I just finished reading Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall. Dr. Jane is one of my heroes and her comittment to fighting for the chimpanzees, for the forests, the environment in general, inspires me daily. If I weren’t ill, I’d want to be as much like her as possible. Knowing that I cannot help the ailing planet, I at least try not to harm it. Maybe that’s all the planet really needs. Gaia’s intelligence and creativity are beyond what our finite minds can conceive and maybe she doesn’t need anyone to rescue her, she only needs to be left alone, to not be assaulted day in, day out in thousands of terrible ways.
Dr. Jane celebrated her 80th birthday a few weeks back, but she still spends around 300 days a year away from her home in Bournemouth, England, travelling all over the world and giving lectures, leading youth programmes, talking to governments, scientists, fighting in her kind, peaceful and compassionate way for those, who cannot defend themselves.
The above mentioned book is very beautiful and a worthwhile read for anyone. Her descriptions of Gombe in Tanzania in the late 50s and in the 60s are truly breathtaking and her observations of the chimpanzees very revealing. But it’s sad, too, when she describes how the region has changed since then, how the vast majority of once lush forests have been chopped down and how the chimpanzees and other animals have less and less space to live and how the slopes are eroded, the soil being washed away by the rains into the lake Tanganyika.
But the main message of the book is about us. About ordinary people, like myself. Dr. Jane says that the majority of people suffer from an illness called just me-ism, meaning that many people think that as individuals they cannot do anything to help heal the planet. She says, what I too know to be true, namely, that we are extremely powerful and that we must act and now. If all the millions of people who think: I can’t do anything, would think just the other way around…imagine that! Imagine millions of people all over the world knowing the power is in their purse, wallet, credit card. Each day we impact the world in many ways and we can choose what kind of impact we want to make. If millions of people only bought organic food, the coorporations selling poisoned food sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, would soon realise that the sales and profits have fallen and they would figure out that the way to go is organic. If millions upon millions of people only bought cosmetics not tested on animals, the companies who torture the animals in labs would soon change that, because no company wants to go bankrupt. It is true that organic is always more expensive than the poisoned food, but nothing comes with such a huge price tag as the environment: waters, air, soil, everything, heavily polluted with cancerogenous chemicals.
That basically is the most important message of the book. To wake up, to realise that as consumers we are powerful and can create the future we want for ourselves and for our children, also those unborn as of yet.
Another mesage is, that as a species most evolved intelectually and emotionally we have a responsibility to all other species. They, too, have the right to live without pain and suffering and have the right to their environment, to enough space. We cannot occupy every tiny spot on the planet and we must know that animals and plants, too are creatures who feel. Just like we do, only in their unique, special ways. Chimpanzees and many, many other animals feel sadness, they grieve, they are frightened, they are happy. Chimpanzees hug each other when they haven’t met for a day or two, they kiss each other upon meeting, they try to comfort each other when they are sad and they can sense these feelings in other species. In the book Dr. Jane recalls her visit to a lab in the USA, where scientists performed experiments on the chimpanzees. She knelt down in front of a tiny cage where a chimpanzee called JoJo had been kept for a decade. The cage was so small that JoJo could hardly move. Shocked, Dr. Jane reached with her hand through the cage bars and Jojo gently took her hand in his. Slowly he started to stroke her arm and when he saw tears running down Jane’s cheeks, he reached through the bars and started to wipe them away.
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I’d like to end the post with three quotes by Dr. Jane:
- “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
2. “Michael Pollan likens consumer choices to pulling single threads out of a garment. We pull a thread from the garment when we refuse to purchase eggs or meat from birds who were raised in confinement, whose beaks were clipped so they could never once taste their natural diet of worms and insects. We pull out a thread when we refuse to bring home a hormone-fattened turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. We pull a thread when we refuse to buy meat or dairy products from cows who were never allowed to chew grass, or breathe fresh air, or feel the warm sun on their backs.
The more threads we pull, the more difficult it is for the industry to stay intact. You demand eggs and meat without hormones, and the industry will have to figure out how it can raise farm animals without them. Let the animals graze outside and it slows production. Eventually the whole thing will have to unravel.
If the factory farm does indeed unravel – and it must – then there is hope that we can, gradually, reverse the environmental damage it has caused. Once the animal feed operations have gone and livestock are once again able to graze, there will be a massive reduction in the agricultural chemicals currently used to grow grain for animals. And eventually, the horrendous contamination caused by animal waste can be cleaned up. None of this will be easy.
The hardest part of returning to a truly healthy environment may be changing the current totally unsustainable heavy-meat-eating culture of increasing numbers of people around the world. But we must try. We must make a start, one by one.”
3. “We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place–or not to bother.”
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The change won’t ever be made by the governments and the industry etc. You are the change. I am the change. And to know that, is exhilarating because we can start making the world a better place right this minute.
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upper left: nationalgeographic.com
upper right: by Michael Christopher Brown
lower centre: cbsnews.com