Goodall’s hope and passion
“I went into the reserve as a researcher and came out as an activist,” said Jane Goodall, whose love affair with chimpanzees started in 1960 and sparked a new way of looking at human/nature relationships.Pictures from 40 years ago show Goodall’s willowy beauty and fair complexion in distinct contrast with the dark, hairy chimps she familiarized with pet names. It was her humanizing approach that earned Goodall a chilly reception from less imaginative primatologists when she attended Cambridge.Goodall spoke in Aspen at the Ideas Festival, where she exuded a deep passion for nature and hope for its defense. Sadly, the community of chimps she once studied is disappearing because of hunting and habitat destruction. Other harbingers of environmental collapse lurk on every horizon.Climate experts at the Ideas Festival confirmed that global warming is inexorable, as is the potential for mass species extinctions, coastal flooding, dramatic storm cycles and disruptions in agriculture and water resources.On another panel, an oil expert concluded that our addiction to Middle East oil is far from being addressed by the White House or appreciated by consumers. “The greatest allies of the oil companies,” he concluded, “are the American drivers.” A panel discussing the plight of the world’s oceans revealed that few Americans are even aware of the dire impacts of pollution, and that the major fisheries of the world are being decimated by overfishing. The “What, me worry?” barb that Hillary Clinton applied to George “Alfred E. Newman” Bush applies equally to mass American culture. As I listened to dire predictions, the hope of which Goodall spoke evaporated faster than a south-facing snowfield in July. The best policy we can have for global warming, it seems, is to shore up low-lying coastlines and make evacuation plans. In Colorado, we can watch from barren mountaintops as the arid West parches into a bone yard. The oceans are still salvageable, experts said, but only through public awareness, international cooperation and global commitments. While we’re at it, we might was well try for world peace.In Aspen, where the Canary Initiative studies global warming emissions, our streets are gridlocked with SUVs, our hillsides tiered with monster homes. How ironic that our ski economy is linked to the very climate we’re carelessly damaging. So where’s the hope? Goodall’s hope comes from her sacred connection to the natural world. Still, her observations were not all blissful as she described the brutal violence of territorial male chimps. Neighboring chimps that strayed too close were often attacked, and some died of their injuries, she lamented.”Are we made of the same stuff?” asked Goodall. The answer is yes. Violence is part of man’s nature, too. We act it out on each other, and especially on nature.Goodall ended her speech with hope because she had to. If you bury an audience in a pall of gloom, all you’ve achieved is the enervation of the will. For Goodall, optimism is essential. It’s the only way she can go on.Goodall offered four points on which she places hope: 1. The power of the human brain and its ability to reason. 2. The resilience of nature. 3. The passion of young people to take on a cause. 4. The indomitable human spirit.Perhaps man will come around and our innate goodness will somehow triumph. For Goodall, the indefatigable 71-year-old activist, getting up each morning with a mission keeps that hope alive.Paul Andersen hopes we can stop monkeying around on serious issues. His column appears on Mondays.
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