Environmental justice focus of Bioneers conference

The University of Detroit Mercy later this week will host a conference dedicated to examining the environment from a number of perspectives.

The 17th annual Great Lakes Bioneers conference, taking place Oct. 14 and 15 on the McNichols campus, serves as an opportunity for collaboration between residents of Detroit, as well as conference attendees, to solve critical environmental issues, as well as forms of social injustice.

The goal of Great Lakes Bioneers is a peaceful, inclusive and sus- tainable world. The theme of the conference this year is: “The Earth is our model, measure, and mentor.”

“The purpose is to bring people together, to share and learn from one another, and become a community, a network, in this region around the issues of the environment and environmental justice,” said Gail Presbey, a professor of philosophy and co-chair of the conference.

The event will include bus tours of community gardens, solar-energy projects and sites where pollution damage is visible, with five scheduled on the 14th and one on the 15th. It will include hands-on workshops and highlight some of the innovative solutions on nearby campuses, like Madonna University’s solar panels and Wayne State’s renewable groundwater recycling system.

Organizers say each person who participates in the conference will have a better understanding of how we create toxicity in the environ- ment, as well as ways to prevent it.

“The ways of addressing them are very vocal: ‘Let’s start a garden, let’s address the need for healthy food by growing it ourselves,’” Presbey said.

The tours have been broken up into smaller time slots, allowing more opportunities for participation. 

The conference will also include a number of guest speakers with a wide variety of backgrounds.

Highlighted speakers this year include: Juan Jhong-Chung, a climate justice director from the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition
and Michelle Martinez a director at Tishman Center for Social Justice and the Environment at the University of Michigan. There will also be a number of panel discussions.

The goal, organizers say, is to vocalize different ways to help create a better world from a number of perspectives.

Not only will Detroit Mercy students and conference speakers be involved, but younger students from nine middle and high schools around the area will be as well.

“We learn from each other, from the modeling that is happening around us,” Presbey said.

By incorporating learned methods of sustainability, the goal is to inspire action within our own communities. According to Presbey, an environmentally friendly world is something that encourages nurturing feelings towards not only the environment, but each other.

“We have positive examples all around us,” she said. “When we adapt our lifestyles, our way of living so that we are walking more gently on the Earth, so that were not destroying, so that we are replen- ishing, through planting trees or gardens, and when we’re mending broken relationships, and inviting everyone in, those are all examples of ‘environmentally friendly.’”

The theme of this year’s conference comes from an idea that we can learn from the Earth, as well as each other.

“This is one of the key Bioneer concepts, that the Earth is intelligent,” Presby said. “It has a way of dealing with waste and can replenish itself in a kind of balance. The idea is that we should listen to the Earth and learn from it.”