Recreating Biodiversity with Earthkeeper Alliance’s Adam Hall

January 6, 2014

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good, and we’re so honored today to have Adam Hall with us. He’s the Chairman and Founding Steward of the Earthkeeper Alliance. Welcome to Green is Good, Adam Hall. ADAM HALL: It’s great to be here with you, John, and all your listeners today. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well Adam, you’ve got a fascinating journey and story to share. Before we get into talking about this wonderful organization you’ve created, Earthkeeper Alliance, can you share the Adam Hall journey and what brought you to this point to start with? ADAM HALL: John, it’s been quite a wild ride and I keep thinking often about how much fun I had as a kid and probably many of you had a good time as a kid and my mom only had one rule and that rule was when the sun went down, just be home for dinner, Adam, so the rest of the day from sun up to sundown, I just was riding my bike and hiking in the mountains and connecting with nature and I was growing up in Pasadena. We lived in the foothills and had a lot of fun and then all of a sudden, I grew up a little bit and moved out to the beach in Malibu and adopted a new law and this one was a little different because I wanted to achieve what became known to me at the time, The American dream, to succeed in life so I adopted this rule, John, of the jungle, which is whether you’re a lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up in the morning, you better run like hell so I begin running fast and furious to make sure I wasn’t going to be eaten and so that really drove me towards a more of a predatory capitalist lifestyle but the results were hey, I achieved that American dream. I married my junior high and high school sweetheart and we have three amazing daughters together. I’m even a grandfather now. It’s hard to believe, and then the successful real estate development business and the golf clubs and the whole nine yards but when I got there, something was missing and not only was I unhappy, but I realized wait a second, there must be so much more to life and that’s when the quest began to connect myself with my inner and outer environment, not just be dangling in the wind out there chasing the almighty dollar. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s interesting; so then talk a little bit about the epiphany and the sea change within you to go do more and to go do different. ADAM HALL: Well, that’s well said, more and different, and really essentially at the moment, that sea change began when I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu going to work. Of course, the sun was coming up and I was on a phone call with an investment banker on Wall Street closing a very large loan transaction for one of my real estate deals and in a moment when the banker said to me, John, ‘Well, we have a problem here with your loan,’ and I just exploded with just anger and frustration. A lot of us have these frustrations with the Wall Street types but this one was particularly unique and then this dog ran in front of my car and I ended up having to scream, slam on the brakes, and reach for the tums, and I realized this wasn’t the life I wanted to live and I really set out on a quest out into the world, out into the nature, out into the wild, to get kind of answers that I was seeking, which I think are a lot of answers people ask, who am I, how can I serve, how my gifts can be applied, and ultimately, out in the world, the wild, so if I found preservation of myself and the power of nature to really help save myself and also to connect me into the greater capacity and the greater good of this great Earth we’re on. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there who just joined, we’ve got Adam Hall on and if you want to see the great work he’s doing, please go to www.earthkeeperalliance.com or EarthKeeperMovement.org. You were in the woods. You then created this organization and you also wrote a book, The Earthkeeper: Undeveloping the Future. Can you explain both the creation of this great organization and also the genesis for writing the book and how has it gone since you’ve created the organization and written the book? ADAM HALL: Well, sure. The best point to kind of connect with that is it’s like what do we do when we realize our greater calling and how do we become of greater service and more purposeful in our life? And those were the questions that I was asking and those were the answers that I received as I went into the jungles of South America or into the mountains or into temples and whatnot around the globe to connect with fabulous beautiful places on this planet, not only that were symbols of great mythology or great wisdom, but represented the beauty of nature and the power of nature and when that time came to be back really into effectuating change in the world and showing up in the world, it was how can I take 20 something odd years of real estate experience but do something with it in a way that could really effectuate a greater good? And that’s when I adopted that triple bottom line of it’s not just profit. It’s also about people and planet and if we can be purposeful in that, that’s like the quadruple bottom line; purpose, people, planet, and profit. If we put those four things together, then something could effectuate greater results and greater change so I ended up coming up to up here in the central coast of California and acquiring a coastal ranch and began to steward that and began to recreate the biodiversity there, effectuate conservation easements and preservation programs for the land, and then that resulted in less of a development, less intensity that could ever happen on the property. I began a permaculture garden and hence, that was the birth of the Earthkeeper Alliance and out of that grew the book that I just published called Earthkeeper: Undeveloping the Future so our message is really about undeveloping our future, not developing our future so we’ve been out doing a couple projects around the country to undevelop the land JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so interesting so can you give a little glimpse of what does that really mean, undeveloping the land, and then also, go back and share with our listeners the core mission of the Earthkeeper Alliance? ADAM HALL: Yeah well, the core mission of the Alliance is to take wild spaces, large tracts of land that are slated for development. In other words, they have entitlement and development rights. They may build homes there or golf courses or hotels and these type of intensive development and scale back the development right to a more compatible level, to a level that meets the demand of the community but also doesn’t become overbearing on the land so we undevelop the entitlement. Instead of developing projects, we scale it back and conserve it in perpetuity and that’s really the mission and that’s what we’ve been up to around the country. