Positive Chronicles - My reasons for hope
by Jane Goodall
We have to make the effort to build a better future. It’s up to us to keep that movement going, for if we don’t who will? We must have hope for the future
If you see that look in the eyes of children and animals, asking you for help, and feel it in your heart, you have to jump in and try to help
When I began my research of chimpanzees in 1960, I don’t think I could have imagined that it would be continuing more than 40 years later, which it is, under a team of scientists and Tanzanian field assistants. We still find so much to observe and wonder about with the so-famous chimpanzees: Fifi, who was an infant when I arrived at Gombe, Tanzania, who’s still alive today, the only one from those early years. And when I go back to Gombe, I can sit there and look in her eyes and know that I am looking into the eyes of a thinking, feeling being. And we’re still learning things about these amazing beings after all these years.
We’re trying to create a little corridor of forest, between Gombe and a small remnant population of chimpanzees in the area. Because outside the little oasis of forest that is Gombe National Park—30 square miles—the forest is gone. The trees have disappeared. The human population has grown there, as it has around the rest of the world. And it’s been swelled by refugees pouring in from Burundi and more recently over the lake, from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are more people living on this land than the land can support. The soil is completely degraded, becoming less and less fertile. The population size is more than the land can cope with. And the local people are too poor to buy food from elsewhere. How could we possibly focus on protecting the chimps if the people are suffering and struggling, and their children are dying from malnutrition and lack of medicine? So, we started the Tacare (‘take care’) community-centred conservation programme. By now it is run by an all-Tanzanian staff, and works in 33 villages around Gombe and up and down the lakeshore. It’s trying to improve the life of the people through tree nurseries, agro-forestry, nourishing the soil to prevent erosion which can lead to deadly mud slides, working with groups of women, trying to improve their self-esteem and boost the esteem in which they’re held in their communities.
Tacare also sets up micro-credit banks, where women can take out tiny loans for environmentally sustainable businesses, and provides scholarships for gifted girls to go from primary school to secondary school, which is pretty rare in that part of Tanzania. We also provide family planning counselling, HIV/AIDS education, and basic information in the realm of women’s rights and children’s rights. And I think the reason this programme has worked so well is that we have never, ever gone into a village and said: “Here’s what we’re going to do for you.” We’ve never done that. We’ve gone and talked to the elders and said, these are the kind of things that might be able to help improve your lives, and is there any of this that interest you? Of course, in the end, it all does. But we’ve not imposed anything on any of the people.
We’re also caring for orphan chimps whose mothers have been shot in the terrible commercial hunting of wild animals for food that’s going on throughout central and western Africa, which is threatening the existence of all the great apes, any kind of endangered animal from monkeys and antelopes to birds and bats. This trade, by the way, caters to the cultural preference for wild animal flesh. It’s a huge problem caused basically by the logging companies going deep into the last of the tropical rain forest, opening up the forest, allowing commercial hunters to go in from the town on trucks, shooting everything, smoking it, trucking it back into the towns, where people pay more for it than they would for domestic animal flesh.
The forests also feed the huge logging camps—maybe 2000 people—who in many cases weren’t there before. And they’re being fed meat by the pygmy indigenous hunters who are given guns and money, whose culture is being destroyed, who will have nothing when the logging camp moves, because all the animals will have gone. So we’re trying to do something about that through Tacare initiatives in central Africa.
Roots and shoots
Another of our important programmes is ‘Roots and Shoots’, which has now been going on for ten years. Roots make a firm foundation. Shoots seem so tiny, but to reach the sun, they can break through brick walls. And if we see the brick walls as all the problems that we humans have made on this poor long-suffering planet, then, you see, it is a message of hope. That hundreds and thousands of young people around the world can break through these walls and can make the world a better place.
