JANE GOODALL

Founder

JANE GOODALL INSTITUTE FOR WILDLIFE RESEARCH, EDUCATION AND CONSERVATION

INTERVIEW BY MICHAEL O'CALLAGHAN AT THE RIO+10 SUMMIT IN 2002
This is the transcript of a video interview produced and directed by Michael O'Callaghan at the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development, in Johannesburg, in 2002.
Full transcript (4,665 words, slightly edited for clarity).
© 2002-2019 Global Vision Foundation.
BACKGROUND
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Jane Goodall is a primatologist and the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation, which supports field research on wild chimpanzees and aims to advance the power of individuals to take informed and compassionate action to improve the environment of all living things.
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She also a United Nations Messenger of Peace, author, professor, founder of the global youth programme Roots and Shoots, and recipient of the 2001 World Movement for Nonviolence prestigious Gandhi/King Award.
So, what's the most important thing people should know, at this time in history?
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It's, it's very hard to pinpoint one thing, but you know the overall picture with respect to the way we're harming and damaging and polluting the environment is something that every person needs to know. And, depending on where that person lives, they also need to know what they can do to do something about it.  And I think, you know, the most important message for everybody is that every single day we live we do affect the future of this planet. And it seems impossible to think, because I'm one person, and there are 6 billion plus people on the planet, so even if I know what I should do and shouldn't do in respect to the environment, it couldn't possibly make any difference because I'm just one person. But you know, one of the, one of the benefits of the modern information age - the spreading of information electronically - is that so many millions of people do know these things. And if everybody lived as they should live, it would make the most enormous difference to the problems facing this planet, the global warming, the hole in the ozone layer, you know, all these things indirectly are effected by what we do, the choices we make each day, what we wear, what we eat, how we get to where we're going.
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So let's talk a bit about your work with the primates, with the chimps.
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Our research at Gombi National Park in Tanzania is now the longest study of any group of animals ever. It's in its 43d year. And I think the results of this research and other studies of chimpanzees and other creatures around the world has taught... Let me start that one again!
 
The study of chimpanzees in Tanzania, in Gombi National Park, is now in its 43d year - the longest study of any group of animals, ever. And I think that our understanding of the chimpanzees from this study and other chimp studies across Africa and even in captivity, have really done more than perhaps anything else to show that there is not a sharp line dividing humans on the one hand from the rest of the animal kingdom. It's a very blurry line, it's more blurry all the time.  And you know, once we're prepared to admit that we're not the only beings with personalities, minds and feelings, it raises a whole heap of ethical problems when we think of how we use and abuse so many animals. And it makes it very tragic to find that chimpanzees are becoming extinct, that where there were 2 million approximately a hundred years ago, at the very most there are 200 thousand now. And they're disappearing because of habitat destruction as human populations increase, and also as a result of hunting. And today, particularly, the bush meat trade - the commercial hunting of wild animals for food - made possible by the roads built by logging companies deep into the heart of the last remaining forests, providing access for commercial hunters, providing transport on the logging trucks to bring the smoked or dried meat out - it's not sustainable. And it's not to feed starving people, because people in the cities will pay more for bush meat, the affluent will pay more because they have a cultural preference for that smoked and dried wild animal meat. And in addition to that, the logging company camps - maybe 2,000 people living in the forest who weren't there before - and the pygmies are typically being given ammunition and money to feed the logging camp.  Well, when the logging camp moves - even when the loggers, as most do now in Africa, practice so-called sustainable logging - there will be very little left in the forest when the logging camp moves. And what's left for the pygmies? Their culture has been destroyed, there are no animals left for them to go back to their traditional way of life. So it's totally devastating for people as well as animals!  And one of the things that the Jane Goodall Institute is trying to do is work with many other NGOs, to work with the logging camps, to work with local governments and also governments overseas and the World Bank, to try and do something to, to curtail this illegal trade.
 