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Can you talk a little bit about what you mean by the terms that you’ve created, ‘impact investing’ and as you just well mentioned, the quadruple bottom line of profits, people, planet, and peace? ADAM HALL: Yes, absolutely. Impact investing is a very exciting arena because it offers an alternative to traditional investing and traditional investing is purely profit motivated and what impact investing is doing is really saying we’re going to invest in your water company or we’re going to invest in this environmental project or we’re going to invest in poverty but we’re going to invest in a way that has the greatest impact, not just to generate dollars back to us, but how does that affect the community? How does it affect people on the ground where that investment takes place? So it looks at is it creating jobs? Is it helping with abject poverty, for example. Then it will also look at what kind of impact would that have on the land? What kind of imprint is it really leaving? Is it creating more carbon and pollution or is it really creating more greener and more sustainable type of technologies? So those kinds of things are taken into consideration when we look at impact investing as compared to just looking solely at profits and it’s a very purposeful type of investment strategy and I’m pleased to share with you, John, and all your listeners, that this is really an exploding space and there’s a lot of capital flowing into this space. Matter of fact, JP Morgan came out with a study recently that said over a half-a-billion dollars is flowing into impact investing so there’s good things happening around our investment world as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Adam, so what you’re really saying if I’m hearing you correctly is that as a recovering capitalist, which sounds like what you really are, and that’s okay, there’s no shame in that, you can really merge in the sustainability and the green world the goal of making money but also doing good for the planet and the earth as well? ADAM HALL: Yes. You can, and as a matter of fact, I became a B Corp, which is a Benefit Corp, this last year, John. I’m also a member of One Percent for the Planet and essentially, the idea of B Corporations, and they’re becoming very popular in most states. Soon and hopefully soon, they’ll be available in every state but that allows companies to have as part of their government provisions to do things that are about things other than the environment and it actually is a dictate of the corporate mission to do things that will benefit people and planet so we’re seeing more of that and the fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, there’s greater good and greater value in companies that actually employee this type of quadruple bottom line because their greatest assets, it’s always been said, are their people bring value to that, not just a one line sentence, and their greater assets are also in the land or in the places they operate their business and to not effectuate more pollution or use more sustainable efficient type of technologies in their businesses so there’s ways to look at this and put this together where it’s becoming very powerful and making a difference and we’re starting to see it, so I’m excited to share that news. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Adam, do you feel hopeful from where you sit today and the journey that you’re on throughout the earth in the future of the earth and the sustainability of the planet that we all get to enjoy? ADAM HALL: I do very much so, and it’s a little bit different, I think, that what the main mantra is out there. Obviously a lot of folks are fairly pessimistic about it and there’s a lot of reasons and data and science of reasons that do make for a lot of concern and it shouldn’t be that we should not address these issues but my optimism comes from what I refer to as the internal flame because the total environment is both the outer and the inner environment so as long as we are consciously aware of how we are affecting the planet and how we are engaging and in relationship with the planet, then things will be fine because that will be a guiding force, so to speak, so I believe that the more each of us connects with our own environment and the connectivity with the nature as a whole, that we will be perfectly fine. We have a lot of challenges in front of us but it’s very much within our hands to have this greater relationship and to also engage in technology but technology is really not the end all here. It’s really about our relationship with the environment and choosing to bring forth consciousness around that to our legislators and then to our actions that we take in our homes and in our communities. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re down to the last three minutes, but I want you to go back to what you just mentioned, Adam, technology and some of the other more current issues that have been floating around, genetically modified food products and organisms. Can you share what that means for us right now, technology and how that relates with the future of the planet? ADAM HALL: Well, it certainly is a double-edged coin. As you mentioned, genetically modified organisms are coming forth in a bigger and better way, not just in food. For example, we recently were involved in a project that they were doing genetically modified trees. Imagine that and trees, this is what creates our nitrogen, oxygen, the air we breathe. They’re also involved with pollinations with pollinators and certain pest and it has the effect of killing off all of this and so there are some pretty radical things that are happening in the genetically modified organism arena and those are the kinds of things that we must effectuate an immediate in to and ostensibly, we have greater projectivity and greater harvest and some things are coming up around having the whole weather pattern changing and effectuating crop production and having seeds and things that address this so over time, they become ineffective again as well so I’m deeply concerned about technology from a genetically modified perspective and believe that it ultimately is going to have a substantial effect that will infringe upon the vitality of humanity. Technology in general though, John, is really effectuating great things because it’s allowing us to look at modeling. It’s allowing us to look at climate change. It’s allowing us to have great metrics. It’s allowing us to come up with real time data where we can act effectively in a way that conserves the planet better so technology has a good side and a bad side and I don’t like those words too much but it is that double edged sword and we can do so much with it as it relates to creating sustainable types of technology around power and renewables and other things like that so it’s exciting. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re down to a minute-and-a-half. Human innovation and technology, give us a little glimpse into what you’ve seen that’s coming in the next decade or two, Adam. ADAM HALL: Well, the exciting thing, first of all, is the ability of human beings really to be more adaptive to their environment so just on a personal level, on an innovative level, we have the ability to be very innovative about what we buy and how we consume things and so first and foremost, I see that there’s a level of consciousness that’s happening. I think in terms of other types of technology, we have technology coming that I think could be a game changer around hydrogen and looking at cleaner-fueled and weaning off the carbon-based economy. It doesn’t appear that way with what’s happening with fracking but there’s really some fantastic things that are going to be happening. We’re going to see more hydrogen type of cars and much cleaner energy in so many different ways so we have things happening along those lines. I think this renewables energy space, that technology will continue to improve and the cost of that will continue to decline so we things that are happening that we can capture the natural power of the universe, whether it’s through the sun or through wind and through other types of renewables, so technology is really helping us dramatically in those ways but there’ll be some other things, I think, that will be the real game changers but it all begins with ourselves. How would we innovate ourselves to adapt to a more sustainable lifestyle and a way that we can live our lives and it often begins with simplicity and beings with ourselves so I always begin there. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome, and for our listeners out there, please buy Adam’s great book, The Earthkeeper: Undeveloping the Future, wherever books are sold, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble. Support Adam and all the great work he’s doing and learn more about how you can be part of the solution. Also, go to EarthkeepAlliance.com or EarthkeepMovement.org. Adam Hall, you’re a passionate and inspiring sustainability leader and truly living proof that green is good.