This interview was conducted by Debbie Banks
Introduce yourself and tell us when did you start happy eco news and what was your motivation.
My name is Grant Brown, I reside in Vancouver Canada and have lived here most of my life. Happy Eco News officially started on January 1, 2018, at a small coffee shop in Hong Kong. The idea began forming a bit earlier than that though. In 2017 my wife and I decided to take our two teenage children on a trip around the world. We had all had grown up in Canada with clean water, healthy food and very little pollution. We felt it important for our children to see and understand how most other people in the world live their lives. We were about four months into our trip, and had arrived in Bali in early December from a month in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We arrived in Bali at night, and in the morning we awoke, grabbed some coffee from a local stand, and headed to the beach to check out the surf break. Canggu is known as one of the best surfing beaches on the island and all the travel photos showed classic surf beach scenery. But when we got there we were not impressed by the scenery or waves, it was the plastic pollution on the sand. It was everywhere - covering literally every square foot, with even more buried under the sand. It was a brutal recognition of how we have really let the big corporations have their way too long, and how they have abused that privilege.
That moment and others like it, took a toll on me and when combined with the news and misinformation on climate, US president Trump in office (and all the backward momentum that was creating), it was too much to bear. I had to do something to help myself and maybe help some other people too. My day job was in clean technology – I travelled the world working with and meeting others that were also engaged and passionate about helping to fix the problems, so I knew there are many good people doing good things, but the good news wasn't getting as much press coverage as the bad news. I wanted to change that.
What steps have been taken during this period?
I began by sharing a few positive environmental news stories on my personal social media accounts. This was in an effort to counteract the eco-anxiety I was feeling, and while it helped me, I soon had people asking for more. As my sources of news stories refined, I increased the number of stories to five per day and then created a website. Shortly after, I added an email newsletter of the Top 5 stories from the previous week that is sent to subscribers every Monday. That's really how Happy Eco News was started; a way to help myself feel better about the world.
Now I have two staff and together we are helping people around the world find hope and helping entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, and activists by promoting their good work. I often find myself using the catchphrase "good people doing good things" to describe who we want to help.
In your opinion, what is the ultimate goal of your site and is it possible to achieve it?
The entire rationale behind this project was formed from a quote by Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki from one of his books. I am going from memory so no quotation marks, but basically, the idea is this: When people understand the scale of the world's problems they become overwhelmed with fear. Instinctively they know they must make big, radical changes in order to protect their children's health and future. But change on this scale is large and disruptive. It is scary and so it becomes easier to simply deny there is even a problem. That way you do not have to change or even feel bad about it.
I want to reduce the fear, show them that yes, there is reason for hope. There are many good things happening and many good people are doing good things. By providing hope, maybe I can inspire a few to take action. I also intend to do what I can to help good people doing good things by promoting their work, providing grants and scholarships other forms of financial support. I believe this work not only needs to be done, it is also very achievable.
What is your most important things that you learned through your environmental activity?
I have learned that I am not alone. The people who benefit from the continued destruction of the environment would like us to believe that we are (alone). They want us too afraid to stand up and demand change. They want our numbers fractured and without a voice so that they can continue with their destruction. Every week I receive emails and messages from people who have been suffering from eco-anxiety. They tell me of how they have found solace and comfort in knowing that there are good people doing good things and that maybe there is reason for hope. There are more people that want positive change than those who want destruction, together we can make our voices heard.
Lastly, and most importantly, I feel that I have found a new identity. Before the Happy Eco News, I was just another consumer using the earth's resources without too much thought about my impact. My identity has changed. I am now aware and conscious of all my decisions. I now know that all my actions, no matter how small, make a difference. I have become a better person. I am now an eco-activist, and I will remain so for the rest of my life.