Marshall Brown is a social entrepreneur who empowers others while building movements. Starting the mid-90’s, Marshall worked with many internet startups in New York’s “Silicon Alley” then in the “Civic Tech” space, assisting them in the development of their technology and business plans. Marshall is committed to belief that we can and must intentionally build a future we would want to live in, and that information technology tempered with an understanding of community values, and with a firm embrace of nature, is how we achieve that.
Post 9/11, Marshall lit upon Wi-Fi as an emerging technology for the public good. In early 2002, he founded The Wi-Fi Salon to advise The New York City Council on public telecom policy, banding together 50 New Yorkers committed to municipal Wi-Fi. In 2004, Marshall’s organization was awarded a franchise to bring free public Wi-Fi to 18 NYC park locations including 7 in Central Park. Through sponsorship, Marshall built a network of 18 locations and served hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. He then went on to found Wiredtowns to provide Wi-Fi to business districts and to underserved areas, providing Wi-Fi to Time Square and to a public housing complex in Harlem. His main passion now is bringing information to the 1.6 billion who live off-grid.
In 2012, Marshall became President and first Executive Director of Save The Great South Bay. He’d returned to his hometown for a high school reunion and was aghast. Clamming was down 99%. The bay had collapsed. Something had to be done. Today, Save The Great South Bay is now a 501(c)3 Non-Profit with over 15000 people in its Facebook Group, and a culture driven by science, community and a love of place. By keeping the focus squarely on the local, and the shared resource of the bay, the memories that hold us all together, Marshall created an affirmative, prosocial culture. Save The Great South Bay, through its focus on habitat restoration and local stewardship is making a difference on Long Island’s South Shore. They even have their own beer from Blue Point Brewery, “Drink The Bay Clean.”
In the beginning of 2020, seeking a simpler life, Marshall stepped down as Executive Director to restore his childhood home. The year had other plans though. Driven by “the fierce urgency of now,” Marshall began to advocate for habitat restoration on a large scale, as part of a larger emphasis on sustainability. If we were going to pass this age, we were going to have to heal our land, and quickly. In the past several years, guided by leading edge experts in habitat restoration and native plants and ecosystems, Marshall came to see that it was the Mainland that was sick and that his bay was just a symptom of that. His focus was shifted to the 50 creeks and rivers that feed the bay. Heal those creeks and their watersheds, return native habitat, and remove invasive plants, rebuild ecological function, and the bay would be far healthier.
With that, his life did become “simpler,” his mission clear. He joined SMPIL Consulting, a Long Island-based company specializing in bioremediation, restoring native habitat, and with a “prosocial” philosophy that seeks to promote an ethos of local stewardship and community. For Marshall and for SMPIL, sustainability begins at home, and in the community. We’ve been having Long Island real estate developers pledge a native plantings only policy, and seek to promulgate this to all businesses large and small on Long Island, and all gated communities, apartment complexes, and individual homes.
We must each create a bit of native habitat on our properties, and help rebuild local natural infrastructure. With that, sustainability can indeed scale, and community can be reconstituted. Every community has before itself a generation of work to repair the local environment. SMPIL advocates restoring enough native habitat on Long Island to stave off locally what is a global wave of extinction. This strategy needs to be taken everywhere. And for that, stories need to be told — in words, in pictures, and in film. You must first connect with people emotionally if you want them to hear you.