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Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva: Why Women Are Key to Solving Climate Crisis

Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva discuss their decades of work devoted to protecting nature and saving future generations from the dangers of climate change.

Photo Credit: Screenshot: Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to put off a debate on nuclear power that we had planned today to turn to two remarkable women, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva. I had the opportunity to sit down with them recently. It was right before the U.N. climate summit that took place in Poland, but we were in Suffern, New York, at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative Summit. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons; Vandana Shiva, an environmental leader, feminist and thinker from India, author of many books, including  Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. I began by, well, going back to the beginning, with each of these remarkable women, and asking Vandana Shiva, who had just flown in from India, to talk about where she was born.

VANDANA SHIVA: I was born in a beautiful valley called Doon Valley in the Himalaya. And I took for granted that the forests and rivers I had grown with would be there forever, because they were. And then, in the early '70s, the streams started to disappear, the forests started to disappear. That's around the time peasant women of our area just rose and started the movement, Chipko, which means to embrace, to hug. And the movement basically was women saying we’ll put our bodies before the trees so you can’t cut them, because these trees are our mothers, they give us food, fuel, water, but more importantly, they give us soil, water and pure air. I decided—at that time I was doing my Ph.D. in the foundations of quantum theory, hidden variables and nonlocality. And I was doing it in Canada. But I made a commitment that every vacation I would come and volunteer for Chipko. And I always say I did a Ph.D. in the University of Western Ontario in quantum theory, but all my learning of ecology really came from the women of the Himalaya.

And then the problems continued, didn’t go away. And even though we managed to stop the logging in the hills because of Chipko, you know, then came globalization, and then came everything else and the GMOs and the Monsantos. So, four decades, I’ve been serving the Earth and serving people and started the Research Foundation really to—I call it the "Institute for Counter-Expertise," because so much of what is called expertise is there to destroy the Earth, to exploit, and to reward the exploiters. And I thought knowledge is about something else.

AMY GOODMAN: And Dr. Jane Goodall?

JANE GOODALL: Well, I suppose I began loving nature when I was, I don’t know, one and a half. Apparently, I was always crawling about looking at insects and plants and things like that.

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?

JANE GOODALL: In England, born in London, moved out to Bournemouth on the coast because of World War II. And when I was 10 years old, we had very little money. When I was 10 years old, I loved—I loved books, and I used to haunt the secondhand bookshop. And I found a little book I could just afford, and I bought it, and I took it home. And I climbed up my favorite tree, and I read that book from cover to cover. And that was  Tarzan of the Apes. I immediately fell in love with Tarzan. And goodness, I mean, he married the wrong Jane, didn’t he?

At any rate, I was 10 years old, and I decided I would grow up, go to Africa, live with animals and write books about them. Everybody laughed at me. How would I do that? Not only no money, Africa, the "Dark Continent," but, you know, I was a girl. Girls didn’t do that sort of thing. I think I was amazingly blessed because of the mother I had. But for her, I doubt I would be sitting here now. So, where everybody else said to me, "Jane, dream about something you can afford; forget this nonsense about Africa," she said, "If you really want something and you work hard and you take advantage of opportunity and you never give up, you will find a way."

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