Career Choices

What it Takes to Make History—with Dr. Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall

“I think an awful lot of what I’ve done is dependent on the amazing mother I had. I mean, she supported this crazy dream I had when I was 10 of going to Africa. When everybody else laughed at me, there was never any question that, because I was a girl, I couldn’t do these things, which is what everybody else said.”—Dr. Jane Goodall

With strength, determination, purpose and passion, iconic scientist, conservationist and humanitarian Jane Goodall followed her dreams to an unconventional career, despite gender stereotypes.

Just in time for Women’s History Month, we will hear from this remarkable pioneer who has been making history for over six decades. To lead this conversation, Dr. Goodall is joined by author and MSNBC anchor Alicia Menendez, who will explore her journey—from chimpanzees to wildlife to environmentalism—and her commitment to anti-poverty and education for women and girls.

Offering important lessons on leadership and messages of hope, you will walk away inspired and ready to make history in your own way!


 

This Month’s Guest:

JANE GOODALL is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute (janegoodall.org), and a UN Messenger of Peace. She was born on April 3, 1934, in London England. At the young age of 26, she followed her passion for animals and Africa to Gombe, Tanzania, where she began her landmark study of chimpanzees in the wild­ immersing herself in their habitat as a neighbor rather than a distant observer. Her discovery in 1960 that chimpanzees make and use tools rocked the scientific world and redefined the relationship between humans and animals. In 1977, she established the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) to advance her work around the world and for generations to come. JGI continues the field research at Gombe and builds on Dr. Goodall’s innovative approach to conservation, which recognizes the central role that people play in the well-being of animals and the environment. In 1991, she founded Roots & Shoots, a global program that empowers young people in nearly sixty countries. Since it’s inception in 1991, Roots & Shoots has greatly impacted youth in over 100 countries to act as the informed conservation leaders that the world so urgently needs. Today, Dr. Goodall travels the world, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees, environmental crises and her reasons for hope. In her books and speeches, she emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living things and the collective power of individual action. Dr. Goodall is a UN Messenger of Peace and Dame Commander of the British Empire. @janegoodallInst

 

Alicia MenendezThis Month’s Interviewer:

ALICIA MENENDEZ is an anchor on MSNBC. She is also the author of The Likeability Trap and host of the Latina to Latina podcast. Menendez joined MSNBC in October 2019. Prior to joining the network, she served as a correspondent on Amanpour & Company on PBS and formerly hosted a nightly news and pop culture show on Fusion called Alicia Menendez Tonight. Her reporting and interviews have appeared on ABC News, Bustle, FusionTV, PBS and Vice News. Born and raised in New Jersey, Menendez has been called “Ms. Millennial” by The Washington Post, “journalism’s new gladiator” by Elle, and a “content queen” by Marie Claire. @aliciamenendez

 

Our Host:

CELESTE HEADLEE is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @CelesteHeadlee

 


 

Additional Resources:


 

Dr. Jane Goodall & Alicia Menendez Interview Transcript:

Alicia Menendez:
Dr. Goodall, just an honor to be in your presence. Thank you so much for taking the time today. I want to begin with your professional journey 60 years ago, heading to Gombe to study chimpanzees, not as a credentialed scientist, but as a woman who had attended school to become a secretary.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
My goal was to go to Africa and live with wild animals and write books about them, but I didn’t have money, and the family didn’t have money, and girls didn’t do that sort of thing. Everybody laughed at me, so I did a secretarial course because I had to get money while we waited for the opportunity for me to go to Africa. I never wanted to be a secretary, that’s all I wanted to say because so many people think that was going to be my job in life. Never, never, never.

Alicia Menendez:
And I think that that is for so many women, so relatable, that we have to do things in that period in order to survive. I think there are a lot of women during this pandemic who are going through that reality that they’re taking a bridge job or whatever it is they can to sustain themselves just to stay in their family. And I think a lot about what it is going to be like on the other side of this, whenever we get to the other side of this. Women, we already know from professional studies, often don’t apply for positions unless they feel that they have absolutely every single qualification. How did you, then, cultivate that belief in yourself? Where even if someone said, “Well, you don’t have everything we’re looking for,” you thought to yourself, “I’m ready and I’m prepared.”

