Bill Moyers & Jane Goodall: What Chimps Reveal About Human Brutality, Violence, Compassion and Hope
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
The following is an adapted version of the transcript from Bill Moyers' recent interview with Jane Goodall from the most recent episode of the BIll Moyers Journal on PBS.
Bill Moyers: When Jane Goodall walked into our building this week, faces lit up. Our security chief told me she does animal rescue work after hours because of Jane Goodall. Our stage manager whispered into my ear, "She's been my hero for decades." And the nine-year-old daughter of our editor hurried to the studio because she's writing a school book report on Jane Goodall. Is there anyone who doesn't know who Jane Goodall is?
This pioneering woman, acclaimed the world over, has spent much of her life negotiating an intense and intimate relationship with the chimpanzees of the Gombe National Park in East Africa. Her research produced landmark studies of chimpanzee life and society and how they relate to our own. And of course, there have been all those wonderful television specials for PBS and National Geographic. It's as if we all grew up with her and the chimps. ... In closing the gap between the animal world and us, Jane Goodall helped us understand more clearly our own past. She inspired us to a deeper appreciation of our responsibility to the planet. In the course of her career, she herself evolved, from a youthful enthusiast of animals, to an observer of primates, to scientist and global activist for all of life on earth. ...
Her Jane Goodall Institute works for the worldwide protection of habitat. And her program "Roots and Shoots" is in 114 countries, teaching and training young people to create projects to improve and protect the environment. She travels more than 300 days a year, challenging audiences to see themselves as caretakers of the natural world. All is not yet lost, she says, and has a new book to prove it, written with Thane Maynard and Gail Hudson, entitled, " Hope for Animals and Their World." ...
[Jane Goodall,] the life you're living now is such a contrast between the life of the Jane Goodall we first met living virtually alone in the forest, in the company of chimpanzees, sitting for hours quietly taking notes, observing. And now, 300 days a year, you're on the road. You're speaking. You're lobbying. You're organizing. Why? What's driving you?
Goodall: It actually all began in 1986. You know, in 1986 in the beginning of the year, I was in a dream world. I was out there with these amazing chimpanzees. I was in the forests I dreamed about as a child. I was doing some writing and a little bit of teaching once a year. And then at this conference it brought together the people who were studying chimpanzees across Africa and a few who were working with captive chimps, non-invasively. It was in Chicago. And we were together for four days. And we had one session on conservation. And it was so shocking to see right across their range in Africa, forests were going, human populations growing, the beginning of the bush meat trade, the commercial hunting of wild animals for food, chimpanzees caught in snares, population plummeted from somewhere between one and two million at the turn of the last century to at that time about 400,000. So, I came out, well I couldn't go back to that old, beautiful wonderful life.
Moyers: My team and I were just looking the other day about that old great classic, National Geographic Special, which shows you meeting the chimps for the first time. Do you remember that?
Goodall: "Among the Wild Chimpanzees."
Goodall: That's still one of the best films. Hugo shot it, my first husband. I love that film. ...
Moyers: Were the animals not affected by the presence of a camera crew?
Goodall: Well, once they've got used to you, they seem to pay very little attention. It's something which has surprised visiting scientists, who felt that the chimps' behavior must be compromised by our presence. But they accept you. And they by and large ignore you.
Moyers: Do you miss them?
Goodall: I miss being out there. I miss being out in the forest. I do go back twice a year, not for very long. But a lot of my old friends or nearly all are gone. The very original ones have all gone. But they, you know, they lived over 60 years, but still. And, you know, we're now getting onto the great-grandchildren. And there's a research team following them. Learning about them.
Moyers: I've long wanted to ask you about the chimpanzee you loved best, David Greybeard. What was there about David Greybeard?
Goodall: Well, first of all, he was the very first chimpanzee who let me come close. Who lost his fear. And he helped to introduce me to this magic world out in the forest. With the other chimps would see David sitting there not running away, and so gradually they'd think, "Well, she can't be so scary, after all."
