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Wildlife & Biodiversity

Urgent Action for a Changing Planet: An Intimate Conversation with Dr. Jane Goodall on Conservation, Climate Change, and the Future of our Planet

Q&A with Dr. Jane Goodall
Q&A with Dr. Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall

Founder, Jane Goodall Institute

Dr. Jane Goodall, a world-renowned primatologist and conservationist, shares her perspectives on the critical intersection between conservation and climate change. Drawing on her decades of experience working with wildlife and communities, Dr. Goodall offers insights into the urgent need for action and the inspiring potential for change.

In July 1960, Jane Goodall traveled from England to what is now Tanzania to study wild chimpanzees. With little more than a notebook and her passion for wildlife, she ventured into an unknown world to provide a remarkable window into humankind’s closest living relatives. For over 60 years, Dr. Goodall’s groundbreaking work has highlighted the need to protect chimpanzees from extinction while advocating for conservation efforts that include the needs of local people and the environment. She now travels the world, raising awareness about environmental crises and urging us all to take action on behalf of all living things and the planet we share. Dr. Goodall is a UN Messenger of Peace.

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What was your inspiration behind founding the Jane Goodall Institute? And why in Canada?

Initially the Gombe research was funded by the National Geographic Society, and subsequently by a variety of other donors, and I was continually worried about where the next grant would come from.  In 1977 some wonderful philanthropic friends in San Francisco determined that they would create an Institute where money could be donated in an ongoing way.  This is how the Jane Goodall Institute-USA was founded.  Gradually other countries created their own independent JGI’s.  Initially the mission was to study and protect chimpanzees and – when I insisted  – it included the other apes, conservation and education.   As it grew, and took shape, JGI included our Roots & Shoots program for young people which began in 1991, and Tacare, the JGI method of community led conservation which began  officially in 1994, though we had been working on the idea from 1990.. The Canadian  chapter of the Institute (JGI Canada) is a crucial partner in our effort to make this a better world for people, animals and the environment. 

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How has climate change affected Canada’s environment and biodiversity?

Everything in nature is interconnected. Human activity has caused climate change, leading to biodiversity loss, which, in turn, affects human livelihoods and quality of life

I am not Canadian, and am not really knowledgable about the situation in the country, but the wonderful JGI staff keep me informed.  I am told that in Canada, the climate is warming twice as fast as the global average, causing devastating wildfires in British Columbia, melting icebergs in the North and rising sea levels along the coasts.   The country’s boreal forest is one of the world’s four largest carbon sinks and it is under threat.  It’s becoming increasingly urgent to find ways to slow down climate change. But it is not only in Canada that these efforts must be made – it is a global problem and we all need to take action,  Now, before it is too late.  We need to think about the choices we make each day – such as what we buy.  Did it’s production harm the environment?  Was it cruel to animals?  Is it cheap because of unfair wages in the country where it came from?  Millions of ethical choices will start making a huge difference.

I know that Canada has made commitments to safeguard 30% of marine and land areas by 2030, a significant step towards preserving the Earth’s biodiversity. However, organizations like the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada are needed to ensure that these committments  are honoured, and to encourage all citizens from coast to coast to play their part. 

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Why is it important for us to care about conservation?

We humans are part of the natural world and we depend on it for our survival – for  air, water, food – and so much more. But we rely on healthy ecosystems, and an ecosystem is made up of a complex and interconnected mix of plant and animal species, each with  role to play.  It is like a glorious living tapestry of interwoven threads. Every time a species vanishes from that ecosystem it is as though a thread is pulled out until, in the end, the tapestry hangs in tatters and the ecosystem collapses.  And thanks to our shortsightedness, the crazy idea that there can be unlimited economic development on a planet of finite natural resources and a growing populations of humans and livestock, ecosystems are collapsing around the globe.

The biggest difference between us and other animals is the explosive development of the human intellect – you’ve only got to look up at the full moon and think, with awe, that we enabled men to walk up there, to realize the power of our brains.  Unfortunately, though we may be clever we are so often not wise, putting short term gain over protecting the environment for future generations.  Fortunately scientists are beginning to use their brains to find ways to heal some of the harm we have inflicted on the planet.  And more people are thinking how they can do their bit to help. It’s up to each and every one of us to take responsibility for our actions and work towards a more sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

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What can Canadians do to help support your and the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada’s vision?

The Institute does some incredible work  in Canada. Roots & Shoots is growing across the country, including within the first Nation communities, but we urgently need even more groups.  Young people, who understand the problems and are empowered to take action.  Young people who can, and do, influence their families, teachers and friends.  There are R&S groups in 67 countries, with members of all ages from kindergarten through university – and beyond.  They choose three projects between them to improve the local situation for a) people; b) animals and c) the environment.  There are hundreds of Roots & Shoots projects in Canada. – but we need more as they will be tomorrow’s citizens, citizens who will be respectful of each other and the natural world.  They will make decisions after asking how those decisions will affect future generations, not only the here and now.  In other words they will not only be intelligent, but wise. 

I encourage everyone to take action. Start with our website ( There’s a pathway there for everyone to make a difference.

Those interested in seeing Dr. Goodall can purchase tickets on the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada website for her appearances in Montreal and Halifax in May 2023. Tickets are also available for the Institute’s 10×10 fundraiser, in support of the work of the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada’s globally-recognized conservation programs.

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