Notes from the Field: Breakthrough Solutions for People and Planet: A Review of the Bioneers Gathering at Findhorn, Scotland, UK

Anouk Brack and Rik Hoevers

Anouk Brack & Rik Hoevers

Bioneers is an emerging culture of social and scientific innovators who are mimicking nature’s operating instructions to serve human ends while healing nature. For more than twenty years Bioneers have promoted practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies for restoring Earth’s imperiled ecosystems and healing our human communities.

Anouk Brack

Rik Hoevers

In their journey Bioneers have become a more and more integral movement with a huge emphasis on actual workable existing solutions for our global and local challenges with nature and culture. Without using an integral framework as such they see and leverage the connections between ecosystems, culture and society and individual development and action. They recognize that any approach that wants to have a high chance of succeeding better take all these perspectives into account while maintaining a practical, down-to-earth, spirit of just making it happen.

Attending a Bioneers ( event or watching DVD’s or videos of it is a highly inspirational and slightly shocking experience. Shocking because we become even more aware of all the pollution, injustice and challenges we face as humans globally and locally. Inspiring because the solutions are out there! The featured presenters are leading the way. Showing us all that with focus, determination, an open heart and a willingness to experiment great things can happen.

A quote from Mother Teresa comes to mind:

We can do no great things, only small things with great love.


We will highlight a few of the most inspiring stories that in our view embody Integral Leadership for Sustainability.

Among those presentations that especially resonated was that of Alan Watson. With his organization “Trees for Life” ( Alan has worked for three decades to restore the Caledonian forest near Findhorn, including all species native to this area. This part of the world has lost 99% of it’s trees, so restoring this ecosystem in all it’s variety is a huge task. Of course, the area surrounding Findhorn isn’t particularly special in this account. In fact, most of the developed world has faced a similar amount of deforestation.

The trees in Scotland don’t grow back by themselves because of the wild deer that graze on young tree seedlings. Because there’s no longer any wolves, these deer have now become abundant, effectively becoming an obstacle for the wood to recover. By fencing off parts of nature, keeping out the deer, the trees start growing back by themselves. Instead of becoming disappointed and cynical by the enormity of the task he set for himself, Alan seems to be the living incarnation of the Findhorn ( saying “Work is Love in Action”. A friend mentioned half-jokingly that Alan is in fact the only person he knows with a business plan that spans 5 generations.

So, these Bioneers are the tree-hugging kind? Well, let’s say they’re part time tree-huggers. The rest of their time they’ll spend, for instance, cleaning out extremely polluted waterways in the Philippines in a way that is both high-tech and seamlessly integrates into the natural occurring ecology. When Galen Fulford of Biomatrix Water ( presented “before” and “after” photo’s of exactly this, he inspired trust in the audience that we’ll be able to survive our current challenges. “Look, everything will be alright, we’ll be able to fix the damage we did to the earth!” A sigh of relief was almost audible. Galen himself was more cautious, stressing that the work they had done so far has to be seen in relation to the scale of the pollution of waterways in the developing world. Hearing his talk, we move from hope to fear and back.

Not everything a Bioneer does is about ecology. Lady Diana Whitmore spoke of her work in the “Teens and Toddlers” program ( with teenage girls (14-17 yrs) with very poor prospects. If she’d try to guide and tutor these girls she’d put them in a dependent position. Furthermore, the girls in the program are streetwise and don’t take advice very easily. To effectively help these kids (both teens and toddlers), a refreshing approach is taken in which a teenage girl gets the responsibility to look after a toddler. The girls are encouraged to function as a mentor and role model for their pupil.

The principles Diana mentioned as central to the approach include “Trusting rather than controlling”, “Respecting rather than judging”, “Relating to potential rather than behavior”. It is probably because of the combination of this enlightened approach and the open heart and mind of the organization that makes this teenage pregnancy prevention program so incredibly effective.

As a final example of the work of a Bioneer, let’s look at Pracha Hutanuwatr who calls his Grassroots Leadership Training programme “Spiritual, green, and non-violent anarchist-socialists, rooted in the Asian tradition”. Pracha spoke the voice of indigenous people, not always happy with western arrogant mingling. “Look, see this temple? It´s very famous. In fact you may already know it. Who of you people has been there?” [ half the audience raises hands ] “Exactly my point. There’s only tourists there now.” Pracha offers a view that isn’t exactly comfortable or flattering for us, stressing the need to redefine what we as western civilization mean by progress, development, knowledge, wellbeing and happiness.

All in all, there are quite some area’s that your average Bioneer may be working on. Although not explicitly “integral”, this Bioneers network is among the most integral approaches we have ever seen. To a bioneer it goes without saying that everything is connected as in one big eco-system. In order to succeed in the short and long run any project should take into account all involved and effected individuals, communities and cultures, as well as the natural and societal systems, ànd the interplay between them. Where an explicitly “integral” approach can sometimes still beg the question: “So, how do you apply this?”, all solutions featured at Bioneers are existing, innovative, inspired by nature and are effectively addressing a problem that needs fixing.

Can the Integral Community and the Bioneers cross-pollinate and mutually enrich eachothers’ effectiveness in co-creating a better world? We believe so. Bioneers bring the hands-on attitude and the ecosystem awareness, the integral framework can offer a more explicit holistic approach. Also, the integral framework can emphasize the importance of the inner development of the bioneer and bring an understanding of how communities with differing worldviews need a different incentive to get involved.

There’s a lot to be done, the solutions are out there. Or in the words of Bioneers co-founder Kenny Ausubel “The Shift is Hitting the Fan”.

More resources on this event can be found on, more on Bioneers in general like their women’s leadership campaign can be found at

About the Authors

This review was written by Anouk Brack & Rik Hoevers of Experience Integral ~ Inspiring & Supporting Leaders and Change-makers in Sustainability with content, courses and community ~

Anouk Brack is the founding director of Experience Integral. Next to that she has her own company in training, coaching and consulting for leadership development (, and works at the Wageningen University of Life Sciences where she teaches “Integral Leadership for Sustainable Evolution” and “Intuitive Intelligence”. She holds a master’s degree in Biology. Anouk can be contacted through

Rik Hoevers is a philosopher & geometrist who aims to inspire us to change our collective unconscious paradigms on technology and sustainability. He is a geometry toy developer in order to let children and adults enjoy the beauty of geometry and discover how we could build our houses in a revolutionary new way. Also he is married to Anouk and runs Experience Integral with her. His websites about toys and about paradigm shifts. Rik can be contacted at