Every Roots and Shoots group tackles three different projects to make their world a better place—for the human community, for animals including domestic animals, and for the environment that we all share. What the groups do depends on how old the children are. We have groups in pre-school, right through university. We have groups that are springing up in prisons and senior citizens’ homes. It depends on whether they’re inner city or rural, whether they’re in America or Africa or China or Japan or Europe, because we’re now in 87 countries around the world—6,000 groups. Sometimes a group is an entire school, which can be several thousand children.
Roots and Shoots is concentrating on breaking down the artificial barriers that we build between different cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries and even, yes, between animals and people. Its main message is the importance of every individual, that every single one of us makes a difference. We know the world needs to change, and the tools for change are knowledge and understanding, hard work and persistence—never giving up—and love and compassion.
A chimp story
I’ll share with you a story about JoJo, a chimpanzee who was born in Africa. His mother was shot, and he was shipped off to North America. He eventually wound up at a zoo, and lived in a huge enclosure surrounded by a moat filled with water, because chimps don’t swim. One day one of the younger males challenged JoJo. But JoJo didn’t know anything about fighting. Chimps learn as children, just like we do. And he’d been alone before the zoo brought in these other chimpanzees. In his fear, JoJo ran into the water. He was so frightened that he managed to scramble over the fence erected to prevent the chimps from drowning in the deep water beyond. He vanished.
Three times he came up sputtering for air, and then he was gone. Now on the far side of the moat was a little group of people. Perhaps aware that male chimps are strong and can be dangerous, everyone just watched. But luckily for JoJo, there was a man, Rick, who visits that zoo just once a year with his wife and children. He jumped in. Even though people grabbed him and told him he would be killed, he pulled away. Rick found JoJo underwater, got this 130-pound chimpanzee over his shoulder, managed to climb over the fence, and pushed JoJo up on to the bank. JoJo was making feeble efforts to grab on to something, but he was half-drowned. Rick turned to rejoin his slightly hysterical family.
But JoJo started to slip, and then he was back underwater, and even though there were three large males with bristling hair threatening Rick from above, Rick went in again and pushed JoJo on to the bank. Just in time, JoJo managed to grab a thick tuft of grass and pull himself up to where the ground was more level. And just in time, Rick got back over that fence. That evening, when that piece of video was flashed across North America, the director of my Institute (the Jane Goodall Institute) saw it and called up Rick. He said: “That was a terribly brave thing to do. You must’ve known it was dangerous; everyone was telling you. What made you do it?” Rick replied: “Well, I happened to look into JoJo’s eyes, and it was like looking into the eyes of a man. And the message was, ‘won’t anybody help me?’”
Try to help
You see, that’s the message I’ve seen for sale in the African markets, looking out from under the frills of the circus tent, looking out from the five-foot by five-foot prisons of medical research labs. I’ve seen it in the eyes of so many suffering animals and children whose parents have been killed in the fighting in Burundi. And children who are caught up in gang violence in our cities with nowhere to go. If you see that look, and if you feel it in your heart, you have to jump in and try to help.
As I’ve been travelling around the world in these, oh, since 1986, 300 days a year, I’ve seen that more and more people have been feeling that appeal and jumping in to help. There seems to be a change. Even before 9/11, there was a movement of people who were dissatisfied with the materialism that is rampant in the West, who wanted to find more meaning in their lives than they could get from just money and more money and stuff and more stuff. That’s really the hope for the future, isn’t it? Once we get past this horrible time we’re going through now, and get past it we will, then we have to build a better future. We were already moving toward it, as I said. I do believe that, and it’s up to us to keep that movement going. We must, because if we don’t, who will? And that is the hope for the future. Adapted from a speech given by Dr Jane Goodall in Dallas, Texas, USA, in 2001.
Jane Goodall is the world’s foremost authority on chimpanzees, having researched them for a quarter century. Her findings about complex behaviour patterns among chimpanzees has revolutionised primatology. The Jane Goodall Institute helps individuals take compassionate action for environment. She is author of In the Shadow of Man, Through a Window and Reason for Hope. Website: www.janegoodall.com
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