Jane Goodall, famed primatologist, discusses her new book, "Africa in My Blood"
May 16, 2000
(CNN) – Dr. Jane Goodall, world-renowned for her field studies with chimpanzees, has just published "Africa in My Blood: An Autobiography in Letters." The latest of twelve books, it is a collection of letters written by her as a child and as a young woman at Gombe National Park in Tanzania. Goodall arrived in Gombe in 1960 and lived with the chimpanzees for a decade, revolutionizing the study of primates.
Goodall has dedicated her life to wildlife conservation, with emphasis on the primates. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation in 1977. The Roots & Shoots youth program, which Goodall began in Tanzania in 1991, now has over 1,000 groups in 50 countries throughout the world. The program teaches children to be aware of how their actions affect the environment through local projects that promote care and concern for the environment, animals and human communities.
Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us, Jane Goodall, and welcome.
Jane Goodall: I'd love to say hello to every single person out there who is taking part in this chat.
Chat Moderator: Please tell us a little bit about your book, "Africa in My Blood."
Jane Goodall: It's a collection of letters that were saved, amazingly, by my mother and my best childhood friend with whom I spend every holiday. These letters were given to Dale Peterson, who is writing a biography of me. The letters were supposed to be material for his book. He called me one day and said, "Jane, please, please, please may I publish these? They're wonderful!" There's huge work in sorting, ordering and transcribing these little bits of paper, which was his job.
Chat Moderator: When did you first know that you were interested in animals?
Jane Goodall: I know that I was interested in animals even before I could talk, because my mother told me so many stories about taking earthworms to bed when I was one and a half to see how they walked. And she just encouraged my interest in all kinds of animals, and particularly helped me find books about animals.
Question from Ekania: What are some of the latest discoveries in the vocalization studies at Gombe?
Jane Goodall: We actually have not been focusing on vocalizations in the past few years. And we're waiting for the right student to come along with a good proposal. There is an awful lot to learn.
Chat Moderator: What do you hope people will get from reading "Africa in My Blood"?
Jane Goodall: I find it fascinating because it's like watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. Seeing how the passion of a small child eventually turns into the commitment of a grownup person. And how what used to be wonderful fun became a scientific career. People will feel what it was like when it happened, in a completely new way.
Question from HiFlyer: What is the status of the lowland gorilla population? How badly have their numbers been decimated with all of the regional wars?
Jane Goodall: The worst threat to the lowland gorilla -- and also chimpanzees and bonobos and, in fact, all animals in central Africa today -- is the bushmeat trade. That is, hunting animals commercially for food. The hunters go along logging roads from the towns, they shoot everything, they smoke it, load it on the trucks and sell it in the towns.
In addition, the pigmies of the forest are now hunting to feed the logging camps, which may be two to three thousand people. So when the camp moves, the indigenous people will have nothing left. We estimate that within the next ten to fifteen years, most of the great apes of the Congo basin will be gone if we can't do something to halt the bushmeat trade.
Question from Joel: Do you keep in contact with Roger Fouts? Will you be writing a book with him in the future?
Jane Goodall: I see Roger frequently, saw him actually last week. Writing a book with him in the future? No, because the signing project is really not my field.
Question from Dolbard: Jane, so what can "we," the common citizen in the Western world, do about this situation?
Jane Goodall: There is a consortium of 100 interested citizens and organizations brainstorming as to the best approach. I shall be speaking on Capital Hill on May 18 to a large audience of representatives, senators, and others on the subject, and also visiting Mr. Wolfensohn of the World Bank. I would urge people to join the Jane Goodall Institute or some other organization so that we can share information and tell people what to do. My website is www.janegoodall.org.
Chat Moderator: Can you tell us a little bit about your Roots & Shoots project?
Jane Goodall: With great pleasure! It's a program for youth in 40 countries. It began in Tanzania. The name is symbolic. Roots make a firm foundation, shoots seem tiny but can break through brick walls to reach the light. The message is full of hope. The brick walls are all the problems that we humans have inflicted on this poor old planet. But hundreds and thousands of roots and shoots, young people around the world, can break through.
