Editor's Note, December 2021
Written by Marian Starkey, Vice President for Communications | Published: December 13, 2021
When trying to explain to my husband recently why I prefer hiking alone (dogs don’t count!), I quoted Jane Goodall from a recent article in TIME: “If you’re alone, you feel part of nature. If you’re with one other person, even somebody you love, it’s two human beings in nature—and you can’t be lost in it.”
Nobody knows this more than Dr. Jane, who spent decades sitting alone in the forests of what would later become Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park, befriending generations of chimpanzees and making groundbreaking scientific discoveries about their use of tools, their kinship rituals, and their profound ability to feel joy, sorrow, and appreciation.
At 87 years old, Dr. Jane published her 18th book in October (not counting the 11 she’s written for children), and is busy speaking every day with multiple groups, classrooms, and journalists all over the world. (I tried to secure an interview with her, but sadly was not successful, due to the “hundreds of requests from around the world every day.”)
The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times is a salve for those of us who sometimes worry that all hope is lost for a sustainable planetary future, at least as long as humans are part of it. Dr. Jane details examples of the good deeds and promising programs that raise people out of poverty, protect wildlife, and give people agency over their own reproductive lives. We’ve included excerpts from the book, beginning on page 14, especially focusing on the sections where she discusses population growth and related topics.
The Jane Goodall Institute, founded in 1977, has been a supportive voice for family planning alongside conservation and livelihood projects, in order to preserve the habitats of chimpanzees and other wildlife and to improve the lives of the people who live in their midst. Dr. Jane has never minded saying the unpopular thing (colleagues used to mock her for claiming that chimps and other animals had unique personalities, for instance), so her assuredness in her position when it comes to discussions of population growth is right on brand. She has one child herself, a son who lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and she doesn’t shy away from speaking about the importance of small families for the future of the planet. Indeed, she caused Prince Harry to make headlines when he interviewed Dr. Jane for VOGUE in 2019 and they had the following exchange:
Prince Harry: I think, weirdly, because of the people that I’ve met and the places that I’ve been fortunate enough to go to, I’ve always had a connection and a love for nature. I view it differently now, without question. But I’ve always wanted to try and ensure that, even before having a child and hoping to have children…
Dr. Jane: Not too many! [Laughs]
Prince Harry: Two, maximum!
Dr. Jane is a naturalist, an activist, an author, and one of the world’s most recognizable public figures. She’s also a soft-spoken, contemplative, dog-loving vegetarian who, when asked during interviews, doesn’t ever seem to be able to put her finger on what it is that makes people gravitate toward her. I can’t speak for others, but she captivates me by living a life I wish I were suited to pursue. To sit in the forest and be groomed by chimps who have grown to trust you must be the ultimate life experience for an animal-lover, and I regret that I’ll never know that thrill. Envy isn’t becoming, but I think that when it comes to envying someone like Jane Goodall, it can be forgiven.