But he had a wonderful gentle disposition. He was really loved by other chimps, the low-ranking ones would go to him for protection. He wasn't terribly high-ranking. But he had a very high-ranking friend, Goliath. And there was just something about him. He has a very handsome face. His eyes wide apart. And this beautiful gray beard.
Moyers: When you and David Greybeard were communing, what language were you speaking?
Goodall: Well, we didn't. I tried always not to use chimp language in the wild because we really do try and look through a window. And now we know how dangerous it is to, you know, transmit disease from us to them. So we keep further away, which is sad for me.
Moyers: But I ask the question, because it seemed to me, watching the documentary, watching the films, is that there was some language being spoken, some prehistory language. Means of communication without words that communicated even feelings.
Goodall: This was this wonderful situation when right in the early days, I was following David Greybeard. And I thought I'd lost him in a tangle of undergrowth. And I found him sitting as though he was waiting, maybe he was. He was on his own. I don't know. And I picked up this red palm nut and held it out on my palm. And he turned his face away. So, I held my palm closer, and then he turned; he looked directly into my eyes. He reached out -- hold out your hand with a nut on it. He took it. He didn't want it. He dropped it. But at the same time, he very gently squeezed my fingers, which is how a chimp reassures. So, there was this communication. He understood that I was acting in good faith. He didn't want it, but he wanted me to reassure me that he understood. So, we understood each other without the use of words.
Moyers: And where in the long journey that we have made do you think this empathy comes from? Where does it come?
Goodall: It's the bond between mother and child, which is really for us and for chimps and other primates, it's the root of all the expressions of social behavior you can sort of see mirrored in the mother-child relationship.
Moyers: I know that you consider cruelty the worst human sin, right? I mean, you wrote, "Once we accept that a living creature has feelings and suffers pain. Then if we knowingly and deliberately inflict suffering on that creature, we are equally guilty. Whether it be human or animal, we brutalize ourselves." But you learn from the chimpanzees that animals can be cruel, too.
Goodall: Yes, but I think a chimpanzee doesn't have the intellectual ability, or I don't think it does, to deliberately inflict pain. You know, we can plan a torture, whether it's physical or mental. We plan it. And in cold blood we can execute it. The chimpanzee's brutality is always -- you know the spur of the moment. It's some trigger in the environment that causes this craze, almost, of violence.
Moyers: You saw gangs of males attacking single females.
Goodall: Yes. Yes.
Moyers: You saw cannibalism among--
Goodall: We've seen cannibalism.
Moyers: -- the chimps. I mean, including females who eat the newborn females of members of their own community although there's other food available. You describe primal warfare among the chimps. What do we take from that? Since you're looking at them to see what we can learn about us, and about our evolution, what conclusion do you reach about their aggression?
Goodall: Well, some people have reached the conclusion that war and violence is inevitable in ourselves. I reach the conclusion that I do believe we have brought aggressive tendencies with us through our long human evolutionary path. I mean, you can't look around the world and not realize that we can be, and often are, extremely brutal and aggressive. And equally, we have inherited tendencies of love, compassion, and altruism, because they're there in the chimp. So, we've brought those with us. So, it's like each one of us has this dark side and a more noble side. And I guess it's up to each one of us to push one down and develop the other.
Moyers: You even wrote once that it was your study of chimpanzees that crystallized your own belief in the ultimate destiny toward which humans are still evolving. What is that? What is that ultimate destiny? And how did the chimps contribute to your understanding?
Goodall: Because, when you have the thing that's more like us than any other living thing on the planet that helps you to realize the differences. You know, how are we different. And so, we have this kind of language. So, that's led to our intellectual development. That's led to refining of morals. And, you know, the questions about meaning and life and everything. So I think we've moving or should be moving towards some kind of spiritual evolution. Where we understand without having to ask why.
Moyers: But "why" is the fundamental question, isn't it? I mean, isn't that what one of the things that makes us human is we can ask why?
Goodall: Yeah, but maybe we ask too often. Maybe we should sometimes be content with just a knowing and being satisfied with the knowing, without saying, "Why do I know?"
Moyers: Where does your own composure come from?
Goodall: Possibly from months and months on my own in the wilderness. But I think I had it before.
