Promoting Bioneers and Protecting Starved Rock

October 21, 2012

What are Bioneers and why are they coming to Chicago?

Just when you thought you had seen and experienced every kind of green festival and conference that it is possible to present, here comes The Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago and The Living City for three days at the UIC from November 2 to 4.

Featuring an all-star cast of movers and shakers in the sustainability world, like Vandana ShivaJohn EdelStarhawk and more, this event goes beyond lectures and workshops. More than 60 interactive sessions and inspirational talks are planned. These will be interspersed with some of Chicago’s finest poets, storytellers, dancers and musicians who will focus on the relationship between our environment and justice for all living things. Each day will open and close with ritual and excitement. The theme, The Living City, is about using the body as a metaphor for the critical systems needed to keep Chicago alive, healthy and thriving.

Which still doesn’t answer the question, “What are Bioneers?” and is that singular or plural? Inquiring minds want to know. Well, as long as you asked, the term Bioneers was coined in 1990 by founder Kenny Ausubel to describe a group of people from many disciplines who see themselves as social and scientific innovators. They employ what they describe as nature’s principles–kinship, cooperation, diversity, symbiosis and cycles of continuous creation absent of waste—to move toward a more equitable, compassionate and democratic society.

Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago is one of the chapters, which states as its mission:

to promote sustainable community that fosters life-giving relationships, nurtures connections, and celebrates solutions for restoring and healing Earth’s communities. We do this through a variety of strategies including:

  • Educating the community on innovative solutions.
  • Offering a systemic framework, i.e. a way of “connecting the dots” that is holistic, systemic, and multi-disciplinary.
  • Linking individuals and networks in order to foster connection, cross-pollination, and collaboration of people and ideas, all focused on positive change.
  • Advocating for opportunities to heal and restore our damaged and depleted community.
  • Being an oasis of hope that sparks mass creativity and engagement.

In anticipation of the Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago event, I’m pleased to welcome to the studio Lan and Pam Richart, who are co-founders of the non-profit organization Eco-Justice Collaborative.  Pam is a land use planner by profession and Lan is an ecologist. ECJ is lead organizer and fiscal sponsor for The Living City.

Joining them on the show today is one of those all-stars that I mentioned before, namely John Edel, Executive Director of The Plant Chicago. Back in February, I took a tour of The Plant, thanks to Blake Davis from the Illinois Institute of Technology, who has been a key part of the work there. If you haven’t heard about this remarkable project, The Plant is basically a way to combine industrial reuse and aquaponics to create the nation’s first vertical farm. Located in a former meatpacking facility in Chicago’s historic Stockyards, The Plant will be powered entirely by the waste of neighboring businesses.

It’s not surprising then, that Edel’s talk at the The Living City will be

The Plant, Rethinking Food Production

What happens when you combine urban agriculture, alternative energy and a food business incubator?  The Plant is repurposing a century old meatpacking facility to explore the intersection of recycling, job creation and local growing.  By harnessing food waste, this 95,000 sq ft vertical farm is shooting for net-zero energy use while recycling waste products, energy and gasses within the structure between manufacturing, office and growing areas. Nothing leaves but food!

I’m really looking forward to this conversation.

Rally for Starved Rock on October 28!

It’s been about ten months since I heard about how the LaSalle County Board was about to cravenly sell out the environmental integrity of Starved Rock State Park for a handful of sand mining jobs. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the attempt by Mississippi Sand LLC to establish an open pit sand mine next to the eastern entrance of the jewel of the Illinois state park system, you can read about it here.

Since the county approved the petition for the sand mine, it has become a race by environmental, historical and social groups to derail the establishment of what will certainly diminish the natural integrity of the park, and quite possibly be a health hazard to nearby citizens. Here’s a timeline that gives you a rough idea of the work that has been going on behind the scenes.

