When the slight figure of Dr. Jane Goodall appeared on the stage at College Park Center, University of Texas Arlington, she received a standing ovation. It seemed as though the entire audience, which was huge, sprang to their feet simultaneously. The crowd hushed when she began to speak in a conversational tone, with no notes and no teleprompter. She was completely engaged, and each member of the audience was hanging on her every word.
In 1960, when she was 26 years old, Jane Goodall went to Africa to study chimpanzees. She did not have a university degree, but she had plenty of determination. Dr Goodall was armed with a notebook, a pair of binoculars, and her mother as a chaperone as she set up her tent near a group of chimps in Gombe Forest, Tanzania. The rest is history, and if you are not aware that Jane Goodall went for her PhD without having an undergraduate degree, or that she is a United Nations Messenger of Peace, you need to go read a biography about her. At 82 years old, Jane Goodall is traveling 300 days a year to spread the message of the Jane Goodall Institute: every person makes a difference. Her question is, what difference will you make? The choices we make in our every day lives have an effect on our planet.
Jane carries with her a stuffed cow, and explains to the audience how commercial agriculture and factory farming contributes to climate change. We breed billions of animals for food so we have to feed them, and feeding them means growing food, and growing food means a terrible waste of huge amounts of water and cutting down trees for more land to grow food for the cows, and more land so the cows can graze. Trees give us oxygen, cows take in food and emit methane gas which is heating up the planet at an alarming rate, so overall, we should keep the trees. We know this, we have all heard this, at least I hope everyone has heard it, and yet a study came out the other day saying that the USA’s appetite for meat has gone up instead of down. Jane Goodall writes that “the terrible conditions animals are put in to feed our appetites (is deplorable). It demonstrates not only the suffering of animals (remember, pigs are every bit as intelligent as dogs and all the pictured creatures can suffer, know fear, depression and pain) but also the harm we are inflicting on ourselves.” Genetically modified food, antibiotic and steroid use on our animal food supply is doing harm not only to the earth and animals, but to ourselves.
Jane Goodall started a program called Roots and Shoots in one small village, understanding that you have to address the concern of people along with the concern for wildlife. It has grown into 140 countries! The Jane Goodall Institute has this as their Mission Statement:
The Jane Goodall Institute promotes understanding and protection of great apes and their habitat and builds on the legacy of Dr. Jane Goodall, our founder, to inspire individual action by young people of all ages to help animals, other people and to protect the world we all share.
After the program she again received a standing ovation. She is putting her hope and faith on our youth. We can change things now, but in 50 years it will be too late. Her 5 Reasons to Hope:
- Youth. She has dedicated so much of her time and energy on youth by starting Roots and Shoots which engages children as young as pre-school in learning how to protect our planet. The young people who are passionate about the environment are our hope for the future.
- The human brain. How is it possible, she asks, for the most intellectual animal ever to walk on Earth is destroying its only home? We need to think in terms of future generations, not “how does this benefit me NOW” or “wonder how this will look at the next shareholder’s meeting”. Innovators are working on renewable energy to take the place of oil and coal, and as individuals, we must all think about making our carbon footprints a little lighter.
- The resilience of nature. It is true, nature can come back from almost barrenness. Look at Cocos Island off of Costa Rica…it was a dying ecosystem until it was made into a marine park. Now it is full of ocean animals and fish…of course, now humans want to start fishing it again. Do we never learn?
- The human spirit and those among us who will never give up, no matter how bleak it looks. We must not give up.
- Social Media. Social Media can reach out and educate people! There are no borders when it comes to cyber space. She uses the example of the organizers of the recent climate march in New York expected maybe 100,000. But everyone tweeted and instagrammed and posted news of it on Facebook, urging others to join. There were closer to 400,000 people, and more were coming when the police shut it down. Here are some amazing statistics for you: If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:— 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;— 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;— 70 million gallons of gas — enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare; — 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware; — 33 tons of antibiotics.If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:— Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;— 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;— 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;— Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.My favorite statistic is this: According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. See how easy it is to make an impact? Still think your choices don’t matter?(http://www.alternet.org/story/134650/the_startling_effects_of_going_vegetarian_for_just_one_day)
I can tell you this, everyone left that auditorium ready to become a vegetarian. How many will? Probably not many. But can’t every single one of us give the earth one day a week without eating meat? It is so easy to make a true difference.
It was a privilege to hear her speak. Tickets were sold out within 20 minutes! Obviously we all admire and venerate Jane Goodall. Now we need to take her advice.
All photographs were taken by Alexandra Minton Photography.