I’m not a people-person, I spend my time at game reserves and give my charity donations to the SPCA. I have no doubt that most of my fellow animal-lovers have been asked the question, “but what about all the suffering people?”, and the thing I try to remember is that the two are not mutually exclusive. Jane Goodall, animal-lover, scientist, researcher, activist and people-person says that in order to save our animals we have to start with the people.
One day upon returning to the Gombe area, in which she worked for so many years with the chimpanzees, Jane flew over barren fills. No forests could be seen, not even farmlands, just over-worked, over-cultivated land that now held no life. Her words; “No way we can even try to save the chimps when the people are living in such dire situations.”
So she developed a project with the people in mind, explaining she says, “We were not a group of white people going into an African village telling them how we are going to make their lives better,” instead she put together a team of local Tanzanians to ask the villagers what they wanted to make their lives better and in such, over time, she gained the trust of the villagers. She had to avoid being resented as “a white person running around with monkeys”.
“Unless we can alleviate the sufferings of the people, we cannot conserve the chimpanzees,” she realised. She also says that, “There is conflict between us and wild animals everywhere as we take over more and more of their habitat”, but what she found was that in working with the people, and providing opportunities for them, the locals began to understand the importance of the forests and ultimately it was their decision to set aside parts of their land to act as buffers so that today the chimps have three times more forest than they did 10 years ago.
But it doesn’t end with simply helping people, its about empowering people to make a difference through their own choices. Jane’s famous quote says, “Every single one of us makes a difference every single day and it’s up to us what kind of difference we make”. She also says that, “The key thing is for people to feel like their lives do make a difference.” It is with this in mind that she developed the roots&shoots initiative that inspires young people to actively make a difference in the world.
Working with young people from around the world, Jane began to feel like she had let them down, “I meet so many young people that have no hope for the future because we have compromised their future… How we have harmed this beautiful planet since I was that age. I felt angry, I felt ashamed.” Baffled she says, “How is it possible that this most intelligent species is destroying its only home?” It is because of this, our responsibility as the people of this world, that Jane spends most of her time dedicated to the future, the future of the world’s people.
She explains that three steps are needed in order to succeed: “Help people, help animals, help the environment,” and what she has found is that the young people engaged in making a difference are “Not only changing things in the world around them, it’s changing them.”
She dismisses the apathy shown by so many, and has no time for the excuse: “There is nothing I can do… so I do nothing.” Goodall believes “There has been a disconnect between this clever brain and the human heart.” She explains that the protection of the world’s wildlife is as simple as every person working on one piece of the puzzle until all the pieces join to form a complete picture. When asked what is on her bucket-list, she gives a simple, yet powerful, response; “Making the world a better place – that will do.”