Bioneers Conference Inspires Students to Take Action
Students from Sociology Professor Alison Alkon's new Environment and Society course returned from the Bioneers Conference stoked with inspiration to help solve environmental and social issues.
A Pacific Fund grant enabled the entire class to attend the annual Bioneers Conference, which took place in San Rafael October 16 through 18. The conference is widely heralded as a solution-oriented forum that combats "a sense of apathy resulting from the scale of global environmental problems." Leaders and activists who are involved in social justice and environmental causes spoke at the conference, and students were able to interact with them.
"I felt it was important that students get a chance to interact with individuals and organizations forging new ways to address environmental problems," said Professor Alkon.
These connections are now translating to action. Many of the students signed the 350 pledge for the International Day of Climate Action (October 24), and have committed to get involved with Pacific's Students for Environmental Action (SEA) club.
Sociology major Leora White met the owner of a company that installs solar energy panels on low-income housing. She has been in contact with him about the potential to bring green collar jobs to Stockton. "Bioneers was a life-changing experience," said Leora. "It really helped open my eyes and
see real ways I can get involved in solving problems that I always thought were 'larger' than me."
Environmental Studies major Carly Hiromoto said, "The entire experience was very eye-opening. It really made me reflect on my lifestyle and question what I can do to make positive changes through
environmentally conscious measures."
In addition to speakers and panel discussions, the Bioneers Conference included exhibits and smaller workshops. The students divided into small groups based on topics such as Energy, Wilderness, Environmental Justice and Water, and attended relevant workshops. After the conference, they were assigned a class project related to their topic. Before the semester ends, the students will become Bioneers, proposing solutions that can be implemented at Pacific or in the Stockton community.
The Environment and Society course looks at the relationship between social and scientific aspects of environmental problems and potential solutions. The class examines how social structures such as race, class, gender and nation influence environmental degradation, and how new structures might be created to foster environmental health.
Psychology major Edgar Cardoza felt the Bioneers conference "helped make a smooth transition from the first half of the class focusing on problems to now focusing on actual solutions and other things that are being done to improve the environment."