Dr. Jane Goodall:
When I went out to Africa, I was going to stay with a school friend. There was no qualifications asked. And, fortunately, I had about the late Dr. Louis Leakey, paleontologist. And he’d been looking for someone to study chimpanzees. I would’ve studied any animal under the sun. I had no aspiration to become a scientist. I wanted to live with animals and write books about them. So that’s how it began. Fortunately, Leakey felt that women might be better in the field. I mean, you have to realize back then, there was nobody out there studying anything. There was just, I think, three studies going on. Two. Two men in South Africa and one in Uganda. It was an absolutely uncharted field, and so there was no protocol to follow. I was just so lucky that Leakey 1) wanted a woman because he felt we might be more patient, and 2) he wanted somebody who had not been to university. Back then, the people studying animals in captivity, they were very reductionist. Animals were just things. And he didn’t want somebody whose mind had been biased in that direction.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
So it was completely amazing, I save up money, work as a waitress to get the money, and meet Louis Leakey, and the dream comes true. I mean, wasn’t that amazing?

Alicia Menendez:
It is amazing. And yet it’s not as though you’d never ran up against any form of resistance. There’s a story I’ve heard you tell before about being in the labs and you would refer to the chimps by their gender. You would say “she,” “he,” and very often, other scientists believed that they shouldn’t be gendered, that they were just, “they.” And you would go, and I love this form of resistance, which is this idea of just scratching it out and putting it back exactly as you had intended it. I think there’s a lesson in there for all of us.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
Yeah, that was one of the first scientific papers I did. I was actually at Cambridge by then, and this was for the prestigious magazine Nature. I was shocked to find “he,” “she,” and “they” crossed out and “its” and “whiches” put. And I think, “Well at least give them the respectfulness of their gender, which is very, very obvious in chimpanzees.”

Alicia Menendez:
I want to talk a little bit about COVID because it is the moment we are all living in. You have said, “We’ve brought this upon ourselves.” What do you mean by that?

Dr. Jane Goodall:
What I mean is that for a very long time, we have been absolutely disrespecting the natural world and disrespecting animals. And as we destroy forests, animals are pushed in closer contact with people, opportunity for a bacteria to jump from an animal to a person, where it may start a new disease. And then the animals, we hunt them, eat them, we destroy their homes, we traffic them, sending them to wildlife meat markets, and they’re sold for meat, for medicine. And also there’s sort of a huge trade in exotic animals as pets. And here again, perfect opportunities for, in this case, the COVID virus, which almost certainly began in a wildlife market in China. And then we haven’t to forget the other horror for animals. And those are our factory farms, and they too provide wonderful opportunities for diseases, so-called zoonotic diseases, where a bacteria jumps from an animal to a human.

Alicia Menendez:
This global crisis. One hopes that given the number of institutions, systems, that it has exposed as being problematic, insufficient, whether that is childcare, a healthcare system that is built for profit that is trying to execute a public health strategy, whether that is, as you’re talking about, deforestation, the degradation of our environment and the way that that has pushed some of these viruses forward… Where’s the opportunity to, now that people are ringing the alarm, now that people are paying attention… how can we do better?

Dr. Jane Goodall:
Well, I think that the one silver lining of this terrible pandemic, which has caused so much suffering, is that more and more people are understanding that we have, in many ways, brought this on ourselves. That it is desperately important that, somehow, we create a new, more respectful relationship with animals and nature. The thing is, that people seem to think that we can separate ourselves from nature. We can’t, we’re part of the natural world. We depend on it, for food, for clothing, but shelter, for just about everything, clean water, clean air, and we’re destroying at our peril. And this crazy notion that we can have unlimited economic development on a planet with finite natural resources and a growing human population and a growing population of livestock.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
Right now there’s 7.8 billion of us on the planet approximately. They estimate near a 10 billion by 2050. As some of the natural resources are already being used up faster than nature can replenish them, what’s going to happen? We have to think these things through. And if we carry on with business as usual, just really destroying the environment to build more shopping malls and this, that, and the other, then the future is grim.

Alicia Menendez:
How do you think about what we, as individuals, need to be doing, shifting our own behaviors in order to meet this crisis?

Dr. Jane Goodall:
Yeah, well, that’s really important. And so in fact, the main message of my youth program, Roots and Shoots, which we’ll talk about in a bit, the main message is every single one of us on the planet, we make some impact on the planet every single day. And so go to the shops and you’re buying a food, or you’re buying something else, ask yourself, “Has it harmed the environment? Was it cruel to animals? Is it cheap because of inequitable wages, somewhere else, child slave labor or something?” And if the answer to those things is yes, don’t buy it. And this will be consumer pressure on the big businesses and it’s beginning to work.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
But, the big “but” here, we need everybody to make these ethical choices to really make a difference. The millions of people living in poverty don’t have the luxury of making those choices. They’ve got to stay alive. They’re destroying the environment, destroying the trees, fishing the last fish in their desperation to feed their families. And in an urban area, they would have to buy the cheapest junk food. Can’t afford to ask those questions because they have to stay alive. So alleviating poverty, reducing our unsustainable lifestyle, that’s incredibly important that will in turn, will push business to do things in a more environmentally-friendly, ethical way. And I think that will have an impact on governments as well.

