Interview: Jane Goodall embraces a broader mission
The noted primatologist has found that in order to save her beloved chimpanzees, she has to educate the people first.
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What can people do to protect primates and the environment?Skip to next paragraph
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I think the most important thing is that so many people are concerned about the environment. They’re concerned about the way we’re poisoning air, water, and land, and the fact that in so many places people, especially children, are getting sick from environmental problems. They know what’s happening with climate change, they know about the poverty, and the hunger, and the disease around the world. They feel so helpless in the face of all this … that they don’t do anything, because they feel that it’s useless.
I always tell people that the most important thing you can do is to spend a little bit of time learning about and acting on the consequences of the small choices that we make each day, like: What do we buy? For example, clothing: Where does it come from, how was it made, did it involve child slave labor? Food: Where was it grown, how was it grown, did it have a lot of pesticides, can you buy organic?
What is the role of business in protecting the environment?
Those companies can only act in that way [that is, make environmentally conscious decisions] with their shareholders’ approval.
So again it comes back to us: It’s not the company. The company will be driven by the people who buy the products....
The hope for this Roots and Shoots program is that these young people ... will be the next entrepreneurs, the next business people, and they’ll be the next lawyers, doctors, legislators, politicians, teachers, and parents. They are working on projects to make things better for people, animals, and the environment, and learning to live in peace and harmony with each other and between religions, between cultures, between nations, and between us and the natural world. It’s so important and I hope they will understand that there are more important things in this life than simply making money, that we need money to live, but we must never live for money.
Is it harder for the developing world to take actions to protect the environment?
It depends on the government. In a repressive regime, it’s very hard. They have to be very brave and a lot of people get jailed and even killed in the name of justice. But I don’t think there are any problems anywhere in the world where people aren’t desperately working, often for little or no money and risking health and life to try and put those problems right.
I think that more people are responding, because there’s more awareness. So, one, you raise awareness and then you have to try and change behavior. That’s the hard part, but you’ve got to get them aware, first. And then, as I say, there’s this feeling of helplessness, so we have to empower them.
Everybody must remember that every one of us makes a difference, and we have a choice. We all impact the planet in one way or another. We can choose whether we end the day having made things a little bit better or a little bit worse.