Against the backdrop of the upcoming International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22, renowned primatologist and 2020 Tang Prize winner in Sustainable Development Dr. Jane Goodall, who spent more than six decades studying chimpanzees’ individual and group behaviors and made significant discoveries on this subject, reminded us of the danger of destroying our environment and its posing a threat to the survival of animals. She also stressed that climate change is one of the reasons we are now faced with problems about biodiversity. The Vatican held a webinar this April and invited Dr. Goodall and Cardinal Peter Turkson to hold a conversation, discussing the importance of protecting biodiversity and preserving life on Earth. They also talked about “the responsibility humans have to protect ecosystems” and “the ways humans’ disrespect for nature can invariably hurt themselves, whether through climate change or pandemics.”
In recent years, biodiversity has been under serious threat and the planet’s ecosystems and “all the living species inhabiting them” have also been affected. So far, the Earth has seen five mass extinctions. Many scientists warned us that “a sixth one is underway, possibly accelerating.” Dr. Goodall noted that “as one of these species becomes extinct, it tears a hole in that tapestry (of life), and as more and more holes are torn as these species become extinct with horrifying rapidity, in the end we are going to be left with the tapestry so torn that the ecosystem will collapse.”
In 1977, Dr. Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute, with the goal of protecting chimpanzees and other primates. The institute also promotes nature conservation and environmental education. Through the Lake Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Education (TACARE) program, they launched a series of community-based conservation initiatives, such as restoring overused land without pesticide and other chemicals. Dr. Goodall said “it has helped people see the interconnectedness among species and how protecting the environment benefits not just wildlife, but people, too.” As for how pollution and environmental degradation has led to animals accidentally ingesting toxic chemicals, she suggested “phasing out industrial agriculture and factory farms, and moving toward permaculture practices.”
Dr. Goodall placed particular emphasis on “reducing ‘unsustainable lifestyle’,” believing it will help save “chimpanzees and other species from extinctions.” Therefore, she called on us to think carefully about the choices we make every day. For example, “We go to the supermarket to buy food. Let’s ask ourselves, ‘Where did it come from? Did this production harm the environment? Was it cruel to animals? Is it cheap because of inequitable wages in other parts of the world?’” This way of thinking may “cause a product to cost a bit more,” but “that means we will value it more and waste less.”
The United Nations published a report in 2019, predicting that around one million species could “face extinction by the end of this century,” and many of them will become extinct in the next few decades. However, Dr. Goodall has faith in the power of young people, in the younger generation who will fight for the survival of the earth, our only home. She also has faith in the resilience of nature, believing that as time goes by and with some help from us, habitats once destroyed can be revived and endangered species can be given a new lease of life.
Reference: “Jane Goodall with Vatican cardinal: Human survival depends on biodiversity,” https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/jane-goodall-vatican-cardinal-human-survival-depends-biodiversity