10 Questions with December’s #LocalHero, Johannes & Atya!
Today, we’d like to highlight Johannes & Atya, the ‘paw-fect’ local hero duo for the month of December!
1) Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Johannes Fast. I was born in a small Swedish town called Mora, situated on the edge of a prehistoric impact crater that created the crescent moon-shaped lake we used to go swimming in as kids. My grandmother taught me how to fish, and as a family we’d often go out together picking wild blueberries and chanterelle mushrooms through the late autumn and into the early days of winter, before the first frost would turn the tender mushrooms into glass.
The last 10 years of my life I’ve spent in advertising, working my way through sound, video and finally ending up in animation. In my career, I recently decided to publicly exit to use the platform I’d built to highlight the issue of climate change.
2) What inspired you to start getting involved with your community/start cleaning your shorelines?
I took Atya to the beach for the first time when he was about 4 months old; he was finally old enough to go on a walk all the way down to the Vancouver Seawall! We came down to the seawall and stepped down on a set of boulders placed to form stairs to the shoreline.
I’m not sure what hit me first; if it was the smell of the water, or the sheer amount of trash littering the shoreline. Suddenly, the logos I’d stare at on a computer screen as an animator were staring right back at me.
That day, I decided to quit my job permanently – a job that was making me $15,000/month – and start picking up trash on the beach instead. I used the following I’d gathered as a successful animator to send out a message about what we’re doing to our climate.
I received a handful of supporting messages, but most people must’ve thought I’d gone insane.
3) What specific actions/steps do you take to help the environment?
Apart from de-trashing the beaches, we’ve recently made a massive lifestyle change. Atya and I recently moved to a wooden boat built in 1949.
What I find great about this way of living is that I can live a lot closer to nature. We can fish for food. I’ve installed solar panels for power, and I have to be very mindful of my water usage and how much trash I produce.
It’s not a lifestyle made for everyone, but I see it as a great opportunity to practice sustainable living, while also being able to inspire others to pursue a more minimalist lifestyle. You can’t take anything for granted living on a boat, not even the weather. It makes you appreciate those small moments in life.
4) Why is having clean shorelines important?
I believe it’s an easy first step to do something about this larger issue of climate breakdown that can often feel overwhelming. It has an immediate positive impact on the local environment, and less plastic in our waters also means less plastic in you! The fact that we consume on average 5 grams of microplastics per week should terrify us all!
5) What challenges or obstacles do you face when pursuing your goals?
Climate breakdown is a very tough topic to discuss. I’m finding that most people don’t want to talk about it, and climate change deniers often get verbally abusive. It’s sad to see that the issue has been politicized, it forces a stamp of “leftist activist”, “communist” etc. on people that are just out there trying to warn people of what’s going on. This is an issue that should concern everyone, no matter age, political affiliation, nationality etc.
6) How do you keep yourself motivated?
To be honest, it does get hard sometimes. Right now, COP27 is taking place, and we’re seeing hundreds of fossil fuel lobbyists attend the event, an event sponsored by Coca Cola, who themselves have strong connections to the fossil fuel industry with their production of some 100 billion plastic bottles per year.
To be able to deal with the absurdity of today’s world I try to spend a lot of time out in nature, connecting with nature helps remind me of why I’m doing what I’m doing.
7) Who inspires you in terms of activism and making a difference?
I find a lot of inspiration in the work and teachings of Sadghuru. The way he intertwines enlightenment, ethics and environmentalism I find truly inspirational, and I believe that only by addressing the core issues of the human psyche is the only way forward toward a sustainable future.
We live in a very self centric and cold world, where human comfort goes before everything else, and I believe we can all see where that is taking us.
8) What has been your favourite experience on this journey so far?
It’s always fun seeing the reaction of people as Atya cleans up the shorelines, I’ve seen many jaws dropped, haha! Another great part of this journey has been all the fantastic people we’ve met. Seeing that there’s other people out there that cares as much as yourself really helps with staying motivated.
9) What was something that surprised you during your journey?
Unfortunately, the amount of plastic that washes up on the shores every day really surprised me. We can fill a big bag of trash from the same area every day.
10) Do you have any recommendations for people wanting to make a difference in their community?
If you see trash on the ground or on the shorelines, pick it up! Not only are you doing nature a favor but it might also inspire others to do the same. Change starts with a first step.
Find out more about Johannes & Atya: