For much of her nearly six-decade-long career, Dr. Jane Goodall has worked to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our planet. The Jane Goodall Institute is a global, community conservation organization operating in more than 30 countries worldwide with a strong presence in Africa’s chimpanzee range. JGI’s approach to species conservation improves the lives of people, animals and the environment by honoring their interconnectedness. Dr. Goodall travels around the world for nearly 300 days each year, inspiring and mobilizing people with her twin messages of hope and action.
So it was a distinct honor when Dr. Goodall chose to spend her 83rd birthday with Climate One. She spoke about her life and work to a packed house at The Nourse Theater in San Francisco.
Goodall related two parallel moments from her world travels that brought her face to face with the realities of climate change. The first happened on a trip to Greenland.
“I was with some of the Inuit elders,” she recalls, “and we were by the great ice cap, and they were crying…there was just water pouring out of this great ice cliff and the icebergs were carving.” Not long after that she found herself in Panama. “And there I met some of the indigenous people who'd already been moved off their islands because of the melting ice.
“And that just hit me from one to the other – as though the fates had taken me from this place to that place to see…the effect it was having.”
Jeff Horowitz came to his climate awakening, as many did, through watching the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth.” He went on to co-executive produce the National Geographic series “Years of Living Dangerously.” Horowitz also founded Avoided Deforestation Partners, which focuses on the connection between deforestation and climate change.
Horowitz relates the massive destruction of rainforests to worldwide consumer demand for crops such as palm oil. “We now have the need for three planet earths in order to sustain the food and the other stuff that people buy on a regular basis,” Horowitz says. Fortunately, many of the companies that produce that stuff are waking up to the fact that “if they don't move to more sustainable sources, they’re screwed.”
Goodall echoes his concern about deforestation, which she’s seen first-hand from the air throughout Indonesia, Asia, Latin America and Africa. “It’s just miles and miles and miles and miles of palm oil plantations,” she laments. “This is partly responsible for the era we’re in, the sixth great extinction. It's devastating to the orangutans and other primates in Asia, but now it's going to affect the chimpanzees in Africa too.”
Dr. Goodall has inspired generations of young people to follow in her footsteps with her organization Roots and Shoots. “I don’t believe there’s nothing that can be done,” for the planet’s future, she tells her rapt audience, many of them children. “Every single one of us makes an impact on the planet every single day, and we have a choice as to what kind of impact we’re going to make…it's about getting together and doing projects to make the world a better place.”
“You are my hero!” one young audience member said, before asking, “If a chimpanzee could say one thing about the environment, what do you think that would be?”
“I think the chimpanzee would say, ‘Stop destroying my home,’ Goodall replied. “We’re destroying the forest every day, and that means that chimpanzees are being pushed towards extinction.
“So I think the chimpanzee would say, ‘Please, this is my home. I love my home like you love yours, please stop destroying it.”