Bioneers Conference 2009

This year’s Bioneers Conference, held in Marin County from October 16-18th, was Aid Still Required’s fourth year in attendance, in conjunction with Andrea and Hunter’s wedding anniversary.  The Paynes were fortunate enough to be joined by Board member Maureen Charles, who found the conference equally inspiring, a gathering of amazing people focusing on visionary solutions to preserve and revitalize the planet in addition to restoring social justice to a broken world.

One of their favorite workshop presenters was Dr. John Todd of Todd Ecological Design and Engineering – the 2008 winner of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge.  He spoke about his revolutionary approach to coal mining mountain top restoration in Appalachia.  After hearing Dr. Todd and seeing Diane Sawyer’s Children of the Mountains television special on malnutrition in Appalachia, the beautiful land and forgotten people of Appalachia are now on ASR’s radar where we hope to make a difference.

The Paynes first heard Dr. Todd and his wife, Mary Jack Todd, speak at a local Los Angeles Bioneers meeting regarding their visionary simulated ecosystems that purify sewage and waste water.  He has created a method that changes human waste into drinkable water through the practical use of plant filter systems as eco-machines.  Who knew that waste management could be so fascinating?!?!  For more about Dr. Todd’s work, check out his site at

Mari Margil, the associate director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELD) was one of the standout plenary speakers with her presentation “Who Speaks for the Trees?: Driving Nature’s Rights into Law.”  The focus was Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly’s landmark decision to enshrine the rights of three cities in the US who are drawing up city ordinances to strip corporations of their rights constitutionally, even as the cities grant nature rights under the law.

Creating a parallel between how we treat nature and slavery, Ms. Margil made the point that most laws govern the use of nature as property, but do not grant it rights or protection, just as laws regarding slavery addressed slaves as property without granting them rights or protection.

CELD promotes affordable legal services to grassroot groups and municipal governments for democratic control of environmental rights.  Their Democracy School is a series of weekend seminars that helps groups and communities create organizing strategies to resist corporate rights that impose on the rights of those communities.  For more information, please check out their website:

Please consider joining ASR for next year’s Bioneers Conference.  Only four can fit comfortably in the Prius, but the Paynes are not adverse to finding a bus that runs on biodiesel to increase the Los Angeles constituency!

ASR Board Member / Secretary Maureen Charles with Andrea and Hunter

[Photos of Dr. Todd and Ms. Margil are accredited to results from a Google image search.]

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