Environmentalist and anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall, 82, who is also the world’s leading expert on chimpanzees and a UN Messenger of Peace, spoke at Kirstenbosch on Monday February 13 about the dire situation we find ourselves in with nature.
She said animals are under threat of becoming endangered, our natural resources are being depleted and we have a role to play in it all.
“Each and everyone of us makes a difference on this planet every single day if we think of consequences of what we buy, eat, wear, how we speak to people and how we deal with nature and animals and we have a choice as to what kind of difference we’re going to make,” said Dr Goodall.
Dr Goodall said her research which changed the way in which chimpanzees were perceived and studied eventually brewed her activism as she noticed how the actions of humanity was drastically reducing not only chimpanzee populations, but other animal populations and cutting the natural resources available to us.
“In 1986 I went to a conference that changed everything, I came as a scientist and left as an activist. The conference brought together people studying chimpanzees in seven different sites across Africa. We had a section on conservation, it was an absolute shock to see that everywhere where chimps were studied their numbers were dropping.
“Forests were disappearing, human population was encroaching, chimpanzee mothers were being shot to sell them as pets overseas and to circuses. It was the beginning of the bush meat trade, commercial hunting of wild animals for food, which is very different from subsistence hunting that sustained people.”
She said she realised that to save the lives of chimpanzees we also needed to improve the lives of people.
Shortly after her observation, Dr Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute which is a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats and puts local communities at the heart of conservation with development programmes in Africa.
She also established Roots and Shoots which began when a group of 16 local teenagers met with Dr Goodall, eager to discuss a range of environmental problems they were concerned about. The organisation now has over 10 000 groups in over 100 countries with youth finding solutions to problems created by humans
“The main message of Roots and Shoots is every individual matters, every individual has a role to play and every individual makes a difference. I don’t know how big a window we have, but if we can get together to address these problems, then I have hope.”
“I’m tired of hearing we haven’t inherited the planet from our parents, borrowed it from our children, we have not borrowed it from our children, we’ve stolen and we’re still stealing, but we need to get together and use our brains,” said Dr Goodall.
Dr Goodall said chimpanzees can learn up to 400 or more signs used by deaf people and they can paint and do activities on computers, however, she said that the human brain is much more advanced and more capable of creating solutions to the problems it has created for itself.
Dr Goodall said we could completely eliminate fossil fuels if the government put enough subsidies into clean fuels such as solar power and wind. She implored everyone to use our brains together with out hearts to achieve our true potential.
“We have designed something like a rocket that goes up into Mars. You cannot compare even the brightest chimp brain with our brains, so how is it possible that this most intellectual of all creatures to ever walk on planet earth is destroying its only home?
“Are we going to get together to save SA’s rhino’s, SA’s elephants? Are we going to get together to save the lions and giraffe moving into the endangered species list? Are we going to help the pangolin, the most trafficked species on the planet? Are we going to help these endangered animals that’s really part of our family. It can be done,” said Dr Goodall.
To find out more about Dr Goodall’s work, visit www.rootsandshoots.org/