Jane Goodall On Climate Change And Hope : Short Wave Jane Goodall is a renowned naturalist and scientist. She's made a career studying primates and chimpanzees. But lately — something else has been on her mind: climate change. It might feel like there's nothing we can do, but in her new book, The Book of Hope, co-authored with Douglas Abrams, Jane reflects on the planet and how future generations will fight to protect it.

Check out "Jane Goodall encourages all to act to save Earth in 'The Book of Hope'" for a review of her new book.

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Jane Goodall Says There's Hope For Our Planet. Act Now, Despair Later!

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You're listening to SHORT WAVE from NPR.

When you hear the name Jane Goodall, what do you think of, primatologist, naturalist, champion of the chimpanzees? All of these things are true. So it might not surprise you that in recent years, Jane Goodall has also been thinking about our environment and how humans are driving climate change. And I know you might be thinking, what can we do? We've been polluting and warming the planet for decades now. But Jane would say, hold on to hope. Now is not the time to give into grief. Now is the time to get involved. This is a conversation that we really wanted to share with you about how Jane Goodall sees the future of climate change, hosted by Rachel Martin on Morning Edition. And I got to say, just hearing her voice and the way she continues to actively engage with the world, it's really inspiring to me. All right. Enjoy.


RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Someone like yourself, who's spent a lifetime talking about the urgent need to protect our planet, natural habitats, build a better Earth - considering where we are at right now, no one would blame you if you weren't hopeful at all, and yet you are. Where does that come from?

JANE GOODALL: Well, let me back off a bit by saying that if we all lose hope, we're doomed. So I've found I've met so many people who don't have hope, who say they feel helpless and hopeless. And I say to them, well, that's because we're always being told, think globally, act globally. But quite honestly, if you think globally, you're just so depressed. I mean, every day, we're bombarded with bad news socially, politically, environmentally. But turn it the other way around - something that you feel, I'd like to do something about this. And either you or, hopefully, you and some friends get together and start doing something. And you find you make a difference. And then you realize that, well, in other parts of the world, people are feeling like you and doing like you because they are being advised to take local action. And you've made a difference, so you want to do more. And that's inspiring other people. So it's an upward spiral, like this, of growing hope with action. So for me, hope isn't just something where you sit back and say, oh, I hope everything will be OK. No. I don't look at the world through rose-colored spectacles. We've got to work to make what we hope for happen.

MARTIN: The book divides your reflections on hope into four different categories, and human intellect is one. You say that our own human capacity to intellectualize through problems is a place where you find hope. Can you explain that?

GOODALL: Well, we differ mainly from other animals by this explosive development of the intellect. You know, chimpanzees and other animals are way, way, way more intelligent than we used to think. So how bizarre that the most intellectual creature that's ever lived is destroying its only home, our planet. That is crazy. So now, scientists are beginning to come up with all kinds of innovative ways of coping with some of the environmental problems, like clean, green, renewable energy, for example. So that's why the human intellect is one of my reasons for hope.

MARTIN: You were not a classically trained scientist.

GOODALL: Luckily.


MARTIN: Why do you say that? Do you think it gave you different eyes to look at the world?

GOODALL: Well, that's one of the reasons Leakey was so keen - that Louis Leakey, paleontologist, anthropologist, was so keen, made to go and study chimps he wanted because at that time, the scientific attitude towards animals was so reductionist. You know, only humans had personalities, minds and emotions. And animals were not sentient beings at all. You shouldn't have empathy with them. Well, I didn't know any of that. I hadn't been told it. So, you know, because the chimps are genetically - we share 98.6% of our DNA with them, scientists began to have to change. They had to.

MARTIN: During an event a couple of years ago - and this is laid out in the book - you were asked what your next great adventure would be. And you said death, which I have to assume probably caught some people off guard in the audience.

GOODALL: Oh, it did. They were. There was a gasp and some nervous pitters.

MARTIN: Right (laughter).

GOODALL: And there were about 5,000 to 10,000 people in a huge auditorium.

MARTIN: And explain that answer, how you have come to that perspective.

GOODALL: Well, when you die, there's either nothing, in which case, fine. You're gone, right? Nothing. Your mind, your consciousness, everything gone. Or as I have come to believe through various experiences that I've had in my life, there's something - don't know what it is quite - but if that's true, can you think of a greater adventure than finding out what is beyond death?

MARTIN: So as you think about where you have come and the next great adventure ahead, there are just generations of people whom you have inspired over your life. And young people in particular - you evoke something very special in them. And they really look to you as a guide in their work and advocacy on climate change and how to protect the planet. How do you talk to them about that?

GOODALL: It was because of that feeling that I met in so many young people hopelessness, helplessness. That's why I started the Roots & Shoots program for youth that's now in over 60 countries. And when they came up to me, they all said more or less the same - this is in four continents - that we feel this way because you've compromised our future, older generations. And there's nothing we can do about it. Well, we have not just compromised the future of young people. We've been stealing it. We've been stealing it, stealing the natural resources that they will be relying on, many of which will now not be there. But it's the nothing they can do - is that true? No, there's always something to do. So Roots & Shoots is based on the premise that a group will get together, and they'll be interested in different things - and because in the rainforest, I learned how everything is interconnected. Talk to your friends, maybe a teacher. Get somebody in who's an expert. See if there's something you can do. Then roll up your sleeves and do it.

MARTIN: "The Book Of Hope" by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams. Dr. Goodall, it's been a privilege to talk to you. Thank you so much.

GOODALL: Well, thanks very much. Thank you.


KWONG: This piece was originally produced for Morning Edition by Jamila Huxtable and edited by Reena Advani and Noel Clarke. Thanks for listening. I'm Emily Kwong, and this is SHORT WAVE from NPR.

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