But what really hits home is when you talk to the people who will be living next to this scar on the earth, like Susan and Merlin Calhoun. Merlin has already been on my program to talk about his opposition to the project. Last week, his wife penned this message, which sums up the past year:

To All: When I got my letter that informed me of what was about to happen all around me, my heart sank because I feared that my life… The life I so cherished and absolutely loved coming “home” to was going to change forever!!  I sat on my lawn mower and sobbed…..!  Almost a year later, my heart is even heavier and my hope is slowly diminishing.  I always defended this county, this state because its the place I was born and raised in…. Growing up, I loved my neighbors and respected… Even admired the “farmer” in question as he farmed the land around me… Friendly waves to him from my bicycle because I had such respect and adoration because my Grandpa and Stepfather (true stewards of this land)instilled those feelings in me.  In the last year I’ve watched my neighbors turn their backs on the situation……politicians deal my way of life away without even blinking!!   My husband was approached just this week by a “township official” (why I feel the need to not mention his name … I don’t know) the conversation went something like this: so, I hear that all the sand mine groups and power line groups are still trying to fight the fight?  After this is all said and done, I’d like to hook up with these groups and tell you all “what was REALLY going on!”  oh ya and by the way, when all is said and done…. There’s a total of 12 sand mines coming into LaSalle County!!

I can say that in my mind, what is really going on is a bunch of under-handed, narrow-minded, self-serving crap!!!  It saddens and sickens me to know that my tax dollars are going in the pockets of these seat holders that deal our lives away.  We’ve got an election coming up and my suggestion would be that if you’re not happy with your seat holder…. And they have an opponent…. Then vote them OUT!! (wonder if write-ins are acceptable?) I was thrown into this unexpectedly and my  naivety of how things have transpired are so disappointing to me, especially the political side and the way these big buck companies come in under the “holiday radar”…. And just do basically anything to make themselves justified, and deserving even!  I guess this is a different way of doing business…. But in my opinion it severely lacks character and integrity!!

I continue to look at my personal safety totally different than I did a year ago.  Things still happen at my residence that make me wonder…. Is it just kids being kids….. Or is it something else? I’m tired of feeling this way and based on the past and what I know now, I doubt those deep seated feelings will ever subside. On a much more positive note… This experience has brought me even closer to my dear husband and together we’ve discovered that re-inventing ones self is limitless!  Also, I have had the great fortune of meeting and getting to know all the kind souls who stand side by side with myself and Merlin…. Regardless of what you are fighting for!!  I hope that these friendships will continue to grow and that we can accomplish some version of what we all set out to do!! Bee Great! Susan

I have talked to others who live near the park, who grow more and more certain that their fight to save Starved Rock is a lost cause. Yet, many people continue to fight. Among them are the guests on my show today: Susan Calhoun, Daphne Mitchell from the Illinois River Coordinating Council and Tracy Yang from the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club.

But now you (yes, I mean YOU) have a chance to make your voice heard next Sunday, October 28. Illinois Sierra Club is holding a Rally for Starved Rock at the park itself. Come early and walk the trails of the park. There will then be a tour of the perimeter where the mine will be sited, followed by a chance for the public to speak up at Grizzly Jack’s Bear Resort, 2643 Illinois Rte. 178 in Utica, Illinois.

I can’t put too fine a point on it. This might be the last chance you have to weigh in on this debate. If you love Starved Rock State Park and want to see it saved, this is your opportunity.

Don’t forget about the Great Apple Pie Bake-Off today…

In the words of Jessica Rinks (a.k.a. @snappyjdog on Twitter):

The Forest Park Community Garden (which I am involved in) is having a fundraiser on Sunday October 21st from 2 to 5pm. We’ve tried to think outside the box as far as fundraisers go so we’ll be having an apple pie bake-off being held at Molly Malone’s pub in Forest Park and will also include a silent auction (Troy-bilt snowblower, bulls opening game tickets, for example) and door / raffle prizes. We need pie baker contestants and we need people to buy tickets to attend the event (and we’re always delighted to accept more raffle/silent auction item donations). Proceeds from the event will go to help us pay for garden maintenance for 2013.

If you love apple pie–and even if you don’t–they could use a little community garden love.

…and Boo-Palooza at Wicker Park next week

Speaking of great community organizations, I truly love the folks at the Wicker Park Garden Club. And with Halloween just around the corner, it’s time for their annual Boo-Palooza, next Saturday, October 27 at Wicker Park, 1425 N. Damen in Chicago. Click on that link, and if you can’t find an activity that will entertain you, your children or even your dog, you probably don’t like Halloween.