To what extent have the forces of neo-liberal economic ideology coming through the World Trade Organisation put more pressure on local companies, for example, to deplete forests? Or is most of the deforestation, the logging, is most of that multi-national companies coming in from outside?
 
Almost all of the companies operating in the Congo basin are actually multinational companies. They're typically German, and, em, French... It's not the local companies. And you know, the log... I don't know quite what to say about the logging companies...
 
There is a new awareness among some of the people running these companies, about the plight of the animals. They have a code of conduct, and that relates to how many trees can you cut in a certain area, what's the size of the tree. But they're now working to get into their code of conduct, that's approved by all of the different timber companies working in the African forests, about the animals there too. And that actually will make quite a difference. But it's one thing to have rules and regulations, it's quite another to enforce them.
 
Do you find NGOs like IUCN and WWF as effective as they could be, or do you think they can be improved even further?
 
I think all NGOs can be improved. And sometimes it's with additional money, sometimes it's with perhaps a slightly different philosophy.  We believe in working with the local people as much as we can, to change their perception, because if you don't have the local people on your side you're never going to win! You know, the good news is that President Bongo of Gabon has agreed in public - in front of his own government and in front of a large delegation of senators and congressmen from America - to create a number of new national parks in areas as yet untouched, which were scheduled as concessions for logging companies, and that is really good news!
 
To get back to the globalisation thing, living in Europe one gets the impression that globalisation is basically requiring countries to sell their natural capital, to sell off their forests, and to do that in order just to be able to survive economically. Are there ways that we can conserve the forests?
 
Well the... you know, there are different ways of conserving the forests. And if you take a country that's actually needing foreign exchange, like most countries do, and so many countries are having to pay off their debts, which is like a millstone around their necks, em... [interruption]. Now sorry, ask that question again. It was about globalisation.
 
Yeah, I mean, do you think that the rules of the Word Trade Organisation need to be changed?
 
I don't think I know enough about that. I mean I totally mis... I mean I just, I hate globalisation in most of its forms! Em... I, what I know about the forces of globalisation, you know there are, of course, some advantages, there are definitely some advantages. But, but it's exporting Western values, it's destroying cultures, and it is, it truly is, em, forcibly.. well, by offering money to the governments of countries, it means that the natural resources of those countries - which the people of the country depend on for their own use - are now been taken away from them! So large areas of land that kept peasant communities fed and sheltered are now being taken over for things like Monsanto genetically engineered crops, logging concessions, so that people who live in the forest lose their homes. There is so much that's going on, you know, globalisation is meant to give money to the poor people, and give them benefits, and give them schooling and health and everything. You don't see that happening very often when you live in the developing world. You just see people getting poorer, losing what they had, losing their traditions, and being left with almost nothing. And very often, you know, the debts being accrued by these countries seem to be actually increasing!
 
There is an alternative. And if you have a huge area of forest that was destined for a logging concession - as happened in Uganda - if those areas are set aside, if the government agrees to set them aside for wildlife conservation, and you can develop a system of forest tourism, that can bring money in, bring foreign exchange in on a sustainable basis, it can go on into the future. And it doesn't disturb the people living there, because you can have people living in harmony with the forest and have tourism,  and save the people, and the animals.
 
And realistically, are there signs that many countries that have forests with endangered species - particularly primates and chimps - are going in that direction - or at the moment is it all being cut down, basically?
 
I think there is, there are a lot of ways that countries can be to some extent pressured to conserve not only forests but also other areas of the natural world.  And the example in Uganda, the reason that Uganda put forests aside for conservation rather than for logging concessions was that they got a very large grant from the USAID - one of the biggest given South of the Sahara - and there were environmental conditions attached to it. And what that enabled - it wasn't a dictatorial measure from the developed world to the developing world - it enabled young Ugandan conservationists to actually do what they wanted to do! There was a climate in which they could put forward their ideas for conservation, where they could develop eco-tourism, and where they could start preserving a way of life that otherwise might disappear among some of the people. So that can be repeated in other countries. And here, organisations like the World Bank can play a role too.
 
Yes.
 