Alicia Menendez:
I want to pick up on something you said there, which was the role of women, especially in developing nations. So much of the work that you have done has focused on women. I wonder what you see as the connection between women, educational investment, and conservation.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
Oh, huge. When I left my beautiful forest of Gombe, which were the best days of my life, it was because I realized that the chimpanzee habitat was disappearing and chimpanzees were reduced in number. So I went to Africa to learn more about it. And that’s where I learned about the crippling poverty of so many of the people living in and around chimp habitat. And it was when I flew over the tiny Gombe National Park, where by the way, our research still goes on up to more than 60 years, although I’m not there very much. I looked down on what had been part of this huge forest stretching, right across equatorial Africa. And by 1990, it was just a small island forest, the national park was, surrounded by completely bare hills. More people living there than the land could support, overused farmland and infertile, struggling to survive. And that’s when I realized if we don’t help these people to find ways of making a living without destroying the environment, we can’t save chimps’ forests or anything else.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
And so we began our program Take Care, or TACARE, very holistically. In addition to growing more food, restoring fertility without chemicals and water management projects, and so on, very important from the beginning was empowering women with microcredit programs based on Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank and scholarships to keep girls in school beyond puberty. Because it’s been shown all around the world that as women’s education improves, family size tends to drop because they want to give their children a good education. Today, they can’t afford to educate eight, nine, or ten. And as we improve health facilities for them in the villages, so they have confidence their children are most likely to live and not very likely to die, as was the case before. And so this holistic program tackles everything. And now these people have become our partners in conservation, understanding that protecting the environment is for their future and not just wildlife.

Alicia Menendez:
There was someone who wrote something about you that I want to ask about. One author said you, “were so genteel, yet so impressively difficult.” I wonder first, what you make of that characterization, if you identify with it? But then also how you have developed your personal style of standing up, of pushing back, of being firm?

Dr. Jane Goodall:
I think one of the things about that statement that was made, I don’t see that there’s very much value in actually confronting people, especially if you are a tiny bit aggressive. “I’m right and you’re wrong and you’ve got to change,” because as soon as you start in that way, you see a wall come up, you see people slightly withdrawing. They’re now thinking “I’ve got to refute this woman.” And so I have to reach the heart, not the head. And the way you do that, it’s very sneaky, you tell stories, you try and find out a little bit about the person that you’re talking to, or the group. And then you find the stories that will reach that heart, that will touch them. Because I truly believe that people must change from within. Otherwise, maybe they give lip service to some new way of thinking, maybe even this legislation, but unless that legislation is enforced, it’s not going to do any good. There’s masses of legislation all over the world. That’s great, but nobody enforces it, so it doesn’t do very much good.

Alicia Menendez:
I think part of what I’m also hearing you say is that you need to have cultural shift before you can have big policy shift. You have to have people really feel it and believe it is more than just a report.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
That’s what I actually feel. And you know, nobody taught me how to do this. And I think an awful lot of what I’ve done is dependent on the amazing mother I had. I mean, she supported this crazy dream I had when I was 10 of going to Africa. When everybody else laughed at me, there was never any question that, because I was a girl, I couldn’t do these things, which everybody else said. And she taught me what I think is a very wise lesson. When you meet somebody who has an opposing view to yours, number one, listen to them because maybe they’ve thought of things that you haven’t. And to really try and affect change, you need to understand where the other person is coming from. Otherwise, it’s not going to really work.

Alicia Menendez:
I wonder how you square that theory of the world or that theory of communication with something like climate denialism or racism or things that are simply immutable and indebatable.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
Well, it’s the same as what we do to animals and the environment, isn’t it? It’s all based on lack of respect, a lack of respect, which is one of the key things behind our youth program. And all of these terrible discriminations and everything that goes wrong in our society now, and I’ve lived in an awful long time, and I’ve seen change, but I’ve seen in a horrifying way that neo-Nazism is springing up and white supremacism is springing up. And there doesn’t seem to be that much change in the way that, well, the racial discrimination is continued. Even though, on paper, it gets better. But actually, in fact, in many parts of America and the world, this racial discrimination is still really strong. Gender discrimination is very strong. On the other hand, I was sent a little video yesterday, and it was the list of countries today which have women as presidents or prime ministers. And it was amazing. I had no idea there were so many countries with women right up at the top. So things are changing.

