Paleontologist • Author, Origins



This is the transcript of a 3-minute video interview produced and directed by Michael O'Callaghan as part of his Future Tapes interactive video exhibit in 1981. It was filmed at George Washington University during a confernce to celebrate the 100th annversary of the birth of the French evolutionary paleontologist and Jesuit priest, Pierre Theiard de Chardin (1881-1955)
Full transcript (853 words, slightly edited for clarity).
© 2019 Global Vision Foundation.
Richard Leakey is a world-famous palaeontologist, politician and environmental leader. He is Chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service and founder of the NGO Wldlife Direct.
Formerly Director of the National Museums of Kenya, he led the international campaign to protect elephants from extinction by banning the trade in ivory. Poachers blew up the plane in which he was flying, and he lost both of his legs.
He is the author of Origins, with Roger Lewin, and of the TV series of the same name. In contrast to certain sociobiologists and other thinkers, Leakey maintains that the principal difference which gave our early human ancestors the evolutionary advantage over their hominid cousins was not the Neo-Darwinist "survival-of-the-fittest-as-most-competitive", but our increased ability to co-operate brought about by the development of more sophisticated language and better communication. Leakey was an early participant in the Global Vision Project. This interview is a time capsule from 1981 .
How do you feel about the future?

The future of Humankind must be one of the most important issues that faces us today. How long we've got really depends on us. I'm firmly convinced that what happens between now and the end of this century will be the most important part.

We've got to realise that it's all people that will survive - or not survive - in the sense that no individual nation should any longer have the opportunity to exploit. The control of nuclear armaments and the uncontrolled spread of the by-products of industry are issues that can only be solved if we approach them on a universal basis. And I think it is possible to do so because we are increasingly conscious of the fact that we share a common past, we have a common heritage, and we have a common destiny.

The need to stress the oneness of Humankind, to go back to a more egalitarian approach to international relations, is the greatest challenge - and a challenge that if not satisfactorily met in my lifetime, the prospects for my children will be very remote indeed. I think it can be done, though.