At The Future of Food @ SXSW in Austin, Texas, Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg sat down with Adrian Grenier, actor and Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. Environment Programme North America, to discuss building a better relationship with nature through investing in yields beyond money.
“We all have a default education to think that money is the goal. Money isn’t the goal, it’s a tool to accomplish our goals,” says Grenier.
Grenier’s impact fund DuContra Ventures chooses projects to support by evaluating not only the return on investment but the intangible values within each company, such as employees’ personal growth and human flourishing. Grenier and his cofounder Ba Minuzzi call this “YBM,” or yields beyond money.
“We do things differently, we push against the norms,” says Grenier. The name DuContra is a reference to his longtime nickname, meaning “rebel” in Portuguese.
Grenier discussed his personal experience moving past an unfulfilling and ungrounded lifestyle after accumulating money and fame. The journey focused on connecting back to the Earth, and DuContra’s documentary series “Earth Speed” explores this new way of living. In each episode, Grenier highlights a specific philosophy such as permaculture and a related mission-driven company.
Living at Earth Speed, according to Grenier, means cultivating a lifestyle that’s “in the cadence of nature.”
“Nature is both as slow and as fast as it needs to be to accomplish the goal,” says Grenier. “Part of the show is trying to find a balance between living in connection and also being in the real world.”
Grenier has advocated as an environmentalist for many years. He says that earlier in his life he saw prescription, legislation, and restrictions as key to change, but this scope of thinking doesn’t consider the many reasons why, for example, farmers use fertilizers and pesticides: “There’s no financial incentive for farmers to take the risk of doing things differently.”
Now, Grenier takes what he’s learned in permaculture to tackle these larger, systemic issues. “Our instinct in the colonial mentality has been to impose our will on and control nature as opposed to working with it,” he says.
Earth Speed aims to show how both personal development and environmental innovations can contribute to a better world by connecting viewers to stories of the land, because “to help the planet and the Earth it’s all about connection. If you can’t connect, you can’t care,” he says.
“What you do now has a real effect downstream for your kids, for your grandkids, for all of society and history,” says Grenier. “You don’t have to rush to get it all done, you can take your time and do what’s right. Plant the seed for a tree whose shade you’ll never enjoy.”