Amid an increasingly dire climate crisis and a pandemic that has crippled every country on Earth, the one voice that we could all truly benefit from hearing is Jane Goodall’s. Goodall reached the status of icon for her work with chimpanzees in Tanzania (among her most important discoveries is that chimps use tools) but she is still traveling the world to inspire people to protect the planet through conservation efforts.
A new documentary from National Geographic, titled Jane Goodall: The Hope, premieres today, Earth Day. It follows the 86-year-old environmental activist as she travels the globe visiting small communities and giving lectures on the importance, especially for younger generations, to be proactive environmental stewardship. Her central message is that there’s still hope for the planet, if young people step up now.
In a recent interview with Newsweek, Goodall speaks out against deforestation, her decision to work with an oil company to create a reserve for chimpanzees in the Republic of the Congo, and even praised tourism because it “provides jobs for local communities, and it’s a deterrent to poachers.”
Of course, she also weighed in on the COVID-19 pandemic, speculating the current situation came to pass “because we have shown so little respect for the natural world.”
“Viruses spilling over from one species to another, which normally wouldn’t [happen]; animals pushed into closer contact with people [farming], for example, another opportunity for spillover of viruses,” she continues.
Goodall is harsh on people who she thinks didn’t listen to scientists who predicted these viruses, or learn from the SARS outbreak in 2002. She also fears that many businesses “will work even more quickly to catch up on all the revenue they’ve lost,” but thinks one silver lining could be that with humans on lockdown, it’s been a “respite for nature.”
Ultimately, Goodall is a hopeful person, and she says she’s still driven by her passion for the health of the environment and all its creatures. Goodall hopes that her legacy is that she helped people learn how to make ethical choices in their daily lives, to live sustainably, and to remember that each individual has an impact on the survival of the planet.