Moyers: As a little girl? I have an image of you in my mind from reading about you, a little girl in Bournemouth, England reading relentlessly from "Doctor Dolittle" and "Tarzan" and those are true stories? That's what you did?
Goodall: Absolutely. I've still got all the books. They're still there in my room.
Moyers: Is that where the imagination was formed about Africa?
Moyers: Because I read the Tarzan books when I was growing up. Only you did something about what you grew up with, right?
Goodall: Well, yes, it was a passion and I had a wonderful mother. I attribute a lot of what I've done and who I am to her wisdom. The way she brought me up. It was very supportive. She found the books she knew I would be interested in and about animals, animals, animals. And when everybody was laughing at me for dreaming of going to Africa. I was 11. You know, World War II was raging. We didn't have any money. We couldn't even afford a bicycle. My father was off fighting.
And Africa was still thought of as the dark continent, filled with danger. And, you know, I was the wrong sex. I was a girl. And girls weren't supposed to dream that way then. You know, I should have been dreaming of being a nurse or a secretary or something.
Moyers: Well, some young girl had dreamed of that, because she grew up to be Jane of Tarzan and Jane.
Goodall: Oh, I was in love with Tarzan. I was so jealous of that wimpy Jane. I knew I would have been a better mate for Tarzan myself. I was jealous.
Moyers: You would have made a better mate for Tarzan than I would have made a Tarzan.
Goodall: But anyway, you know, my mother never laughed at my dreams. She would say, "If you really want something, you work hard. You take advantage of opportunity and you never give up. You will find a way." And that's -- see, how lucky, since I'm now working so much with young people because I could kill myself trying to save chimps and forests. But if we're not raising new generations to be better stewards than we've been, then we might as well give up. So I can go to kids living in poverty in Tanzania or inner city Bronx. And tell them my story. And say, "Follow your dreams." And they write to me and say, "You taught us that because you did it, I can do it, too." And that is just right.
Moyers: Roots & Shoots, your program of training young people to be active in conservation movements, that began in Tanzania, didn't it?
Goodall: Yes, it did. Began with 16 high school students in '91. And it emerged from Tanzania as a very new sort of thing. In New York, for the Albert Schweitzer Centennial, at the U.N., that as '93, I think. '93 or '94. And that's when it started to grow. So that it's now 114 countries, all ages. Preschool through university. And more and more adults are taking part in prisons, staff of big corporations, you know, and it's basically two, three projects to make the world better.
One for your own human community. Two, for animals, including domestic ones. And three, for the environment. With a theme of learning to live in peace and harmony among ourselves, between cultures and religions and nations and between us and the natural world. So, youth drives it. They choose the projects.
Moyers: Are those young people the source of this "Hope for Animals and Their World" that you write about?
Goodall: They're a large part of it. They are a large part of it. And the time is now. I mean, I've never had such -- my lectures are always full. That's what's nice. I mean, isn't it great that high school students in some inner city area will greet me as I walk in, as though I were a pop star. I mean, that is so amazing. Because all that they've got out of what I've done is a message of hope and the fact that our main message is, "You make a difference every day. You matter. Your life is important."
This is why they want to come. And I've met many people who say, "Well, I was really -- I was so depressed. And a friend said, 'You've got to go and hear Jane.'" And they come up in the book signing line, which can be three hours. It takes so long. And say, "Well, I'm not as optimistic as you, but at least I now realize my life has more value than I thought, and I'm going to do my bit." That's what we need, isn't it?
Moyers: You have something that I know a lot of people, admire. You once said that you have the peace of the forest in you. What is that?
Goodall: I think what you know being out there in the forest, all those months alone. There was a growing sense of this great spiritual power all around. Something greater than me. So, you could lie and look up at the stars and feel yourself tiny. And yet, somehow, having this extraordinary awareness that we have as human beings of you know, we can encompass a vague sort of feeling of what the universe is. And all in this funny little brain here. So, there has to be something more than just brain. It has to be something to do with spirit, as well.
Moyers: I know the story, but for my audience, tell me what happened to you when you had that very powerful experience in the spring of 1974, when you visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris?
