A Teen Perspective on the Bioneers by the Bay Conference
What happens when many passionate people care about an important issue? A movement is created, a movement strong enough to inspire others to make change. Bioneers By The Bay is a conference that feeds a movement and wants to connect people from America to unite and fight for a more eco-friendly world. The weekend from the 22nd to the 24th of October, New Bedford was visited by thousands of passionate folks who advocated about environmental justice and other global warming issues. I was lucky enough to attend the conference with my fellow co-workers from the Groundwork Somerville Green Team. With the staff of Groundwork Somerville, we departed for the conference on a cloudy Friday afternoon, all eager and nervous because we did not know what to expect. Granted, I did have an idea of the conference because I attended it last year and was part of the youth committee this year. In the committee I got the chance to meet other youth from Massachusetts, who just like me wanted to make their voice heard in the planning of the conference. I was really happy to know that I was going to Emcee the Open Mic show since I have always had a passion for public speaking.
When our group arrived at New Bedford, getting some sleep was not the only thing that was taking over our minds; we were curious of the conference and what new memories we would make. On Saturday morning, we got the opportunity to listen to some important and inspirational speakers. They all did an amazing job to prep for their presentation and make sure that the audience left changed and more informed. However, there was one speaker that stood out to our group the most; her name is Annie Leonard, author of “The Story of Stuff”. Ms. Leonard spoke a lot about how she came up with the idea of the book that was later made into a movie but most importantly she had the desire in her voice to convey her message to everyone in the room. Her speech highlighted how we should wonder where all the “stuff” that we have come from.
Later that day, other amazing things awaited for the Groundwork Somerville team. We were chosen to have our own workshop in the conference. We prepared for the workshop three weeks prior to October 22nd, and we called it “Piloting a Youth-Led Social Enterprise: Somerville SoilCycle”. The workshop took time to prepare, especially since there was fifteen of us presenting (each member had a speaking part). After choosing the main topics that we wanted to elaborate on and doing the proper research, an amazing powerpoint slide show was created. The presentation touched upon Groundwork Somerville’s composting project called SoilCycle and its road from an idea to reality. The workshop also gave an insight to its audience of tips and steps on how to start a community composting program or even in a smaller scale, composting at home. Our listeners were quite impressed with our work, or at least so we heard later on as some had mentioned us in their other workshops. We were quite pleased to know that those who attended our one and a half hour long presentation left the room learning new things about business and compost. The workshop was also very helpful to the presenters themselves. Considering that most of us were under the age of 18, for some it was their first public speaking event. It was nice to see them overcome their fears of speaking in front of others and their improvements from a rocky beginning to an excellent delivery when the day finally arrived.
On Sunday morning, we all woke up with mixed feelings; it was definitely nice to know that in a couple of hours we would be back home to our families and friends, but we also were sad that the conference was coming to an end. The keynote speakers that morning were nationally recognized folks who had a dream and vision and made it a success. Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea” had a very emotional and touching video and story about his personal stories in third world countries where children still have problems going to school and mines explode unexpected, and where a shocking high percentage of girls still are not educated. With an interesting and thought provoking quote, “Teach a boy and you teach an individual, Teach a girl and you teach a community” Mr. Mortenson ended his speech and for our group he also ended our time at the conference as we had to leave shortly after his presentation. However, we were all glad that we heard him last because the ride back home was quiet as we all pondered upon his words and images.
Thinking back to the conference, we are all very glad to have participated in such an important event. I like conferences like this, because they remind people that there are many in this movement and they remind us why climate work is so important. You know that an event is successful when it changes minds and inspires others to keep working hard or to start advocating, and Bioneers By The Bay definitely did this for us. As a youth planner, emcee, workshop presenter, keynote listener, that weekend was truly memorable and I am glad that I got to share it with my peers and co-workers and to know that this movement keeps getting stronger and stronger as we spread everything we learned from the conference to others.
- Enxhi Popa, 17
Somerville High School, Class of 2011