Goodall Speaks, Urges Audience to Take Action to Save Climate
Jane Goodall, the accomplished anthropologist who gained prominence through her research with chimpanzees, spoke to a mostly receptive audience last night that filled Barnhill Arena.
The soft-spoken Goodall spoke for about an hour about the urgency of poverty and climate change, and what needs to be done to save the planet. Goodall urged the thousands in attendance to connect our “brains with our hearts” in order to sustain the world and its resources for future generations.
Humankind is like “a bus racing toward a brick wall,” she said in the speech, referencing a scientist who told the analogy, “but people are just arguing about who gets the best seat.
“Basically I do believe the point of no return will come and I do not believe it’s very far away, seriously,” Goodall said in a pre-lecture press conference.
In order to save the environment and the many species that inhabit the world, she said humans will have to drastically change course. She went on to identify what she believes are the major problems humans will have to address.
“There’s three major problems,” she said. “One: crippling poverty, because people living in poverty tend to have more children. They tend to destroy the last of the natural resources simply to grow food to keep themselves and their families alive.
“The other problem is the unsustainable lifestyles of the rest of us,” Goodall said in the press conference, much like the points made in the lecture. “So many people have way more than they need and many more of them way more than they actually want.”
The last major problem, Goodall said, is the population growth of humans. One of the functions of the Jane Goodall Institute is to help with family planning.
“And then the third problem is the ever-growing human population and if we want to address that, for one we have to not be afraid to talk about it.”
Goodall gained funding and prominence in 1960 after she observed a chimpanzee in Kenya use a blade of grass to fish out termites from a termite mound. The observation triggered a massive change in the way humans perceived themselves as the only species to use tools, which led to more discoveries.
In the 1980s, after witnessing deforestation and the killing of the chimpanzees she had studied, Goodall went to work with her institute and started traveling the world, lecturing and working with her institute.
The institute’s “Shoots and Roots” program is designed for separate groups around the world to hone in on their own specialized projects like cleaning a stream or taking care of stray dogs, she said. When young people are given the opportunity to design their own action plans, their creativity takes hold.
Young people can be part of the solution in saving the environment, she said. The human brain, the resilience of nature and the indomitable human spirit will all determine whether or not the environment can be saved, Goodall said.
It will also take a massive protest movement for world leaders to react, she said.
“People do what they do in politics to get elected or re-elected, so if there are enough people who don’t want the continued destruction of the environment to get oil and more oil and more oil and minerals and so forth, it’s got to be a mass protest, a sort of Arab Spring in the developed world and of the people,” Goodall said, noting the protests should be non-violent.
Ending her speech on a somber note, the scientist told a story about a chimpanzee struggling to swim at the Detroit Zoo and a man jumping in to save the animal. The man, in obvious danger of losing his life, was asked why he jumped in.
She compared the struggling chimpanzee to humans in poverty, in refugee camps, in pain, and what their eyes say.
“I looked into his eyes, and they were the eyes of a man,” Goodall recalled him saying. And the chimpanzee’s eyes said, “won’t anybody help me?”