Hollywood actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador to the Environment Adrian Grenier is averse to labels.
“It divides us. It is funny that in this day and age when everybody wants an identity and everybody is claiming who they are, I want less labels. It gives me more flexibility and a lateral opportunity to learn instead of being stuck in a particular ideology,” said Grenier in an interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
The ‘Entourage’ star, who was in the UAE recently to promote his ‘Stop Sucking’ campaign against single-use plastic straws and to discuss sustainable living in this region with companies Krush Brands and Ecopack.me, finds such tags highly reductive. His philosophy seems to have worked wonderfully for this versatile talent. The musician-entrepreneur-philanthropist is best known for playing Vincent Chase on HBO’s ‘Entourage’ that ran for eight season and his roles in the Hollywood hits ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Drive Me Crazy’.
Excerpts from our interview with an empathetic Grenier as we discuss his life as an actor and an activist ...
Q: What brings you to Dubai and how difficult has your battle to conserve environment been?
A: I am here to talk about the work that I have been doing for the oceans through my organisation called ‘Lonely Whale’ as well as UN environment programmes and generally as a citizen. I am not an alarmist. I don’t think it is productive to try and prove whether it’s happening or not. I look at it as a much deeper opportunity for people to improve their lives and create a world that is better than the one that creates a lot of pollution and damage to the planet. It’s not necessarily about saving ourselves. As a spiritual person, it’s beyond us to know what saving is. It is a matter of us living everyday as humbly, as honestly and awake as possible. When we pollute the oceans and when we pollute the environment, it makes for a less positive human experience and also for the animals. You look around and you see whales washing up on shore with plastic in their belly, it is a sign that you could do things better.
Q: When you have a leader like US President Donald Trump who gives no love to environmentalists claiming climate change is a hoax or that it stands in the way of economic growth, how difficult has the journey been for you?
A: I don’t get involved in the noise of politics. Lot of times, politicians are looking to adopt a policy or say something that will get them elected, earn favour with the population or to keep power. I am more interested in meeting people, helping to bring about real change and a way of living that elevate the society beyond what a politician says. I was at COP21 [climate conference] and I was happy to see all those people, excited about change in the world and their vision of seeing something beautiful. Their spirit was so alive, no matter what a politician says. Politicians come and go. But we the people remain on the ground doing the work and living our every day to embody that change.
Q: Sounds fair. But what do you tell people, for instance a mother of multiple kids, who are busy leading a life and have no time for saving the environment?
A: This is a perfect example where you can tell your kids over and over again. Are they going to listen? Maybe. Ultimately, it’s about choices in life. It is the same with politicians. They can talk, talk and talk but the way we live is up to us … I am not looking at the moment to dictate how people should live. I am looking at kids, I am looking at 100 years into the future and thinking what do I want the world to look like? You keep getting distracted by the noise of politics then you forget what you were aiming for — which is more long term.
Q: When did you decide that you wanted to be into conserving environment? Aren’t many people cynical about saving the planet?
A: People become cynical because it’s a lot easier. It lets them off the hook and then they don’t have to do anything. Since the world is going to end anyway, they can just give up. It’s an apathetic, passive choice. It’s a lot harder to actually do the right thing every day and to work hard for others and be less selfish. When I look out in the world, I see the environment and it’s not environment alone, it is life itself. I have a passion to create life and when you see the destruction that some of our bad behaviour and ignorance creates, it can’t help but break your heart. When I started Lonely Whale, I was inspired by the voice of a whale. It doesn’t speak the same language as the other whales because he speaks at a different frequency than other whales. He speaks at 52 hertz, whereas other whales speak in 15 to 20 hertz. This animal was highly sentient, very social and has been calling out his whole life without receiving any response from any other whales. But you know what, he can’t communicate with his whales but he could communicate with me and I could hear him in my heart. All you have to do is to look out into the world and let yourself be overwhelmed with the awesome power of nature and life. And you can’t help but do better.
Q: How do you manage to be an actor, musician and an activist?
A: Indecision is the reason. I can’t choose what I want to be because I get excited by many things. It is a symptom of the modern human that you have so many options at their fingertips and technology allows us a casual knowledge of so many different things and we try, taste and explore those beautiful opportunities.
Q: Would you consider your hit comedy series ‘Entourage’, a turning point in your career?
A: ‘Entourage’ certainly gave me the most exposure, no pun intended. It certainly changed my life and gave me an opportunity to communicate on a world stage. It makes me feel blessed.
Q: Would you be able to choose between activism and acting?
A: Honestly, I don’t love the word activism as it’s a bit aggressive. I am just doing my job as a citizen. Lot of times when people get a bit too big for their breeches, they think they are going to save the world because they have a platform or they a lot of followers or they feel they have all the answers. I don’t have the answers. On a daily basis, I do what I can to lead a better life. Lot of times, environmentalists and activists need to come down to earth. There is a lot of arrogance in activism and environmentalism. They think they have the answers and they are going to tell you what to do. You run into problems because you don’t respect or appreciate where people are. That is why I do a lot of work with businesses. I work a lot with businesses because we want them to make many changes but we don’t understand their culture and how our economy is interconnected with that business. Every change comes with a cost and a price. There is no panacea or no absolute solution. We have to embrace new challenges together and there is no way you can point a finger and tell them what to do. We have to have our feet on our earth and work together.
Q: So you want to bring about a change by working within the system…
A: It is naive to think that you are outside the system or that you are good and they are bad. The products that you use to survive come from somewhere and have a chain of effect on the planet. It is challenging to know where everything that you consume comes from and whether or not the entire change is ethical. You have to take stock of the realities, but you can’t throw your hands up and think it is too complex. Start putting in the effort to be more mindful and to open up your awareness. Work with businesses so that you can understand what challenges they face. You can be that entrepreneur that creates the solution as opposed to pointing fingers.
Did you know?
The impetus for the round table talk was Grenier’s “Stop Sucking” campaign which has seen 55 UAE brands sign up to pledge not to use straws modelled on his Lonely Whale Foundation initiative.
“We are eternally grateful to Adrian Grenier for lending Krush Brands the courage and inspiration to start our environmental journey to ban straw use in our operations in 2017,” said Ian Ohan, Founder and CEO of Krush Brands
“As the only 100 pe rcent plastic free sustainable packaging company in the region, our goal is to drive the movement and assist other industry peers to adopt sustainable practices and closed loop solutions,” Ash Parmar and Fayaz Punjani, co-founders Ecopack.me