And they are beginning to. The World Bank is changing under Jim Wolfensohn.
 
That's good. Can you say a few words about the Roots and Shoots project?
 
Mmh. Mmh. I think one of the questions I get asked most often is, you know, "Jane...  you give lectures called Reason for Hope, you've written a book called Reason for Hope, do you really have hope?"  And, I travel around the world 300 days a year, and I kept meeting young people who had lost hope, who'd become depressed, who'd become, em "well it doesn't matter what I do because nothing is going to work, you've compromised my future." And I met young people where this became turned into anger and bitterness which led to violence, and we're all very familiar with that.
 
And we have compromised their future.  I look into the eyes of my grandchildren, my little great-nephews, and I think of what the world was like when I was that age and how much we've destroyed since, and I feel such deep shame!  So "Roots and Shoots" is a symbolic name: roots make a firm foundation, shoots seem tiny but to reach the sun it can break through a brick wall. And if we see the brick wall as all the problems that we've inflicted on this poor old planet - environmental and social - then it's a message of hope. Hundreds and thousands of young people can break through and make it better. And the main message is the importance of every individual, that you, by the way you act each day you do make a difference, and together you make a huge difference! 
 
And every group tackles three different kinds of projects to make their world a better place: to improve things for their own community, human; to improve things for animals around them, including domestic animals; and to improve things for the environment that we all share. So what they actually choose to do depends on the local problems. They'd be different in the inner city New York, they'd be different in Ireland, they'd be different in different parts of Ireland, they'd be different in China and Tanzania, where it began. And it will also depend on whether they're pre-school or university, because we stretch right through. It's changing lives, it's about breaking down barriers that we build between people of different ethnic groups, different cultures, different socio-economic levels, between countries. And in a way it's spreading seeds of global peace. And we all think about peace these days, we're all tired of a world that's torn apart by war in so many places. And I don't think we'll ever have true peace until we've learned to live in harmony with our environment. And so, working with youth - I don't know if we have time to wait, but I do know that it's no use my spending all my effort on conserving chimpanzees, primates, whatever in the rainforest, unless we're at the same time raising a generation or generations of youth who can be better stewards than we've been.
 
So Roots and Shoots is now in 60 countries. Mostly very tiny, but it's as though it's time has come. As we move into this century, as we get past the 11th of September, the terrorist attacks, there does seem to be a new desire for hope, a new desperation to find meaning in life and, and I think this is why Roots and Shoots is suddenly spreading,. I mean we got 150 groups in mainland China in nine months, all across the country! And we had to stop because we didn't have money to translate the stuff fast enough. And we can't put it out on the internet because most of these rural schools don't have access to that. It's spreading very fast in many parts of the world. And I'm all the time deluged with "Jane, please come, we need Roots and Shoots." So this is why to this Earth Summit I've brought a team of about 11 people from different parts of the world, and we're just networking, meeting other groups who have the same passion and the same goals, so that we can combine our forces, so that the sum of the whole will be much greater, or rather, the whole will be much greater than the sum of the parts.
 
Since you've worked so much with chimpanzees... you know, we humans have all these different self-images in different civilisations at different times in history: we're competitive, we're greedy, we're angels, etc. What have you learned about human nature and the nature of life from looking at our close relatives, the chimps?
 
I think the experience of observing chimpanzees and learning about their incredibly fascinating society and their personalities and the way their minds work, does help us to understand a lot about human nature. If we grant that millions and millions of years ago there was a common ancestor from which chimpanzees diverged one way and human beings the other, we know there's this very close relationship genetically, in the composition of the blood, in the immune response, we know that the chimp brain is more like ours than that of any other living creature. But the studies of chimpanzees show these amazing similarities in behaviour: so we get non-verbal communication - kissing, embracing, holding hands, patting on the back, swaggering - we find chimpanzees are capable of extreme brutality. That, at Gombi during a four year period, we had what I call the four-year war, when the males of a larger community systematically annihilated a smaller neighbouring community. And we see the males going on these patrols where they're clearly searching for sight or sound of their neighbours, and if they see one they chase and subject him or her to a really brutal savage attack, much worse than anything you see between members of the same community. And so they are capable of this brutality. But they are also capable of love, compassion, empathy, and we have so many stories, particularly between family members but not always, too, which give very vivid examples.
 
