Living legend Jane Goodall has hope for environment, discusses what South Floridians can do to help

MIAMI – April is Earth Month, and we can think of no better way to honor our planet than to sit down with conservation legend and United Nations Messenger of Peace, Jane Goodall.

Goodall was just in Miami giving a lecture at Florida International University on “inspiring hope through action.”

Before she took the stage, she spoke with Local 10 News’ Louis Aguirre about how South Florida must step up and do its part to save our natural world.

Goodall was just 23 years old when sge arrived in Africa for the first time in 1960 for an adventure that would consume her entire life.

“If you could go back and speak to that 23-year-old Jane that first arrived, what would you say to her?” asked Aguirre.

“I’d just say: just do what your heart tells you to do,” she said. “Carry on and don’t stop.”

She hasn’t let up since.

Sending science into a tailspin in 1962 when in the forest of Gombe in Tanzania, the British-born Goodall became the first to observe wild chimpanzees making tools from twigs to get food.

“Did you know what an earth-shattering moment you just witnessed?” asked Aguirre.

“No, of course not,” Goodall said. “I wasn’t surprised to see the chimps using tools, but I didn’t know that science believed that we were the only tool using creatures.”

“And you disrupted that,” said Aguirre.

“No, the chimps did,” she replied. “It wasn’t me.”

Goodall’s groundbreaking research changed the way the world looked at the animal kingdom, as humans were not the only species that showed emotion.

“I was able to gradually persuade scientists that we were not the only sentient sapient beings,” she said.

Goodall has been fighting for the natural world ever since, traveling the globe 300 days a year on a mission to recruit a global eco-army of people who care and want to protect and restore balance to our planet.

“How do you do that? Where do you get the energy?” asked Aguirre.

“It’s two things, really,” she said. “I get energized by the audiences and the reception I get. But then how I do it, is because I must have been given certain gifts, and I better jolly well use them.”

Goodall was in South Florida on Friday, where she addressed a sold out crowd of 3,400 people who packed FIU’s Ocean Bank Convocation Center to be inspired by the champion of conservation.

She welcomed the audience with a traditional chimpanzee greeting, but her message was serious and urgent.

“What people have to understand is we are actually part of the natural world, and we depend on it for food, for water, for the air we breathe,” she said. “An ecosystem made up of the plants and animals with their complex interrelationship, and this is what we’re destroying. That means if we carry on doing that, we will destroy ourselves.”

Goodall believes we still have time slow down climate change and stop the massive loss of biodiversity.

It is the youth who give her the most hope.

“It’s the young people, once they understand the problems, and we empower them to take action, then the resilience of nature will give nature a chance,” said Goodall. “And she’ll come back to places we destroyed. Animals on the brink can be given another chance, and hopefully your Florida panther will have another chance because people are working to say, no, we’re not going to let this beautiful creature vanish.”

Every creature on Earth serves a purpose.

Conservation and solving the climate crisis is at the core of Roots and Shoots, a worldwide program Goodall created for kids from preschool to university that engages them to create a better world.

It’s now in 68 countries and counting.

“Its message is every one of us makes an impact every day, and we have a choice,” she said. “They are becoming champions of the environment, and because we began in ‘91, we have them out in the big wide world and they hang on. The main values are respect, respect for each other, for nature, for the environment, and compassion.”

Goodall’s light is leading the way.

She just turned 89 years old Monday and she has no plans to slow down.

“I have to ask you what is your birthday wish?” asked Aguirre.

“I always say if you want to reach the moon, you’ve got to aim for the stars, so I aim for the stars and say I want Roots and Shoots program in every country,” she said.

Right now there is no Roots and Shoots program in South Florida, but one is in the works.

In the meantime, Goodall is challenging all of us to start with one thing. Find that one thing you can do every day to help our planet, whether it’s a beach cleanup, stopping use of plastic, or reducing your carbon footprint.

There’s something we can all do every day.

For more information on the Jane Goodall Institute, click here.

About the Author:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.