Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 15, 2008

Bioneers conference coming this weekend

Topics include green living, growing food

TRAVERSE CITY -- Ecology and social justice will connect this weekend in Traverse City.

The seventh annual Great Lakes Bioneers Conference will be Friday through Sunday at Northwestern Michigan College, hosted by local nonprofits Neahtawanta Center and SEEDS. The conference is designed as a meeting of the minds on a variety of topics, from green living and water fluoridation to plant medicine and natural home heating and cooling, among others.

"It is about addressing everything it takes to be a human being and get through the times we live in. And it's fun," said Sarna Salzman, executive director of SEEDS, a Traverse City nonprofit that seeks to develop socially and ecologically sustainable environments.

Bioneers is a nonprofit organization focused on environmental and social issues that formed in 1990 and since grew to include members and satellite conferences across the country.

The Traverse City conference includes workshops about the growth of food year-round, homes built from natural materials, nurturing nature in children, budget and debt reduction, cultural understanding and the convergence of the anti-war and environmental movements. It's the kind of event to which participants bring their own coffee cup to avoid the use of disposable paper cups, and leftovers from daily lunches are collected as compost scraps.

"It's a conference about eco-friendly living, propelling peace and social justice and healthy living," said Sally Somsel, a conference committee member. "You can make a difference. One person can make a difference. When you work with like-minded individuals, change can take place."

The idea is to view nature as a model to solve world problems at the local level, organizers said.

"Part of what I'll be talking about is to help the crowd gathered there to understand and see and feel the larger movement for positive social change they are a part of," said Kristin Rothballer, managing director of the Green For All organization and Friday's keynote speaker. "There's a very powerful convergence of movements right now."

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