Knox's First 'Beaming Bioneers' Draws a Crowd

Activities include 'eco-tour' and talks on environmental issues

November 11, 2011

Bioneers at Knox: Eco-Tour

By Stephen Danilovich '14 and Laura Pochodylo ‘14

Knox College students brought a national event to a local level when Knox hosted its first "Beaming Bioneers" event on November 4-6. Affiliated with the national Bioneers Conference, held this year in California, "Beaming Bioneers" provided a forum for discussing environmental issues and solutions.

The event featured presentations from prominent speakers, including explorer and environmental advocate Philippe Cousteau and Anim Steel. Steel is co-founder of The RealFood Challenge, an initiative encouraging colleges to buy more of their food from local, sustainable sources.

These presentations were broadcast to off-site locations, including the Knox College campus, where other events also were organized. "Beaming Bioneers" provided a way to connect Knox's activism to the greater Galesburg area.

Here is a look at some of the workshops and other activities that took place at Knox's "Beaming Bioneers."

‘Eco Tour': Learning to See Land

A little observation can lead to a lot of understanding about environmental conditions, issues, and activism in the Galesburg area, Knox College Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman said as he led an "eco-tour."

Bioneers at Knox: Eco-TourMembers of the tour group included students from Knox College and Monmouth College, a Knox graduate who works as a horticulturalist in St. Louis, Missouri, an environmental coordinator at an agricultural company, and people from as far as Michigan and Wisconsin.

Schwartzman guided them to preserved patches of prairie, the cafeteria, a garden cultivated by students in one of his classes, and a community farm on a vacant neighborhood lot.

Each location the group visited put larger environmental movements into a local context. The local food movement is picking up momentum at Knox, Schwartzman explained, and the college is working to integrate more local produce in its food selections.

He also briefly described a new class he is teaching, Urban Agriculture, and he showed the group the land near Academy and South streets where students are learning to garden.

While leading the group, Schwartzman stressed the importance of observation. He pointed out that plants such as clover and purslane -- often considered to be weeds -- actually are edible, and he encouraged the tour participants to look for open spaces where food could be grown in urban areas.

"When you're not just getting food at the grocery store, it changes the whole dynamic," Schwartzman said.

Food for Thought

Defining it as "the movement of our generation," Knox College graduate Helen Schnoes '11 of Minneapolis, Minnesota, led a workshop about the "food movement." She double-majored in creative writing and political science, graduating summa cum laude.

Bioneers at KnoxThe workshop covered different definitions of the "food movement" and discussed the movement's national campaigns, including the Farm to Community Alliance and the Fair Food Network. Schnoes, now a postbaccalaureate fellow at Knox, explained that what's called the "food movement" actually is a collection of smaller sub-movements, all sharing the common purpose of making positive, eco-friendly changes to the food industry.

The movement is tackling a wide range of issues, such as diet-related diseases and animal welfare, so it's important for the sub-movements to "make connections," Schnoes said. One way to do that, she explained, is to understand how the food system works within the bigger political, economic, and cultural picture. Another way is to form bonds between growers and consumers.

Schnoes and others in the workshop also explored "food movement" initiatives at Knox, such as the Community Garden and the Dining Services composting system for leftover food.

Kaity Hutchcroft, a first-year Knox student from Knoxville, Illinois, said she learned a lot from the workshop. "I didn't know there were so many opportunities to be involved," she said.

Winds of Change

Wind and solar energy someday could provide Galesburg's electricity supply, according to Knox College student Thomas Veague and Galesburg businessman Gary Lay.

Bioneers at Knox: Eco-TourIn a workshop on local energy solutions, they discussed how feasible it is for renewable energy to compete with -- and eventually replace -- fossil fuels.

Veague, a senior from Batavia, Illinois, majoring in environmental studies, analyzed the business side of renewable energy and noted that financial incentives are available for building renewable energy systems. The payback is fast, and electricity becomes less expensive in the long run, he explained.

"Solar power eclipses fossil fuels in potential, capacity, availability, and efficiency," said Veague.

Lay's segment of the workshop covered the electrical features of a solar-powered or wind-powered system. His company, Green Winds, plans to tap into the renewable energy market by providing wind turbines and solar panel systems. He showcased one of his wind turbines and demonstrated solar-powered batteries while working on a hand-held electrical drill.

Changing Leadership for a Changing World

The Knox Advocates for Recycling and Environmental Support (KARES) hosted a roundtable workshop on "Environmental Activism in the Community." Attendees represented a wide range of interests -- including salmon and food justice -- and drew on their environmental activism passions as well as their involvement in Knox clubs and organizations as they shared ideas for effective leadership.

"I am very interested in your future," said one of the attendees, Galesburg resident Margie Mitchell.

Students discussed fundraising, event planning, activism, and retaining membership. The group was diverse, with representatives from the Alliance for Peaceful Action, KARES, Garden Club, Greek life, and the Knox College swim team.

Mitchell listened to their concerns and offered tips on how students could extend their activism into Galesburg.

Knox College students have been attending Bioneers events at other universities since 2001.

The Knox Beaming Bioneers event was planned by the Prairie Fire Bioneers Organizing Team: Alison Ehrhard '11, Michelle Gerber '11, Rosie Worthen '11, and led by Peter Schwartzman, chair of the Knox Department of Environmental Studies.

People attending the conference included groups from other Midwestern colleges and members of the Galesburg community. Schwartzman said more than 150 people -- from the Knox campus and beyond -- attended the Knox Beaming Bioneers.

"It was a grand success," he said. "Everything was so wonderful. I met so many new people and so many shared their dreams and aspirations."

Photos by Kate Hovda '15 and Kin Vong '13