So I think what we can learn from this is that, while it's almost certainly true that we have inherited an aggressive component to our natures from our ancient private heritage, so too have we inherited love, and compassion and altruism. And I think we, more than any other creature, can control our genetic heritage. We're capable with the brains that we have - and the fact that we now more or less rely on culture - to change our aggressive tendencies. We have a choice: which way do we want to go?  We're not very good at the answer. But I think we can, I mean most people actually control the way they feel, we don't go around treating people the way we sometimes might want to, or else it would be total anarchy. We do control our feelings. We don't hit people, we sometimes lash out with words, which is unfortunate. But I think whereas some scientists have, have actually criticised me for publishing the chimpanzee aggression, and said that will just give grist to the mill of those anthropologists who say "well aggression is innate in human nature and therefore war and violence are inevitable." And, you know, I think we have a choice. And somehow, somehow, we have to learn to push for the affectionate and loving side at the expense of the aggressive, greedy and selfish side, and we're not doing very well at it. But we can. We have hundreds of example of people who live very wonderful lives. That's what gives me hope as I travel around, the amazing people I meet, the inspirational people I meet!
 
Some people say it was tool use and other people say it was language that got us launched into the process of hominisation. What do you think about the
 the earliest changes that made us human?
 
Well, you know, I feel that the biggest difference between us and the chimpanzees and the other apes, is that we and only we have developed this sophisticated spoken language, we and only we - I think - are capable of sitting around and discussing, so that what starts out as a simple idea can benefit from the accumulated wisdom of a group. We can teach our children about things that aren't present, events in the distant past, we can plan for the distant future! But chimpanzees are at the beginning of this ability to think into the future, and to tell each other something about the immediate past. But our brain is so much more sophisticated, and I've always felt that this has helped our brain to gradually increase in complexity - the fact that we have this spoken language. I mean chimpanzees are very sophisticated tool users, tool makers, they have different cultures in different parts of Africa, em, they appear to be trans... eh, you know, go from one generation to the next through observation and learning and imitation.
 
And were there animals like chimpanzees in Europe, way back?
 
Well there were em, presumably, as humans spread from the cradle of mankind, which we believe is in Africa, the early humans... no, I can't answer that! I don't know if there were chimp-like creatures in Europe, I don't know. I don't think so. There's no fossils of chips found in Europe.
 
So you're travelling 300 days a year?
 
Mmh. 300 days a year. Mainly it's lectures, it's going to schools, it's growing Roots and Shoots. And it's amazing how children influence their parents! And suddenly, em, we work with teachers, and at the same time I'm still trying to work, influence captains of business, politicians, so you have to work at each level doing what you can in the way that you can do it. And if you spend too long thinking about the overall gloomy picture then you won't, you won't do anything, and if we all stopped doing things because we are so depressed by the state of the world, then there is no hope, it's as simple as that!
 
What would you do if somebody gave you 100 million dollars?
 
If I had 100 million dollars...
 
Do you have any sort of dreams that you would be able to...
 
Yes. If I had 100 million dollars I would put a large chunk of it into an endowment so that some of our Africa programmes - we're looking after orphan chimps whose mothers have been shot, we've got our Roots and Shoots programmes, we're developing the programme that we have around the Gombi National Park, sustainable development improving the lives of women and children and so forth, we'd replicate that in different parts of the world to help protect National Parks and wildlife refuges by working with the people living around, bringing them into the picture. Em, but I'd use an awful lot of it to develop Roots and Shoots, particularly again in areas around the remaining pools of the natural world.
 
There is one thing we didn't really talk about, the issue of indigenous peoples in some countries being displaced out of national parks or onto lands where they can't sustain themselves in their traditional hunting and gathering ways.
 
