Solving Today’s Problems With the Future in Mind

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Our actions and our inactions determine our individual and collective future.  Although the exercise of our free will may be constrained at times, the creative power of our species is undeniable.  The We Make Our Future conference being offered October 16-18 by Finger Lakes Bioneers is based upon the above two premises: mutual authorship of our shared future, and an infinite supply of creative energy.

We are fortunate to have the opportunity in our country to freely come together and take responsibility for co-creating the economic, cultural, and physical infrastructures that will define life in the Finger Lakes Region in the years to come.  What we will deem possible will arise out of our shared consciousness.  This is why all of us are needed in the conversation about the future – we are immersed in a large and complex system and our individual knowledge is imperfect.  Our habit of fragmenting what knowledge we do have has led us down many blind alleys and caused immense harm.  If we are to see clearly how to weave the parts into a workable whole, we must take the time to share what we know and what we envision.  By working together, we will discover the joyful creativity of solving today’s problems with the future in mind.

The We Make Our Future conference is being offered as a place to affirm our desire and our ability to create a future that expresses our love for our home landscapes and for each other.  We believe we have the capacity to design systems in which we can make choices based on care and respect instead of greed and fear.  Nowhere is this more important to demonstrate than our regional economy.  Many assume that we must forego our higher values and principles in the face of economic “realities.”  Yet this perspective is perhaps more a habit of mind than any true constraint on how an economy can be structured.

It is obvious that the current growth-based economic model is unsustainable because it weakens and destroys too many of our life support systems and brings both immediate and long-term harm to too many people.  The proposed Marcellus Shale drilling is a classic example of this zero sum game of winners and losers.  But what should take its place?  Is it possible to redesign at least some elements of our regional economy and consciously shift to activities that preserve the ongoing health of our natural systems while assuring a reliable supply of food, energy, shelter, and other essential needs?  How can we achieve a stable and resilient economic system that grows knowledge, health, and well being while shrinking waste, pollution, and exploitation?

Finger Lakes Bioneers is offering a venue to learn, share, and explore our options for building an economy that works for all of us.  We’ll explore the potential for biofuels to power our energy needs, and our ability to feed ourselves in a way that preserves our bountiful farmlands.  We’ll look at the opportunities for creating new green enterprises out of the old manufacturing base of the past, and the viability of forming worker-owned businesses so that the profits from the new green economy are shared equitably.  We’ll learn about the benefits of buying local, and explore our motivations for “doing the right thing” in the marketplace.  We’ll also be celebrating the many green businesses and nonprofits already transforming our regional marketplace.

We hope you will join us October 16-18 on the Ithaca College campus.  Besides these topics on building a sustainable economy, the conference will feature satellite feeds from the main Bioneers conference in California along with more local and regional presentations on energy, food, the arts, health and well being, youth empowerment, and earth stewardship.

There is great joy to be found in working with others to create positive solutions to our own challenges while protecting the future of those who follow us.  Visit to learn more about this inaugural event, and the many creative voices that will be joining us in this conversation about our shared future.

Gay Nicholson is the President of Sustainable Tompkins and chairs the Finger Lakes Bioneers Steering Committee.

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