Goodall: Yes. It was a sort of low time in my life. And there I was. I went into this cathedral. And as I walk through the door, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor just suddenly filled the whole cathedral. And the sun was just coming through that rose window. And it just so powerful a feeling that, you know, how could this amazing cathedral, all the people who built it, all the people who'd worshipped in it, all the brilliant minds that had been within it. How could that all be chance? It couldn't be chance.
Moyers: But does the meaning come with the DNA or is it something we create out of life? As you have created meaning with your life?
Goodall: I don't think that faith, whatever you're being faithful about, really can be scientifically explained. And I don't want to explain this whole life business through truth, science. There's so much mystery. There's so much awe. I mean, what is it that make the chimpanzees do these spectacular displays, rain dances, I call them, when -- waterfall dances at the foot of this waterfall. And then sit in the spray and watch the water that's always coming and always going and always here. It's wonder. It's awe. And if they had the same kind of language that we have, I suspect that would turn into some kind of animistic religion.
Moyers: You're a scientist, who observes the world and reaches your scientific observations. Spirituality can't be observed, it can be felt and you reconcile those two in your own life.
Goodall: But I also had my mother. And she would always -- she said she never saw the conflict between religion and evolution. Louis Leakey, my great mentor who dug up early man. You know, he felt the same. So, I sort of had this and then, yes, it all came together in the forest
Goodall: But you have to remember, I didn't start as a scientist. I started as -- well, I wanted to be Poet Laureate. And I wanted to be a naturalist. That's how I began. I didn't have any desire to go and be a scientist. Louis Leakey channeled me there. I'm delighted he did. I love science. I love analyzing and making sense of all these observations. So, it was the perfect rounding off of who I was into who I am. ....
Moyers: I took my grandson up to the American Museum of Natural History two or three weeks ago, and they have this marvelous hall of biodiversity. And you read there that 98 percent of all the mammal and plant species that have existed since time immemorial have disappeared. I mean, extinction is a part of life. It's a part of the history of the world. So, what's special now?
Goodall: Because of us, because there have been extinctions, because there has been fluctuations in climate that changes ecosystems and habitats. But, since the industrial revolution, our human impact on the planet, our greenhouse gas emissions, our reckless damage to the natural world, our continual growth of our populations, they have had a tremendously damaging effect which has lead to the sixth great extinction, which is happening.
Moyers: At the American Museum of Natural History, they do say that reportedly five times since time immemorial, we've had a speeding up of the extinction of species. And that now this is happening again. And that's why they refer to it as the sixth great extinction.
Goodall: Yes. And it's happening faster than the others and, you know, you only have to look around. Like about two months ago, I was in Greenland. And I was standing at the foot of a great cliff of ice which went right up to the icecap that covers the top of the world and standing with Inuit elders. And hearing and seeing huge slabs of ice come crashing off and thundering down, looking at this water that emerged from the ice cliff, which before even in summer, it never melted. Inuits had tears. Some of them hadn't been there since they were children.
Moyers: The Inuits are the aboriginal--
Goodall: The Eskimos.
Moyers: The Eskimo tribe, right.
Goodall: And they said, "This is our country crying out for help." You know, I think it should anyway give us a sense of responsibility. We're the ones who have set ourselves up as masters. We can change any environment to suit ourselves. So we better start thinking about the long term consequences of those changes.
Moyers: What I found so enchanting about your book is that it's full of people like you. You call them keepers of the planet. Meaning, for example, Don Merton.
Goodall: Love him.
Moyers: Tell me about Don Merton.
Goodall: Well, Don Merton was studying, among other things, a little bird called the Black Robin. And he realized that the numbers were decreasing rather rapidly and he felt quite sure it was because they were being attacked by introduced rats and cats in New Zealand. And he wanted to catch the last few and put them in an offshore island where there were no rats and cats because, you know, they haven't evolved flight response. They don't have natural mammal predators in New Zealand.
