In 1985, at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo — at that time called San Juan Pueblo — in New Mexico, a young filmmaker named Kenny Ausubel watched a Native American farmer take some bright red corn seeds from a little clay pot that had been embedded in the mud wall of his adobe home. This was the sacred red corn of the Pueblo, which no one had grown in forty years. The old farmer planted the sacred seeds, renewing an ancient contract between the people and the earth. For Ausubel, the moment was revelatory.
|Bioneers founders Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons|
Ausubel went on to form an organization named Seeds of Change, devoted to conserving the world’s indigenous agricultural heritage by offering heirloom seeds to backyard organic gardeners. Along with his wife Nina Simons, he also initiated the annual Bioneers Conference and its parent organization, the Collective Heritage Institute.
The term bioneer is intended to indicate a biological pioneer — one who sees the solutions to contemporary global problems not in technology but in a biological model of interconnectedness, in what Ausubel calls true biotechnologies, based on biomimicry, natural design, and the restoration of natural capital.
Bioneers states several interconnecting goals for its annual conferences — to cultivate and disseminate environmental solutions to national and global audiences; to inspire and equip people toward effective action; to develop and spread model economic strategies for ecological agriculture, environmental restoration, and community self-reliance; to strengthen traditional, indigenous, and restorative farming practices; to revitalize
our cultural and spiritual connection with the natural world.
And, in fact, the conference has over the years brought together a remarkable array of visionary activists, organizers, and speakers on such topics as restoration, ecology, bioremediation, alternative health, indigenous land practices, green medicine, natural capitalism, relation to place — and the role of sacred and psychoactive plants in world renewal.
The Bioneers propose that there is a profound intelligence in nature, and that, in our present moment of predicament and opportunity, we must learn and follow that intelligence. It is in this context that speakers at the Bioneers conferences have addressed the issue of sacred plants and fungi, and their role as guides both to the reality of the natural world and to the ways in which we can learn to live in harmony with it.
Fourteen of these presentations, taken from conferences held between 1990 and 2004, have been collected in the book Visionary Plant Consciousness: The Shamanic Teachings of the Plant World. In the book, twenty-three leading ethnobotanists, anthropologists, artists, and medical researchers — people such as Terence McKenna, Wade Davis, Alex Grey, Kat Harrison, Paul Stamets, and Luis Eduardo Luna — present their understandings of the nature of psychoactive plants and their significant connection to humans.
The Bioneers conference is traditionally held in San Rafael, California, in the Fall — the 2009 conference will run from October 16 to18 — and is also carried by satellite feed to other locations. Here is an example — environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and best-selling author Paul Hawken, introduced by Kenny Ausubel, addressing the final plenary session of the 2007 Bioneers conference: