‘We can’t sit around and mope’: Eco-warrior Jane Goodall on keeping hope alive in a pandemic

Jane Goodall rose to fame for her long-term study of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania in the 1960s, which proved that the primates were capable of using tools and forming human-like bonds within their troop. — Picture courtesy of National Geographic
Jane Goodall rose to fame for her long-term study of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania in the 1960s, which proved that the primates were capable of using tools and forming human-like bonds within their troop. — Picture courtesy of National Geographic

PETALING JAYA, April 13 — World-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall has always kept hope as a central element in her 60-year career as a scientist and environmental activist.

But even she gets bogged down at times when faced with the harsh reality of climate change, species extinction, and most recently, a global virus pandemic.

In an email interview with Malay Mail, Goodall opened up about how she deals with feelings of frustration and helplessness in her work as an eco-warrior.

“There are inevitably times when I get depressed by all the doom and gloom, but I have never lost hope,” said the 86-year-old activist.

“Nature is very resilient, so places that we destroyed can — given the chance — support life, become beautiful, and animals on the brink of extinction will be given another chance.

“I think about that along with all the amazing people I meet who tackle what seems impossible and don’t give up and often succeed, and I feel invigorated.”

Goodall said the best thing we could do right now was to recognise that everyone still had an important role to play in saving the planet and to take action in whatever capacity that we could.

“The real secret is not to sit around and mope in moments of looming depression, but to be active. Do what you can then and there and take action.”

Goodall pictured with the Zanzibar division of her global youth programme Roots and Shoots, which aims to mould its members into compassionate leaders that care for their community and the environment. — Picture courtesy of National Geographic
Goodall pictured with the Zanzibar division of her global youth programme Roots and Shoots, which aims to mould its members into compassionate leaders that care for their community and the environment. — Picture courtesy of National Geographic

The primate expert famously said that humanity’s “disrespect for animals” led to the Covid-19 pandemic during a recent conference call for her new National Geographic documentary Jane Goodall: The Hope.

The film follows Goodall on her jam-packed schedule as she travels the world advocating for conservation work while reflecting on the obstacles she’s had to tackle throughout her career.

The documentary also captures Goodall’s different sides, including her as a scientist, an activist, a diplomat, a conservationist, and on a more personal note, a grandmother.

Her ultimate goal was to inspire others to heal Mother Nature, even if it meant doing something as simple as tweaking our daily habits.

“Every day you live, you make some impact on the planet. Think about the consequences of what you buy, eat, and wear. 

“We should be asking if what we buy harms the environment or causes cruelty to animals through intensive farming.”

Along with Jane Goodall: The Hope, National Geographic will also be premiering Photo Ark: Rarest Creatures which follows wildlife photographer Joel Sartore on his 15-year-long quest to document the world's animals before they go extinct.

Sartore has captured more than 33,000 animal portraits for the Photo Ark so far. — Picture courtesy of National Geographic
Sartore has captured more than 33,000 animal portraits for the Photo Ark so far. — Picture courtesy of National Geographic

Sartore’s project involves snapping studio-level portraits of some of the world’s rarest creatures, including the Sumatran rhino and the Sunda pangolin.

The pangolin is currently being hunted into extinction and is the most highly-trafficked mammal in the world, with evidence suggesting that consumption of the scaly creature is to blame for the Covid-19 outbreak.

Sartore hopes that by getting people to look at animals in an up-close and personal setting in his photos, he can motivate others to take action and save these animals from dying out.

By photographing the animals against a clean and simple backdrop, Sartore hopes that the viewer can connect with the animal on a more emotional level. — Pictures courtesy of National Geographic
By photographing the animals against a clean and simple backdrop, Sartore hopes that the viewer can connect with the animal on a more emotional level. — Pictures courtesy of National Geographic

“Extinction is forever, and it’s something that’s just not tolerable to me,” he said in the film.

“Now that I’m out photographing these animals and seeing how they’re on the cusp of extinction, it just motivates me to want to photograph everyone, announce it to the world, and get people to finally care.”

Photo Ark: Rarest Creatures and Jane Goodall: The Hope will premiere on National Geographic (Astro channel 571 and 551 (HD) / unifi TV channel 508) on Wednesday, April 22 at 8pm and 9pm respectively in conjunction with Earth Day.

Related Articles