Em, yes.
 
That's one of the things you're working with, isn't it, helping the communities on the periphery?
 
Yes. When, I think, when Gombi National Park was formed way back in 1947, a few people were moved out, but by and large the area was already empty of people, and that was from a time in 1930 when there was a huge epidemic of sleeping sickness, so everybody was moved away by the Germans. Em... you don't need all that
 
No, but it's interesting.
 
Yeah, but it's not really very important.
 
There certainly are occasions around the world where an area is designated for conservation and people are moved out, and that's unfortunate. But when it happens, it's really important that those people don't lose their dignity, that those people are helped to re-build their communities and their lives. And it's really important to work with them to improve their lives on environmentally sustainable development projects.... Did I, did we talk about Tikari? We didn't, did we?
 
No, I don't think so.
 
Well I don't think... let me start it in a different way.
 
About fifteen years ago, I flew in a small aircraft over the Gombi National Park which is on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, where the long-term chip study is still continuing,. And Gombi is tiny, it's only 30 square miles. And to my horror, in all directions outside the park, the trees had gone! It was just an island with really not enough chimpanzees left, 120, 130, for a long term sustainability, not a big enough gene pool. And the question then arose, how can we even try to conserve these amazing chimpanzees, known around the world, if the people are struggling to survive? And the reason for this destruction was first of all, the villages had grown in number - as had been the case around the world since 1960 when I began - but secondly, many refugees pouring in from Burundi in the North, from over the lake from what was then Zaire in the East, in the West, and so the question: how can we possibly try to conserve the chimps when the people are suffering?
 
And that led to a programme called Tikari. Which is a programme which initially concentrated on tree nurseries in 33 villages around the park and along the lake, em growing initially fast-growing species of fruit trees so there was immediate profit from it, vegetables, then soil erosion control methods, soil erosion prevention, then moving into planting indigenous trees - first of all the ones that are useful for the people living there, then realising that better than planting was to actually persuade people to leave the tree stumps that were left from the cutting, because they regenerate in five years; working specifically with women to improve their self-esteem, helping them to start small environmentally sustainable development programmes by opening nine little micro-credit banks based on the Grameen Bank system, so that they could start getting bits of money and be held in great esteem by the people living there; providing scholarships for gifted girls so that they could go on to secondary school; delivering primary health care by working with the regional medical authorities; and concentrating on women, family planning information, AIDS education, women's rights education - because all around the world it's been shown that as women's education increases family size drops, and that is desperately important today!  So we've now developed this programme to such an extent that we're ready to replicate it in other places - initially in Nigeria, Congo-Brazzaville where we have a project, around areas which are being conserved, so that the people are brought in to the equation, and they understand we care about them as well. And a very imaginative project that I just visited in Congo-Brazzaville, at the very edge of an absolutely untouched rainforest - that's the Guologo triangle which is contiguous with Endoki National Park in the North of Congo-Brazzaville - where a Pigmy village was allowed to remain, it was just a few families at the time, but they were told "on condition you don't let this village grow to more than 300 and that you don't use snares, otherwise you can practice your traditional way of life." And it's worked wonderfully, it's been there six years I think, and that was a project of Wildlife Conservation Society and Mike Fay - Mike Fay being the guy who walked 2,000 miles across the Congo. 
 
And, you know, so there are imaginative ways around the world where you can cope with some of the big problems that face us today like overpopulating areas where the populations can't be sustained on the land and they can't afford to buy food from elsewhere, allowing indigenous people to continue their cultural way of life. I mean it is possible to tackle these projects, but we have to get inspired by a project that's working and replicate it, and not just always be doing research into how it can be done, because we know how it can be done! We waste so much money on research, and so much money on conferences!  That's why something like this, happening every ten years - I mean actually there's too much information here - but just going around, gathering in information and seeing yes, these people are working on the same line as I am, and yes, here's a new idea, let's try that one, that's working here, let's try it here! This is encouraging and inspiring.
 
Thanks.