“We need to create a greener economy”
Why behavioural scientist Jane Goodall sees a connection between climate crisis and the pandemic, about biodiversity as our tapestry of life, the possible contribution of governments and global institutions like Deutsche Bank to a new and respectful relationship with the natural world. And what advice her mother gave her at the age of 10.
Dr. Goodall, you are the leading authority on Africa and primates on land. Yet the Jane Goodall Institute is also active in ocean conservation to promote conservation to children. What similarities are there between land and ocean conservation?
We are going through the 6th great extinction of plant and animal species in geological history – this one caused by human activities. We are part of and not separated from the natural world – and we depend on it for food, water, – well, everything. But what we need are healthy ecosystems whether these are forests, oceans, wetlands, grasslands or deserts.
And I learned, during my years in the rainforest when I was studying chimpanzees, about the interconnection of all life forms, how every little species has a role to play in what science calls biodiversity and I think of it as the wonderful tapestry of life. To secure a future for our grandchildren and theirs we need to work to save all the ecosystems that, together, create a healthy planet.
What we need are healthy ecosystems whether these are forests, oceans, wetlands, grasslands or deserts.
The year COVID-19 brought the world economy to its knees also seems to be the year the world in critical mass finally got serious about climate change and sustainability. What does it say about humans that it takes a crisis to motivate action?
Unfortunately, for some the materialistic way of life is just normal. It takes a real disaster to shake people out of that mindset. Hopefully the pandemic has woken up a critical mass of people who understand that we brought the pandemic on ourselves by our total disrespect of the environment and animals. My fear is that those who think only in terms of making money and gaining power will continue to put short term gain ahead of protecting the environment. Many have already resumed ‘business as usual’.
How would you like to see developed economies such as Europe or the US work together with rapidly growing emerging economies in Asia like China and India to accelerate environmental conservation?
I feel it is desperately important that the different economies come together to find a way forward that embraces a new and respectful relationship with the natural world and animals, and to somehow create a new, more sustainable “greener'' economy. One that does not rely on fossil fuels or industrial agriculture. Where environmentally sustainable businesses – such as solar, wind or tide energy, environmentally sustainable forms of agriculture – such as permaculture, regenerative agriculture, small scale family farming and so on – receive government subsidies rather than oil and gas and industrial agriculture.
What role would you like to see global institutions like Deutsche Bank play in furthering sustainability?
Global institutions like Deutsche Bank can make many positive contributions to society. Encouraging customers to invest in sustainable businesses, implementing sustainable practices within your organizations, and supporting sustainable technologies are all great ways. Partnering with grassroots organizations is also a good way to start.
What do you say to people who are cynical or dismissive of environmental conservation and climate change science?
I try to deal with people as individuals. I listen to them – try to understand why they think as they do. I believe that for change to happen it must be from within – otherwise it can just be lip service. I tell stories, find one that I hope will reach the heart of whoever I am talking to.
What is the single piece of advice you would give the generations of young women making their way in the world?
I do spend a lot of time talking with young women. I tell them what my mother said to me. It was when I was 10 years old and dreaming of going to Africa to live with wild animals and write books about them. This was 1944 and it was unheard of for a mere girl to do something like that. Moreover, we had little money, Africa was considered a dangerous place, and everyone laughed and told me to dream about something I could actually achieve.
But my mother told me that if I really wanted to do something like that, I would have to work really hard, take advantage of every opportunity – and then, if I did not give up, I might find a way.
What Jane Goodall hopes for the future
I have four reasons for hope:
First, the energy, determination and passion of young people once they understand the problem and we empower them to take action. Second, our incredible intellect. It is NOT intelligent to be destroying our only home! But people are now coming up with innovative solutions, through technology and personal choices, to start healing the harm we have done, slowing down climate change and loss of biodiversity. Third, nature is amazingly resilient and can reclaim areas we have destroyed given time and perhaps help. Fourth the indomitable human spirit – people who tackle what seems impossible and won’t give up and often succeed. Amazing people around the world are creating amazing projects to heal nature.
The Roots & Shoots Programme that I started in 1991 has as its message that every one of us makes a difference every day and we can choose what kind of difference to make. And each group chooses 3 projects – one to help people, one to help animals, one to help the environment for everything is interrelated. As you read these words thousands of groups of youth from kindergarten through university are changing the world through their actions. And the Oceans are Us project in Taiwan, supported by Deutsche Bank, is another good example!
About the "Oceans Are Us" education initiative
Deutsche Bank and the Jane Goodall Institute launched the "Oceans Are Us" education initiative in Taiwan in 2020.
The initiative focuses on close engagement with identified partner schools along Taiwan’s northern coast to effectively combat the urgent issue of ocean pollution as every year, more than eight million tons of plastic is thrown into the ocean.
By raising awareness and inspiring action among school children, “Oceans Are Us” aims to nurture a new generation of environmentally conscious youths who understand and are motivated to address the challenges and consequences of marine pollution.
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