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There’s hope for the future

- Wits University

Dr Jane Goodall is positive that we will overcome challenges such as climate change and biodiversity devastation.

Jane Goodall

With all the doom and gloom going on around the world, with the threats of climate change and biodiversity devastation, Dr Jane Goodall, arguably the worlds’ best known conservation expert, said that while all these burning issues are truly alarming, “there still is time” to turn things around.

“Every single one of us have some impact on the planet every single day, and, certainly, we have the choice as to what kind of impact we’re going to make. If we start thinking of what we buy, what we eat, or what we wear, or if we ask ourselves whether a product was made by harming the environment, or through being cruel to animals, or whether it is cheap because of [people being paid] unfair wages, then we have a choice, and consumer pressure is beginning to change the way some businesses work.”

Goodall was hosted for a “fireside chat” titled Protect, Manage, Restore: A conversation with Jane Goodall on co-creating Future Ecosystems for Africa, by Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation and the Future Ecosystems for Africa (FEFA) programme at Wits University.  

Jane Goodall event

The “fireside chat” took the form of a conversation about the burning issues and solutions in conservation in Africa, between Goodall, Professor Sally Archibald and Dr Fezile Mtsetfwa from Wits University’s School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, and Dr Odirilwe Selomane from the University of Pretoria.

After the chat, Goodall gave a short talk in which she gave three reasons why she has hope for the future – the first of which is her regular interaction with young people through her worldwide “Roots and Shoots” programme, where groups of young people work together to make a difference.

“This morning, I spoke to a group of young people from Johannesburg. They were telling us what they were doing in their Roots and Shoots programme to make the world better – whether it was school or community gardens, or whether it was helping in an animal sanctuary or whatever it was, they were taking action, and they were proud of what they were doing, because it made them feel that ‘yes, we are doing something to save the planet’. So this is my greatest reason for hope.”

Roots and Shoots began in 1991 after Goodall heard from young people around the world and realised that they were losing hope for the future. Goodall established the Roots and Shoots programme for young people to work together for change. The programme has grown tremendously globally and includes 1500 groups in China.

The second reason Goodall has hope, is human ingenuity.

“Quite honestly, when you think of how people have come up and developed alternative energy; when you think that people can actually capture carbon, CO2, from the atmosphere and store it, hopefully safely; when you think of all the innovation that is going on now that people are feeling the pinch, there is reason for hope,” said Goodall, which brought her to her third reason.

“And then, the resilience of nature. Nature is resilient. It is having a tough time now, because of us. It is not natural that a whole forest is being clear cut, and it takes a lot of effort, to bring the forest back, but we can. It has been done. There’s been places all over the world that we’ve destroyed, but given time and given some help, we’ve been able to bring back Nature, in all her beauty. Animals on the brink of extinction can be given another chance.”

Goodall’s fourth reason for hope is people’s refusal to give up and always tackle and overcome problems that initially seems impossible to solve.

“We have a lot of problems to solve, but the good news is that we have good people working on it. We need more collaboration and cooperation across the world. We need to save the planet. If we can’t save the planet, we can’t save Africa,” Goodall said.