This year marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Bioneers, a nonprofit organization that brings innovators together to foster positive social and scientific change inspired by nature and human creativity. The group hosts its national conference in California this autumn, but for those who can't make the cross-country journey, Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Bioneers (3RB) offers a Rust Belt alternative.

The 3RB conference takes place Oct. 16-18 at the Pittsburgh Project in the city's North Shore. In addition to broadcasts of 15 speakers from the national conference (including Michael Pollan), the 3RB version will feature local speakers discussing green jobs, sustainable agriculture, and environmental restoration. Conference organizer Maureen Copeland says the combination of national speakers and the region's own passionate leaders will help to inspire the community. 3RB also plans to host interactive art, music, and wellness activities for the event.

3RB is, according to their website, a project started by the parent organization Urban Ecology Collaborative, an East Coast conglomerate of 10 cities' problem solvers with a similar mission to the original Bioneers. Focusing on the areas touched by Pittsburgh's three rivers (the Ohio, the Allegheny, and the Monogahela), 3RB hosts monthly events geared toward different sectors of the population. Past events have included youth activism assemblies, farm tours, and art workshops — small previews of the opportunities available at the conference itself.

Bioneers converge in Iron City
Three Rivers Bioneers gathering offers alternative to California conference.