Alicia Menendez:
You have referenced this, and I want to come back to it, which is your program Roots and Shoots. What are some of the ways that you are helping young people turn their passion into action?

Dr. Jane Goodall:
Well, it began because, when I began traveling around the world, trying to raise awareness about what was going, on the destruction of the forest and so on, I was meeting young people, high school, university, who didn’t seem to have much hope. And when I asked them why they felt angry or depressed or just apathetic, they said, “Well, you’ve compromised our future. There’s nothing we can do about it.” And when you hear, “We haven’t inherited this planet, from our ancestors, we borrowed it from our children.” No, we’ve stolen it from our children. We’re still stealing it today. But when they said there was nothing they could do about it. I thought, “No, that’s not true.” We’ve got this window of time, when, if we get together, then we can effect change. And so the Roots and Shoots program began with 12 high school students from different schools in Tanzania who were concerned about different aspects in the world around them.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
And right from the beginning we had, as the main message, “Every individual makes a difference every day,” as I’ve already said, but, because you learn in the rain forest how everything is interconnected, then each group would choose. They choose themselves. I think that’s why it’s growing so fast. They choose their own projects, but between them, they choose a project to help people, a project to help animals, a project to help the environment. And, in addition, because we try and link them around the world, and it now is in 86, 87 countries, then they are beginning to understand that the color of your skin, your religion, your culture, the clothes that you wear, the kind of food that you eat, it’s all far, far less important than the fact that we’re all human beings. Going back to that early stage in life when young children make absolutely no differentiation between other children who look different, they have fun and they play and they become friends. And it’s only as they grow older that this terrible discrimination comes in.

Alicia Menendez:
I was watching a TED Talk that you gave almost 20 years ago at this point, I think it was from 2003. And you were ringing the alarm on lots of things that we’re dealing with today. And all I could think as I watched it was, “How has she managed to maintain a sense of optimism and possibility in the face of constant resistance?” So over the course of all of these years, what is the source of that optimism?

Dr. Jane Goodall:
Well, first of all, I’m very obstinate and I won’t give in. Secondly, traveling around the world and reading and all that stuff. There’s lots of doom and gloom. Yes, yes, yes. But there are amazing people, incredible programs which are really turning things around. And the media doesn’t report enough of those.

Alicia Menendez:
My final question to you, Dr. Goodall, is what is there left that you still want to accomplish? And for the women who are watching today, for the men who are watching today, how can they help you do that?

Dr. Jane Goodall:
I would encourage people to really think how they might become involved, because for everybody it’s going to be different, everybody’s interested in different aspects of the problems that we face. And so, find out what you’re really passionate about or concerned about and get involved in some program that will help you to feel, “I am doing something to try and make a difference.” That’s what takes us out of despair, despondency, and once you see that you’re making a difference and you know that you’re not the only person on the planet and that more and more people are waking up and making a difference, then you can have hope.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
So that’s what keeps me going, but also there’s what I call the indomitable spirit that we have, we’re going to tackle things and we won’t give up. That gives our lives meaning. And the interesting thing is, you know how long I’ve spent observing chimpanzees in the wild, and we also care for orphaned chimpanzees whose mothers were shot for either the live animal trade or bush meat, and we look after them in these sanctuaries. The biggest one is in Congo. And something happened there with a chimpanzee who first arrived as a tiny infant, badly wounded by the bullet that killed her mother. She was restored by a wonderful veterinarian, and then she got really sick again and nearly died, but she had this will to live, this indomitable spirit. And I’d never met her before, and what happened was, I think, one of the most amazing and moving things that I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Alicia Menendez:
Dr. Goodall, thank you so much for your time and thank you for sharing that with us. I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time.

Dr. Jane Goodall:
Well, thank you very much for inviting me and giving me a chance to tell a wonderful group of people the messages and the programs that means so much to me. And I hope everyone will join, in some way or another, helping to make this world a better place.

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Themes: Career Choices, Embrace the Unknown, Health & Wellness, Innovation, Life Balance, Podcasts, Life on Your Terms, Women Amplified: A Podcast from the Conferences for Women Tagged: , , |
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