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10.26.2011 - 01:47PM

Category: Events

Bioneers 2011: Breakthroughs for a Sustainable Future


By Jenifer Parnell and Paul Zink

The Bioneers conference was a wonderful gathering of people who are walking their talk when it comes to making the world more sustainable. The bioneers who research biomimicry, sustainable energy and agriculture, and ecological restoration are focusing on the knowledge that we can find in the natural world. Physicist and inventor, Amory Levins presented a way that we can "make changes in things that matter in ways that count." His plan to rearrange the way we produce and consume energy will cost $5 trillion cheaper than the plan than we have in place, and there is no need for congress to lobby. He expects in the near future we will compare gas burning cars to electric cars much the same as we compare typewriters to laptops. He also pointed out that 10x the amount of money we spend on oil is spent on wars in the same places that the oil is found.

Bioneer and ecological genius, Paul Stamets, presented his contributions to rescue the planet from imminent toxic doom. Mycelium can break down crude oil molecules, coliform bacteria and many other potential threats. Instead of dumping chemical dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico, we could have used mycelium cultures en masse to dispel some of the oil. His new innovations range from using mycelium to deter insects such as carpenter ants from eating a house to creating a fungi based fuel he calls "econol" that would not pollute the planet. He claims to have cured his mother of breast cancer using Turkey Tail mushroom cultures. His work with mushrooms can enable us as a society to live in balance within the ecosystems we inhabit. His creative way to get the delivery system out is called the Lifebox. The design is simple and sustainable. It is a regular cardboard box with mycelium and ecologically specific tree seeds in between the walls of the cardboard. The Lifebox can be planted and a whole ecosystem will develop. In the future maybe every cardboard box will be a Lifebox. This a great project to do with youth and anyone who is interested in the rehabilitation of our planet's ecosystems. You can even register and name your trees online when they are planted on collective land so people without land can also be involved in the movement. This work has the potential to transform the toxic agricultural and pharmaceutical systems worldwide into something that is sustainable. His homepage is loaded with links to videos, articles and more.

John Lui also presented the amazing story of his work in China's Loess Plateau. In 15 years the Chinese people were able to transform an inhabitable desert into a lush land that was fertile enough to grow a variety of plants and trees. Dr. Lui's work is critical, and we need more projects like this if we plan to live on earth after the next 50+ years.

According to Dayna Baumeister, "Biomimicry has a history that is 3.8 billion years old, the age of the planet." She spoke about the recent work she is doing with her colleagues Janine Benyus, Bryony Schwan and Chris Allen in the field of biomimicry. In the last 200 years, humans have become terrible housemates for the rest of the creatures that live with us. If we look at nature as our teacher, we can see there are many amazing technological innovations that we can adapt to our needs. By observing nature we can "create conditions conducive to life." The three main goals in biomimicry are to "reawaken our curiosity with the natural world, to embrace the wisdom that we discover and to reconnect with our own humanity." Recent examples of applying the wisdom of nature into the new technologies include creating architectural glass that prevents bird collisions, fish nets visible to non-target species and wire fencing to reduce accidental collision of birds. Check out http://biomimicry.net/ for an informative video and upcoming news in this very exciting field.

About Jenifer Parnell and Paul Zink

Jenifer Parnell is a linguist, teacher and writer. Paul Zink is a filmmaker, writer and permaculuralist.

This commentary is written by valued members of the CSRwire contributing writers' community and expresses these authors' views alone.



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