Heroes of the environment surface at Creating Equilibrium in Squaw Valley | SierraSun.com

Heroes of the environment surface at Creating Equilibrium in Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley played host to a first-of-its-kind event, which drew leaders from across the globe to attempt to save the environment, during Creating Equilibrium, a vision conference and art festival from Aug. 25-27.

The idea behind Creating Equilibrium is to take environmental innovation out of the boardroom, bring thinkers and influential people together in an outdoor setting where they can collaborate and ideate while simultaneously supporting local artists amid a backdrop of live music performances. Squaw Valley was chosen as the site for the event due to the community's commitment to environmental preservation.

"The goal is to continue these events," said Steve Kotler, one of the event's co-founders.

"This weekend's theme was biodiversity, but our goal is to continue to build on this discussion and tackle a new, pressing theme each year. Next year's event will be focused on water, and saving our major sources — the oceans, lakes and the species within."

The Creating Equilibrium founders are professionals with different expertise in tackling environmental and socioeconomic issues.

Kotler is a journalist, author, and entrepreneur with expertise in science, technology and culture; co-founder Gabrielle Hull, is an environmental and social justice advocate; co-founder Matt Reardon is the executive director of the Squaw Valley Institute; and co-founder Antony Randall is an entertainment industry production executive with a passion for social impact, innovation, and the environment.

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The musical guests of Creating Equilibrium are equally environmentally conscious, not only supporting the festival's efforts by performing, but also to participate in the discussion of what we can do to make the world a better place.

"Guster had been touring for a long time before we realized that we were leaving an insane amount of trash everywhere we were touring," said Ryan Miller of the band Guster, who performed and spoke at Creating Equilibrium.

"We had an 'Aha' moment and right then and there, started making small changes. We started greening our own tour, noting on riders that we wouldn't use plastic water bottles, and it kept spiraling from there. Once we all became incredibly passionate about this subject, we used our platform and our mics to speak on sustainability and lead by example — we originally came at it from a selfish level, but then we were like 'Look, we can really make some change here,'" Miller said.

The weekend's theme of biodiversity featured speakers leading thinkers and doers through deep discussions on what the end goal in biodiversity would be, when it should be attainable, and what the next steps should be in its achievement.

"You know I work in Madagascar and they're on the brink of extinction — 95 percent of their habitat is destroyed, and it's sad. I get up in the morning and think 'Why am I here?' but today, I was totally refreshed, I was rejuvenated and ready to collaborate with some of these people to make our future better," said conservation biologist and MacArthur Genius Grant Winner, Patricia Wright, a keynote speaker during the conference.

"I can only be excited about the next time we all meet together, which will be soon — all of us attendees are going to be meeting off-camera, off-record — we're going to make these solutions happen. We're doers and we're going to solve some big problems together. This Creating Equilibrium conference has inspired and allowed us to do that," she added.

Locals who attended the festival commented on the importance of events, such as this, where the general public is invited into the discussion in an open forum, saying they planned on attending as soon as they heard of the opportunity in their own backyard.

"I like the band enough, but I really came for the conference," said Mike Mendelson who came up from the Auburn area to participate in Creating Equilibrium.

"I randomly read Steven's books and was surprised that something like this would be coming to Squaw. I looked into it, learned about Steven's involvement and what the event was all about and it's something, globally, that I want to be part of and it was only an hour away from my house. I want to be part of the discussion on how to use what we know about the innovation process to make change," he added.

Art installations could be seen throughout the Village at Squaw, featuring local craftsmanship in various forms as well as booths featuring local products for sale.

As attendees meandered through the village they were able to appreciate and interact with various installations. People laid down while others did yoga in a sound-immersion installation, which allowed them to really feel the music they were hearing.

A virtual reality installation brought art, environmentalism, and technology together to raise awareness of deforestation.

A series of endangered species were even on display, having been sculpted by world-renowned artist and activist Gilles Cenazandotti, using discarded items he gathered from Mediterranean beaches.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.