explainer

For anyone who doesn't think the environment is the most important election issue, Jane Goodall has a question.

Jane Goodall often finds herself looking up at the moon.

Eighty-five years she’s been on this planet, and still, she’s in awe of it.

Hundreds of thousands of kilometres away, the moon is the constant between us and every other thing that’s ever found themselves on earth.

But we – human beings – are the only creatures clever enough to have landed there; to explore its craters with our own feet, and to hold its rocks with our own hands.

“It’s bizarre,” Jane Goodall tells Mamamia, before pausing for a moment.

“That the most intellectual creature is destroying its only home.”

Jane Goodall on leaving a better world for our children. Post continues below. 

For Goodall, the world’s most prolific expert on chimpanzees, the environment is not an election issue, to be weighed up alongside the economy.

It is not something to be prioritised by men in suits, sitting in parliament and around boardroom tables.

The environment is it. All we have. And we’re running out of time.

“The window is closing,” she says.

“I don’t know how big a window of time we have, and some scientists think it’s too late.”

If we continue on ‘business as usual’, Goodall says, then “I would not want to imagine the desert world my great-grandchildren will be born into.”

It is not a world, Goodall knows, that will resemble the planet she grew up in.

In 1960, she first started studying the interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania – work which would ultimately change how humans understood our closest living relatives.

But even since then, weather patterns have dramatically changed. She’s spoken to people all over the world who do not recognise the place they’ve lived their whole lives. It won’t stop raining. Or there is no rain. Now, some tell her, there are no seasons.

Goodall quotes Mahatma Gandhi, “The planet can provide for human need, but not human greed.”

We’ve become too materialistic, she laments. We’ve “lost connection with the natural world,” while we strive to get bigger and more and more successful, at the expense of our environment.

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“We’re continuing to steal the future of our children,” Goodall says.

As Australia edges towards the ballot box, Goodall’s questions seem more pertinent than ever.

“It is the most important thing,” she says.

The questions she urges people to ask themselves are simple: “Don’t you actually care? About future generations? If you have children or grandchildren, don’t you care?”

Many people, she tells Mamamia, are aware of climate change and the real, imminent threats facing our environment. But they don’t care.

Instead, as she sees it, they’re making decisions for themselves. And for right now.

But there are three things we need to do, immediately, if we’re going to preserve the only planet we have.

The first, is to alleviate poverty. “If you’re really poor, you’re going to cut down that last tree because you’re desperate to grow more food for your family,” she explains. “If you’re in an urban area you’re going to buy the cheapest because you can’t afford to ask how it was made or if it was ethical.”

The second, is to change minds.

“I find the only way is not arguing, not pointing fingers, not blaming, but trying to reach into the heart,” she says.

“And I can do that best with stories.”

The third, is “we mustn’t push under the carpet the problem of human population growth. It honestly doesn’t make any kind of sense to think that we can have economic development on a planet with finite natural resources.”

But big change, Goodall assures, starts with little choices.

“Every single one of us makes a difference every single day,” she says.

“Start thinking of the consequences of the little choices you make.

“What did you buy? Where did it come from? How was it made? Did it harm the environment? Did it result in horrible cruelty to animals like from factory farms? Is it cheap because of child slave labour?

“And if hundreds, thousands, millions and eventually billions of people make ethical choices, then we’re moving towards a better world.”

And is there, possibly, a more important pursuit than that?

Jane Goodall is currently touring Australia. You can see her…

Wednesday 8 May | Darling Harbour Theatre, ICC, Sydney
Saturday 11 May | The Plenary, MCEC, Melbourne
Thursday 14 May |  ACC, Adelaide

Tickets available at www.thinkinc.org.au

You can learn more about Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots youth program, dedicated to fostering respect and compassion for all living things, right here. 

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