So, by the time he finally convinced the bureaucracy to let him do this, there were only 27 left. When they went back to that little island in the spring, there were only seven. Of those seven, only two were female. Of those two females, only one was fertile and that one had an infertile mate. Right, give up. Wouldn't you? But Don didn't. And he tried something which nobody had done in those days. It's common now, taking away the eggs, putting them with another bird to raise, hoping she'd make another nest and lay more eggs because she swapped her mate. She took a young guy. Which never seen before.
Moyers: Old story.
Goodall: Yes. And so, anyway, so these eggs hatched. She made a second nest. More eggs. He dared to take those, too. Gave them to another kind of bird. And she laid her third lot. Then these ones didn't realize, obviously, that they were black robins if they were raised by another species.
So, he took the babies back to her and her nest and her new mate. And then this lot hatched. So, he took them and he said, "She looked up at me as if to say, 'What next?'" And he said, "It's all right, my love, we're going to help you." So, I love the thought of these three biologists running around collecting worms or bugs or whatever they eat.
Moyers: And what do we learn from that?
Goodall: Well, what we learn is never give up. There's now more than 300. So, this amazing and unique little species that Don Merton loves is now being given a second chance. So, we must never give up.
Moyers: And you say, "I have fallen in love with black-footed ferrets."
Goodall: Oh, yes.
Moyers: How so? That little creature. I've seen one, I think, once when I was doing a documentary on the plains. But why in love with a ferret?
Goodall: Because it's the most- I'd never seen one. But I went out with the ferret people and we went out all night and we saw some of these little ferrets. And in the spotlight, their eyes are emerald. They're only about this long. They're very athletic and they're just charming. I mean, you know how some animals are beautiful? Beautifully made.
Moyers: "Tiny in size," you say, "mighty in courage, and utterly enchanting."
Goodall: They are utterly enchanting. But their life is absolutely entwined with the prairie dogs. And farmers don't like prairie dogs. So, prairie dogs are being poisoned and sucked out with vacuum cleaners and the great prairies are almost reduced, because of agriculture, farming, development. And the relentless draining of the aquifers. So if you save the ferret that means you've saved the prairie dog. That means you've saved a piece of the great prairies. It's a totally unique ecosystem. It's part of America's heritage. We shouldn't deny our great-grandchildren, who with any luck will be wiser than we, the opportunity of being in a place which nurtured their ancestors.
Moyers: You exalt in here that the California condor is flying again. Why does that make you happy?
Goodall: Because what a master of the air. Have you ever watched on in flight?
Moyers: Only in a documentary.
Goodall: Yeah, but they're fantastic and they've got this huge wingspan. And they were down to 12 living birds. And they were not breeding properly in the wild. There was one in captivity. Same old fight. The biologists wanted to catch the last 12 and were told, "Okay, if you catch them, you're bound to kill some. Even if you catch them, they won't breed in captivity. Even if they do breed in captivity, you won't be able to reintroduce them to the wild. And even if you do introduce them they won't be able to breed successfully." So, you know, "No, no, no, no, no." However, they caught all 12, and nobody died. And they bred very nicely.
Well, there's over 300 of them now. More than half are free flying. And because I like my symbols of hope, I brought to share with you this amazing- now, you look at this feather.
Moyers: Let me see it.
Goodall: And tell me if it wasn't worthwhile bringing back this majestic bird.
Moyers: That is magnificent.
Goodall: Isn't this amazing? And feel it. This power of it.
Moyers: Oh, yes. And you have a right to carry this around?
Goodall: I have a permit. Signed by -- you know, that it's for educational use.
Moyers: That's marvelous.
Goodall: Isn't that?
Moyers: So, what do you think when you see one soaring?
Goodall: I just think, "but for this little band of people, they wouldn't be there."
Moyers: There's also some good news about wolves in your book, right? And I know you love red wolves.
Goodall: Yes. Red wolves. They were reduced to about 17, I think. Individuals. And you--
Moyers: Just 70?
Goodall: Yes. 17. 17. ... Or even 11. It's a very small number. I can't quite remember.
Moyers: Because they'd for years been trapped and poisoned and--
Goodall: An all out genocide, actually. Let's get rid of these ghastly creatures that are endangering our cattle and so forth, which they basically don't. And so, again, this little group of dedicated wolf people and they're amazing. I mean, they are all about them in the book and I've met some of them. And they bred them. And released them. And they're doing pretty well in North Carolina.
