“A great story! It’s a great story, Aaron… a story that really matters,” the
phone crackled from the Skype connection. The caller was Adam Brown,
my long lost friend. I didn’t need much convincing but of course we had
Long before I made my first film, I met Adam Brown. He was a baseball
player, a climber, a mountain biker, a guitar player, and always
hardcore. Our sleepy state college was just far enough from DC that
most ignored it but not us. In the car I had gotten for a tip as a bus boy,
we invaded DC raves, Dead shows, and NYC rock concerts sleeping in
the car in alleys or parking lots surviving on peanut butter and honey
When we weren’t off exploring music and culture we were mountain
biking and studying hard. Neither of us really knew what we wanted
to do with our lives, specifically, but we knew. From Virginia both of
us found ourselves drawn to the west coast. Adam studied hard, found
good mentors and founded Environmental Protection in the Caribbean
(EPIC) with the woman who became his wife.
It was no surprise to me that Adam was finding success and making
his own way. He always was a bad ass. He always worked hard. He was
always willing to push himself harder and further than most whether
it was studying, climbing, surfing, field research, snowboarding,
fundraising, or building a way of life.
We lost touch. I went on to explore my love of writing, music, social
justice, travel, events, photography, and storytelling. As time went on
my love of snowboarding, hiking, camping, and exploration of wild
places turned a corner. I started to see some of the things that people
like John Muir have described decades before my arrival. Nature became
my church. I started to see connections that had not been clear in my
As my work moved from Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Seattle and from Carnegie
Hall to the Maasai Mara on issues from fair trade, food security, global
health, poverty, microfinance, and other social issues… the idea of how
I could bring a human component to the conservation movement began
to seep in. I worked on arts education and conservation curriculum
and movies about protecting wild places. The pieces were all falling
Simultaneously, Adam Brown was going through his own
transformation. Adam had always been hardcore. His early conservation
attitude had little patience for people. We were all pretty out of touch.
So much of what has transformed even the disbelievers to see the
importance of preserving life on our planet had not happened yet. Al
Gore was still inventing the Internet and had not released “Inconvenient
Truth”. Conservation was not mainstream.
Adam’s relentless commitment to hard work and growth led him to the
Black-Capped Petrel project. Adam had been working in the Caribbean
for more than a decade but Haiti was special. If you have a heart beating
under your skin, Haiti will grab it. Fear or love or both will flood your
arteries. Adam fell in love. 15 years of work transformed his perception
of the balance of human/nature and Haiti was living proof.
When Adam came to me with a great story. It was one neither of us
would have been ready for 20 years earlier, but now it was different. It
was the story of TWO families struggling for life. One a family of Haitian
farmers struggling to feed their children and the other a family of birds
on the brink of extinction living in one of the last places on earth they
could survive. The story of how everything is connected. The story of
how we are all connected to the global ecosystem around us and in us.
We didn’t have a dime but that was just the beginning.