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Conservationist Jane Goodall tells younger generation to promote hope

Jane Goodall speaks to reporters before giving a speech at Florida International University.
Gerard Albert III
Jane Goodall speaks to reporters before giving a speech at Florida International University.

World renowned conservationist Jane Goodall recently spoke to a sold out crowd at Florida International University with a very clear message: don't give up hope.

"Because if you lose hope ... you become apathetic," Goodall said.

She's even co-authored a book on the topic, penning The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times.

Published in 2021, the book focuses on four key reasons for hope: human intellect, the resilience of nature, the power of young people and the “indomitable” human spirit

Goodall, 89, is widely considered the world’s preeminent expert on chimpanzees and a celebrated environmentalist. She spent years studying animal habits and discovered that chimpanzees used tools in their daily lives.

She forever changed the way the science world studied the emotions of animals.

At last week’s event at FIU, she touched on the importance of preserving natural ecosystems like the Florida Everglades.

"Humans depend on healthy ecosystems, and as we destroy ecosystems, we are harming the future for our children," she said at a press conference before her sold out speech.

WLRN’s Gerard Albert III spoke with Goodall about the challenges facing the natural world. Below is an excerpt from the conversation, edited for length and clarity.

WLRN: This is one of many stops on a nationwide tour. What brings you down to South Florida?

Goodall: You know, the reason that I'm traveling around is because so many people are losing hope because of the mess we're making of the planet. And if everybody ... loses hope, especially the youth, then we're doomed. Because if you lose hope ... you become apathetic. What's the point of bothering to do anything if you don't have hope that it's going to make a difference? 

You’ve spent your life advocating for people to gain a better understanding of animals. Why is it important for people to understand animals and what do you think the challenge is for increasing that awareness?

I think the big problem with the public in the natural world is that we're becoming more and more separated from it, more and more divorced from the natural world. And young people are spending all that time on their social media. And I've seen them, you know, driving through a beautiful country and not even looking, let alone getting out and walking in it. So an understanding of animals is particularly important because there's a huge amount of cruelty going on.

South Florida is facing lots of dangers from climate change. What do you think it will take for government officials to care about it and make changes for resiliency.

Well, one takes pressure from the public, and unfortunately, some politicians don't seem to pay any attention at all to what the public say. For me, I'm concentrating on young people who will be going out into the world. We don't probably have time to wait for those in kindergarten, but those in university, it's not too late because soon they'll be going out getting jobs.

You are speaking around the country to mostly young people about hope. When you look at all of the issues facing the natural world, what gives you hope?

The young people, the energy and commitment, the resilience of nature, if we give her a chance. Intellect is beginning to do what it should do to try and heal the harm that we've inflicted on the natural world. And the indomitable spirit that tackles the impossible and won't give up.

Gerard Albert III covers Broward County. He is a former WLRN intern who graduated from Florida International University. He can be reached atgalbert@wlrnnews.org
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