Moyers: Yeah, in your book, I read that 65 to 70 percent of them now wear these GPS collars so that the wolf pack, as you call them, so that the preservationists down there can actually plot them, several times a day, as they move.
Moyers: And that's important to know, because it shows us where civilization encroaches, and crowds upon them, right?
Goodall: That's right. And there's also one collar anyway that if necessary, the biologist can tranquilize them from a distance with a little mechanism in the collar. I wish they didn't have to wear collars. I actually hate it. I actually hate it.
Goodall: Because it just doesn't look dignified to see an animal with a collar. And condors have these marks on them, too. But, you know, hopefully, if it all works, their descendents won't have these nasty, manmade -- but they're only there because people love them.
Moyers: Have you ever heard wolves howling in a pack?
Goodall: I have and it's magical. And they do do howling safaris now. People can go out and listen to them at night.
Moyers: You say in here that tourism may be a force in saving these species. How is that?
Goodall: Well, first of all, because when people see with their own eyes, it changes them. They tell me. But in some cases like Africa where there's poverty and so forth, tourism can offer a way of bringing in foreign exchange, which can be very, very significant for a government. Like in Rwanda, the gorilla tourism is the second largest foreign exchange earner in the country.
And that helped to save the gorillas during the ethnic violence because both sides wanting to win wanted to make money from the gorillas. But you can destroy nature if you have too many people who love it, all trampling around at the same time. I've seen it happen. So, it's a very fine balance. But when people see with their eyes, something happens, you know?
Moyers: Yeah, how is it that human beings can attach emotionally to animals? I just don't understand that.
Goodall: Well, I suppose from the time we domesticated wolves and got ourselves dogs. And, you know, it's amazing. Like the scientific proof now that if you're sick, a dog can actually help you to heal and so can a cat. So, there is something in this bond, and it's again another window into the fact that we are part of the animal kingdom.
Moyers: Is there any evidence that the animals, the chimps in particular, have this quote, "spiritual awareness," this sense of other beyond themselves?
Goodall: They understand the difference between me and you, we're pretty sure. They're definitely aware of things going on around them. Over and above that, I don't know. I mean we with our words, we want to question why am I here, what's the purpose of it all, we call it a soul. So if I have a soul and you have a soul then I think my chimp has a soul and my dog has a soul too.
Moyers: You even find mysticism in the whooping crane. Right?
Goodall: Well I did, yes. When I had the opportunity going to visit those amazing young birds, they're so ancient.
Moyers: In Wisconsin?
Goodall: In Wisconsin with Joe Duff, the Operation Migration. You know? And just being there with him and then flying up in the ultra light, because they're being trained on a new migration route. They normally learn from their parents. And they want to create a second migration route, in case the existing route that's hit by bird flu or something. So, they're training them to fly from Wisconsin to Florida. I think it's the 12th migration that's happening right now.
And so, I went up in the ultra light for the training. One of the training flights. And, you know, being up there was almost like being a bird up in the sky. Open all around and looking down at the wetlands below. It was just so beautiful. You know, there again, the human imagination, training them this way in the spirit of, you know, "I won't give up. We will not let these amazing, beautiful birds disappear."
Moyers: There's just a new report out saying that somewhere around 17,000. 17,300 species are actually endangered right now. I mean, that's what you're up against, right?
Goodall: That's what we're up against. Absolutely. And wouldn't it be easy just to say, "Well, it's a trend. And it's just happening. The pendulum is swinging. We just better sit back and let it swing. And maybe one day it'll swing back." And if everybody stopped, if everybody gave up, then I wouldn't like to think of the world that my great-great-grandchildren would be born into. The forests would go. They've been going so fast, the tropical rainforests and the woodlands, as well. So, there'd be huge areas of desert. The droughts which are already happening in Australia, in sub-Saharan Africa would be worse. There would be very few wild animals. People would probably be living in some kind of bubble. A very artificial life, because there wouldn't be much -- the water would all be polluted. The ground water would be almost gone. I suppose we'd be desalinating the sea for our water. But I don't want to live in that sort of world.
