The Original Pioneer: Dr Jane Goodall, DBE
The Original Pioneer: Dr Jane Goodall, DBE
In 1960, at just 26 years old, Dr Jane Goodall left England and travelled to Tanzania to research the fascinating world of wild chimpanzees. Her ground-breaking finding that chimpanzees make and use tools, forever changed our understanding of our relationship to the rest of the animal kingdom. Today Jane continues to be a leading activist and global icon spreading hope and driving positive impact to create a better world for people, other animals and the planet we all share.
In 1977 she established the Jane Goodall Institute USA to raise funds for research, conservation and environmental education. The Jane Goodall Institute UK launched in 1988. There are now 25 not-for-profit Jane Goodall Institutes around the world working together to advance Jane’s vision of a better future for all.
As a conservationist, humanitarian and crusader for the ethical treatment of animals, Dr Goodall, DBE is a global force for compassion and a UN Messenger of Peace.
STELLA skincare founder, Stella McCartney, spoke with Jane about their joint passion for Mother Earth, her protection and wellbeing.
Stella McCartney: My fascination in the importance of our planet and animals started when I was very young, mainly inspired by my mother. I know it was also something you were interested in from a young age too. Can you tell me a bit more about how you started your journey?
Jane Goodall: I grew up near the sea and spent all of my time outside, watching birds and squirrels and spiders, there was no TV back then – just books. Then I read Doctor Dolittle and Tarzan – I fell in love with Tarzan and the world that was described through the pages. I decided as soon as I was old enough, I would travel to Africa and live with wild animals, to study them and write books about them! It seems rather simple when you outline it like that, but I knew what I wanted to do and was going to make sure it happened.
Stella McCartney: What does your relationship with nature mean to you? How do you live by it in your everyday life?
Jane Goodall: By being out in nature as much as possible and thinking about it when I am not. Not everyone has the privilege of growing up around nature, but it is so good for you. I try to seek nature each day, even if only standing by a tree and I think about the little choices I make on a daily basis – what I buy, eat and so on. So many forget we are part of the natural world and that we depend on it for food, air, water – everything. But it is healthy ecosystems we depend on and sadly we are destroying them.
Stella McCartney: What do you see when you look at yourself in the mirror?
Jane Goodall: I try not to look at myself in the mirror too often! I am much more comfortable looking at something else, another animal for example. But sometimes I will take a peek, just to brush my hair!
Stella McCartney: How do you feel about the way the world has changed since you visited Tanzania? What can people do to take action on behalf of the natural world?
Jane Goodall: Well, we can’t go back to the way things once were but we can work to protect the environment. And I believe we can slow down climate change. There’s amazing scientific technology now that can help us live in greater harmony with nature, but it’s vitally important that we all leave lighter ecological footsteps. Some people think “What can I do? It doesn’t make any difference what I do” – it doesn’t if it’s just you, but it’s not just you. I think the important thing is realising that when thousands – millions – of people make even small ethical choices each day, cumulatively this will make a real difference.
And I truly hope that people find out about ‘Roots & Shoots’, an environmental and humanitarian programme which I began with 12 high-school students in Tanzania in 1991. We now have thousands of groups in more than 60 countries, involving more than one million young people from preschool through to university. Each group chooses three projects – to make things better for people, for other animals and for the environment. They discuss what they can do, roll up their sleeves and take action. It’s free to take part and there are more than 1500 groups in the UK alone. The collective impact is huge - it is not that young people can change the world – they are changing the world.
Stella McCartney: The way you have helped to redefine conservation by including the needs of local communities is something that I have found really inspiring and is one of the many reasons I was so thrilled to speak with you today – can you tell me more about this?
Jane Goodall: In 1960, when I began studying the chimpanzees, Gombe National Park was part of the great equatorial forest belt. But when I flew over the area in the late 1980s I was shocked to see Gombe was a tiny island of forest surrounded by almost bare hills. It was clear there were more people than the land could support, cutting down the trees to grow food for their families. And that’s when it hit me - if we don’t help people find ways of living without destroying the environment, then we can’t save the chimps’ forest or anything else.
In 1994 the Jane Goodall Institute began our community-led conservation approach known as "Tacare”. We picked a team of local Tanzanians who went into the 12 villages around Gombe and asked those living there what we could do to help. We started with restoring fertility to overused farmland and improving health and education facilities working with local government officials. We helped with water management projects, provided scholarships to give girls a chance of secondary education, introduced micro-credit programs so (mostly) women could start their own environmentally friendly small businesses, and offered family planning information.
Tacare now operates in 41 villages throughout most of the chimp range in Tanzania. Volunteer forest monitors are trained to use smart phones to check on the health of their village forest reserves (where most chimps live, unprotected). Today residents in these communities understand that protecting the environment is not just for wildlife, but for their own future. And the Roots & Shoots programme, along with education material, is in all the village schools. We are now using the Tacare method in six other African countries where we work with chimpanzees.
Stella McCartney: Which is your favourite season?
Jane Goodall: Do you know a little while ago I couldn’t think in seasons. I was visiting so many countries around the world and the seasons were all muddled up. But my favourite time of the year in the UK is autumn. I love the change in colour, the mellow fruitfulness. ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun’, – that’s the poet, Keats.
Stella McCartney: I like spring. Spring always makes me think of birth, of new life! During your travels do you try to give back and plant trees?
Jane Goodall: Yes! All around the world, everywhere I go I plant a tree. A simple act that has such positive repercussions. In fact, that’s also a great place to start, planting indigenous trees and allowing our natural landscape to thrive again.
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