopeful about the future…and better prepared to make it reality.
Teo Grossman: It’s much easier to act out of a place of hope. Despair is a, is a hard place to be in, and it’s very easy to get there. And certainly it can make you push for things. But having some sort of hope matters in terms of taking action – the idea is knowing that there’s a reason to push forward.
Ethan: This year’s Bioneers conference is in Berkeley, from April sixth to eighth. You can learn more about it and other opportunities to find community in the environmental movement at climatebreak.org.