Moyers: You remind me that about the time you started at the Gombe National Forest -- it was 1960?
Moyers: I was joining the Kennedy Administration. And we were organizing the Peace Corps. And I made many trips to Africa then, for the government, for the Peace Corps. When I've gone back over the years, most recently, you know, as a journalist, it's astonishing to me that what used to -- what I used to see as green, verdant, rich countryside is now a desert.
Goodall: It's the burden of people. It's this explosive overpopulation. You know, there are sort of two main causes of intense environmental destruction. And one is absolute poverty. Because what can you do except cut down some more trees and try to grow food in the tropics. Cut the tree cover down, and you soon get a desert. And that's happening all over the developing world. It's happened in the U.S., the great Dust Bowl. Over agricultural use. So, poverty is one. And unsustainable lifestyles is another. And that's you and me and all the others like us.
Moyers: So, why do we not have the imagination to see what is happening but isn't yet arrived?
Goodall: Well, I'll tell you. First of all, I have spent years watching chimpanzees. They are more like us than any other living creature. The brain is almost the same. The intellectual abilities are extraordinary. But even the brightest chimp, it doesn't make sense to compare intellectually with the average human, let alone an Einstein. It doesn't make sense.
I mean, think what we've done. Think of our technology. We've gone to the moon. We've got little robots running around Mars. I mean, it's extraordinary what we've done. So, how come this most intellectual being, as far as we know, to ever have walked on this planet, is destroying its only home? You know, I'm sure you've read these calculations. I think E. O. Wilson is the first to say--
Moyers: He's been at this table before.
Goodall: I bet he has. That if everybody on the planet had the same standard of living as us, then we would need three new planets. Some people say four or five to supply sufficient nonrenewable natural resources. But we don't even have one new one, we've got this one. So, do you think we've lost something called wisdom? The indigenous people making a decision based on, how does the decision we make today affect our people generations ahead?
So, how do we make decisions today? How will it affect me? Me and my family? Now, how will it affect the next shareholders meeting three months ahead? How will it affect my next political campaign or, you know, something like that. So, is there a disconnect between this incredibly clever brain and the human heart? Love and compassion.
Moyers: I remember reading a book that I believe you read, Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene," 20-25 years ago. In which he makes the claim that everything we do is selfish. That is, it's in our own self interest. And that we exist in this planet that is ruthless and cold. And indifferent to us. Is that different from the life of the chimp? You started out a moment ago by talking about the chimps. What is it that we can take from them, that you learned from them, that might help us cope with this world?
Goodall: Well, there's one way, as I say, is to help us be less arrogant and realize that we're part of it all. And that we better, you know, destroying the environment, some people say, "Well, you know, a few animals. What does it matter if they go extinct?" But I've been to places, as you have, where absolute crippling poverty as a result of environmental degradation is meaning that people are suffering horribly, too. And it's getting worse and worse.
People are moving because their islands are going underwater. And I mean, we should be able to understand the consequences of our selfish behavior by now. So, we can learn from the chimp that we're different in these ways, and we should be able to do more to make change than they possibly could.
Moyers: Did they seem concerned about or aware of their environment? The disappearing forest around them? The difficulty to get the food that they used to get rather easy? Is that a difference between them and us?
Goodall: Well, I mean, they obviously know it's tough times. But I'm absolutely sure they don't know why. Yeah, the forest was there yesterday and now it's not. I can wander there last year and now I may get shot. I mean, they know there are things. But they can't work out why.
Moyers: But they are endangered, aren't they? I mean, you said a moment ago, there are about a million of them when you went to Africa in 1960. And there were about 4 to 500,000. I mean, that--
Goodall: Less than 300,000 now.
Moyers: Less than 300?
Goodall: That was back in '86.
Moyers: That's almost two-thirds of it has disappeared in your lifetime.
Goodall: Yes. And what's more, many of those remain -- they're stretched over 21 nations in Africa. Many are in tiny isolated fragments of forest which, you know, separated from others. They have no hope of surviving in the future. Because the gene pool's too small.
