Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
  The Arts
  Public Service
 + Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


If you like Jane Goodall's story, you might also like:
Robert Ballard,
Lee Berger,
Susan Butcher,
Sylvia Earle,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Stephen Jay Gould,
Edmund Hillary,
Donald Johanson,
Meave Leakey,
Richard Leakey,
Ernst Mayr,
Greg Mortenson,
Sally Ride,
Richard Schultes,
Tim White and
Edward O. Wilson

Jane Goodall can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Jane Goodall's recommended reading:
The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle

Related Links:
Jane Goodall Institute
Roots and Shoots

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall
Profile of Jane Goodall Biography of Jane Goodall Interview with Jane Goodall Jane Goodall Photo Gallery

Jane Goodall Interview (page: 9 / 9)

The Great Conservationist

Print Jane Goodall Interview Print Interview

  Jane Goodall

What do you see as the future for conservation?

Jane Goodall: There are so many problems facing conservation, whether it's in the developed world or the developing world. And it's very hard to know how this is all going to end. I think that we are up against the vested interests of big business. And when money starts speaking, its tough. We're up against corrupt governments, and I don't mean just in the developing world. But some of the worst corruption is in the developed world. We're up against expanding human populations. We're up against extreme poverty, which is in rural areas. One of the most damaging of all, of course, is of environmental destruction, because people are desperately trying to live and grow food and cut down more trees to grow more crops. And they get too many goats, and they get this terrible, terrible, terrible desertification. And then we're up against the unsustainable lifestyles of most of us. We take far more than our fair share. So the only way that I can see that we can succeed, whether it's conserving chimpanzees or anything else, is to have a different mindset.

I could be bashing my head against the wall like a crazy chimp to try and raise awareness about these issues. If we're not raising new young people to be better stewards than we've been, there's no point. So our youth program, Roots and Shoots, for me, is perhaps the most crucial thing I have left to offer during the rest of my life.

It began because, as I was traveling -- raising awareness about chimpanzee conservation, traveling in Europe, traveling in America, traveling in Africa, India, Asia, wherever -- I kept meeting young people who seemed to have lost hope, who seemed to be depressed or angry or just apathetic. And basically, they were saying, "We feel this way because we feel you've compromised our future and there's nothing we can do about it." We have compromised their future. I've got three grandchildren. I look at them, think how we've harmed the world since I was their age, and I feel this desperation. But it's not true that there's nothing that can be done.

Jane Goodall Interview Photo

Roots and Shoots is about hope. Imagine a little seed, acorn, going to grow into a huge tree. Tiny little white roots come out. Tiny little white shoot comes out, and you pick it up and it looks so tiny, so weak. But the life force in that seed is such that those roots -- to reach the water -- can work through boulders and eventually knock them aside. And that little shoot -- to reach the sunlight -- can work its way through crevices in a brick wall until the wall falls. So think of the boulders and the walls as all the problems, environmental and social, that we've inflicted on the planet. It's hope. Hundreds and thousands of young people around the world can break through and can make this a better world -- young people who are understanding of the problems and empowered to take action. But the message is that every one of us makes a difference every day, that we can't live through a day without impacting the world. Understanding, spending time learning about and thinking about the consequences of the little choices we make each day, and how they will affect the environment, how they will affect animals and the human community. And this does lead to small changes in our behavior, because I have seen it again and again.

So Roots and Shoots began in Tanzania. It's now in 111 countries. It began with 12 high school students on my veranda, overlooking the Indian Ocean, talking about the problems of the destruction of the coral reefs and poaching and cruelty to animals, and realizing that we're animals too, and that the chimpanzee was like a link between the animal kingdom and us, us and the rest of the animal kingdom. And I said to them, "Well, don't you have wildlife clubs in your schools?" "Yes, we do." "Well, aren't they working?" "No, they're not." "What do they teach you about? What do they talk about?" "Poaching of elephants." "How many of you have seen an elephant?" Only two out of 12, the wealthy Asian Tanzanians. "Well you've all seen a chicken?" "Yes." "You've seen a chicken carried to market with the wings behind the back, or with the feet tied on a pole, with their little heads coming up 'cause they didn't like being upside down?" "Yes." "Do you think it hurts them? You think they mind?" And they thought about that, decided, yeah, not as much as it would hurt a human, but it would hurt them. "Well, does it matter? They're going to market. Maybe they're going to be eaten." They talked about that. "Yes. We think that if they mind, even if they're going to be eaten, we shouldn't do it like that." "So would you like to, you know, form a club and talk about these things and talk about the deforestation and the dynamiting and so forth for the fish?" "Yes."

So they went back to their nine different schools. They found friends who were interested in the same things. We met together once every two weeks or so when I was still living in Tanzania most of the time.

So from the beginning, Roots and Shoots has been youth-driven. They choose the projects. But every group is choosing projects: one to help people, one to help animals -- including domestic animals -- and one to help the environment, with a theme of "Let's learn to live in peace and harmony, between family, community, between the cultures and religions and nations, between us and the natural world." And so every group chooses these three projects, and these three projects are leading to the breakdown of the barriers we build between people in these different categories. It's now got programs for preschool right through university. It's even appearing in prisons and among senior citizens. It's jumping into staff of major corporations. It's what gives me hope, and what gives me energy to carry on. The shinning eyes. "Dr. Jane, we want to show you what we've done to make the world a better place. We want to tell you what we're doing to make the world a better place and what we plan to do." Contact between different countries. Contact between different religions. Contact between different cultures. Learning to find your roots in nature, and reaching out to partner with other groups who think the same way, to create a critical mass of young people who understand that life is about more than just making money, that we need different values to be happy.

Dr. Goodall, what do you hope will be one of the big achievements in the next quarter century?

Jane Goodall: I hope that one of the next achievements in the next quarter century is the spreading of understanding around more and more countries involving more and more people. Maybe it will be through the Internet. Maybe it will be through the program where each child gets a computer. Maybe it will be through the development of Roots and Shoots and like programs linking together to create this critical mass of youth with different kinds of values. But if we don't get that, then I think during the next quarter of a century we will see the world deteriorating, and everything that we're working for today, perhaps, to be of little value. But don't believe that's going to happen. You know my reasons for hope. The human brain. We're coming up with some many innovative ways of doing things better. We're thinking of ways that we can leave lighter footprints ecologically. The resilience of nature -- give it a chance -- can be restored. Animals on the brink of extinction can get a second chance. The indomitable human spirit, the people who tackle impossible tasks and won't give up. And then this incredible energy and commitment and dedication and courage of young people, when they know what the problems are, and they are empowered to act. This gives hope.

Thank you for sitting down with us, Dr. Goodall.

Jane Goodall: Thank you.

It's been a gift.

Jane Goodall Interview, Page: 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   

This page last revised on Aug 20, 2009 16:01 EDT
How To Cite This Page