Every group tackles three projects to make the world around them a better place for the human community, for animals including domestic animals and for the environment that we all share. What they do depends on how old they are. We have groups in preschool up to university, and whether they are rural or inner city, whether they're in North America or Tanzania or China and so on, my most important message is every individual matters and makes a difference. More on our website!
Question from DawnL: You are one of the women I admire most in this world. How can one get started to make the differences you have made for the Earth and its wildlife?
Jane Goodall: It's different for everyone and it depends where you live. Again, you have to, like I did, keep your ears open for opportunities and learn what you can about those opportunities. I think these days the Internet provides so much information. Be in touch with our institute.
Question from JimL: Dr. Goodall, I read a newspaper article where you talked about "the human spirit" as that which would keep the world from destruction. I am curious as to how you reconcile your notions on spirituality with your views on science.
Jane Goodall: I have never felt a conflict between religion and science. And I've explained this quite fully in this book, "Reason for Hope." Louis Leakey, my mentor, felt exactly the same. I find that the more amazing the facts that are uncovered by science, the more awe and amazement I feel about the natural world. And the more I question my own role on this planet.
Question from Gromett: What changes do you hope to make in World Bank policy?
Jane Goodall: I do not expect to make changes; I think the bank is trying to make changes. I hope to explore existing World Bank programs and find how we could make use of them to help the bushmeat problem. For example, in their education programs, and any leverage that they might exert on governments to try and help enforce existing laws.
Chat Moderator: You are doing a lot of traveling to educate others about the environment and your work. Do you miss devoting time to research and spending time in Africa?
Jane Goodall: Well, my favorite place in the world is the Gombe forest. But I can no longer contemplate staying there because I know that what I'm doing in my traveling and delivering my messages is what I'm supposed to be doing now. I feel compelled to travel and speak and write -- leaving what I love -- to try and save it. And always carrying a piece of the forest inside.
Question from DawnL: Do you have great hopes that Africa will become more stable in coming years? Some press here has given a very grim outlook.
Jane Goodall: Africa today is an absolute nightmare. It's true to say that events are worse overall than anyone predicted. However, if we look back on the history of Western Europe, including England, and we look back on the history of the U.S., we find that these countries also had a violent and turbulent past. So we can only hope that Africa also will emerge into a more peaceful continent.
Question from Gizmo: You feel that the human intellect, while clumsy, also has a tendency towards "setting things right"?
Jane Goodall: I think that more and more people are consciously trying to make change. But the problem is that everyone tends to think, well, I'm one person in a world of six billion plus, so how can my little contribution possibly matter? We all think this way. So as environmental education becomes more and more widespread, we have more and more millions of people all thinking it doesn’t matter what I do, it's just me. If we could turn that around, what a difference it would make.
And in the affluent societies around the world, individuals acting collectively can actually change the course of business by making ethical choices as to what they buy and don't buy. We are not forced to buy a product from environmentally irresponsible companies, or cosmetics tested on animals, or products made by child slave labor. We can search for organic food. Because we live in consumer driven societies, this would have a profound impact on business practices. Would it cost a little more? Perhaps. Are we or are we not prepared to buy a future for our grandchildren?
Question from DawnL: What is the best memory you have from all your years of work?
Jane Goodall: Well, I suppose that would be the days, months, years of watching the development of chimpanzee infants and their family relationships when I was actually living in Gombe. That was a wonderful time of discovery when everything was new and very exciting, such as the first observations of tool-using in the chimpanzees. And, also, overcoming the chimpanzees' fear and gaining their trust, starting with David Graybeard. Those were very wonderful times.
Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us today?
Jane Goodall: I think we've covered most of the most important things. Every one of us makes a difference to the world around us, every single day. It may interest people to know that Roots & Shoots has suddenly sprung into old-peoples’ homes and also into prisons. One warden told me last week that no other program she had encountered had done so much to change the inmates’ attitudes. This was the federal Women's Correctional Institute in Danbury, Connecticut.
If we lose all hope, we sink into apathy. Then hope is truly lost.
Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today!
Jane Goodall: I'd like to say goodbye to all of you. Hopefully, not goodbye because I hope you join my group of incredible, compassionate people at the institute and become ambassadors of hope. And thank you all for your great questions.
Jane Goodall joined the Book chat by telephone from Houston. CNN provided a typist for her. The above is an edited transcript of the chat.
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