Moyers: So, what do we lose if the last chimp goes?
Goodall: Well, we lose one window into learning about our long course of evolution. But we lose -- you know, I've spent so long and looked into these minds that are fascinating, 'cause they're so like us. And yet they're in another world. And I think the magic is I will never know what they're thinking. I can guess. And so, it's like elephants and gorillas, and, you know, all the different animals that we are pushing towards extinction.
What are our great-grandchildren going to say if they look back and -- I felt sad that the dodo had gone. But those people didn't understand. They look back, the children in the future, at our generation and say, "How could they have done that? They did understand. There were lots of people out there telling them. How, why did they go on not trying to do anything about it?"
Moyers: And when I told someone yesterday that you were coming, he said, "Well, you know, I just read that there are 3,200 tigers left in the world. And that their Asian habitat is disappearing very quickly." And he said, "But, you know, when the tigers are gone, will they be missed any more than the dodo is missed? What difference does it make?" he said.
Goodall: It's just that, you know, if you have this huge respect for the natural world that I have. I mean, the wonder of all these different forms of evolution. And these fantastic ecosystems where everything depends on everything else. We don't know what difference it might make if some of these creatures that we're pushing to the edge disappear. You can take out a tiny insect from an ecosystem. Who cares?
Well, it may turn out that some other creature depended on that tiny insect. So, that will disappear. And goodness knows what effect that one had on something over there. So, that will change. And so, in the end, you get what's been called, you know, ecological collapse.
Moyers: So, is there good news?
Goodall: There's lots of good news. And, can I start with Gombe, my, whether--
Moyers: You may. That's why you started, right?
Goodall: Yes, that's where I started. So, when I got there, there were 150 chimps in three different communities living on the lakeshore which is about 300 miles altogether. And from where I was near Kigoma, you could go for miles along the lake, chimp habitat. You could climb up from the lake, look out, chimp habitat. Few villages.
Then in the early '90s, I flew over in a plane, and I knew there was deforestation. I had no idea it was virtually total. Just gone. So, this tiny little island of forest, 30 square miles, surrounded by cultivated fields, eroded soil, landslides, horrible poverty. Too many people there for the land to support. How could we even think of saving the chimps with so much suffering? So, that led to our TACARE program. The Jane Goodall Institute's TACARE.
Goodall: And that program, over the years, has worked to improve the lives very holistically of the people in the villages. 24 villages around Gombe. Everything from different farming methods and, you know, helping them with water projects and such. Especially important has been micro-credit programs for women
The women take in groups. There's a group of five women. They take out a tiny loan, each one for a different project. Or sometimes all together. And they pay back. And it's got to be environmentally sustainable. So, maybe buying a few chickens, selling the eggs, raising the eggs, selling some more. Pay back. Then you can take out a slightly bigger loan.
So, all these women have been empowered, because they now have something that's theirs. They haven't had a handout.
The real encouragement is that as soon as their lives began to improve, they began to allow trees to come back. As a result, they have set aside the land the government requires them to put into conservation in such a way as to make a buffer between the Gombe chimps and the villagers. And so, other small remnant groups and Gombe chimps will be able to interact again.
Moyers: As income increases, the quality of life increases, and they're more interested in preserving what is around? And they understand more clearly--
Goodall: That's right.
Moyers: -- what's at stake with the environment on which that local economy depends?
Goodall: Exactly. They understand saving the watershed. They understand that you can't destroy the trees along the edge of a stream or the water level will -- the amount of water will decrease. They've seen it happen. And they completely understand. The trees and the water and the environment and their future wealth and happiness are all mixed together. And you must have had the same experience as me, traveling around the world. And realizing, you know, Africa's problems aren't just generated within Africa. They're generated outside. They've been generated through hundreds of years of colonial exploitation. And there's something else that always irritates me.
There's a saying, "We haven't inherited this planet from our parents, we've borrowed it from our children." When you borrow, you plan to pay back. We've been stealing and stealing and stealing. And it's about time we got together and started paying back.
Moyers: "Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species are Being Rescued from the Brink." Jane Goodall, thank you for the book, the conversation, and for the life.