Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace shares her message for Earth Day 2022.
As we face existential crises, Jane shares her deep commitment to the power of hope and all we can do as individuals and collectively to make a difference for people, other animals, and the planet we share. Today and every day, let us rebuild our connections to the natural world – for as Jane shares – we are a part of it and have a responsibility to protect it:-
Hello, today is Earth Day. It’s a day to think about the planet, Mother Earth.
I’m sure that all of you have seen photos of planet earth shot from space. A small, green and blue globe surrounded by the cold, black immensity of space.
What is so wonderful about this little planet of ours is that during the millions of years of evolution, it supports such a rich variety of life forms.
From microscopic bacteria and algae to whale and elephants and the giant redwoods. There are some species that live in the earth, such as earthworms and naked mole-rats. Others that fly, like butterflies and beetles and birds and bats. Some spend all or almost all their time in the trees, like sloths and galagos and spider monkeys. Some move ever so slowly across the land, like tortoises, while others like cheetahs can run really fast.
Then there are all those who spend their entire lives in the water, the corals and fish and whales, whilst others like otters and penguins spend time on land but are really good swimmers. Then, think about the hundreds and thousands of plants and trees and fungi and ferns.
What an amazing tapestry of living things.
We, humans, are just one species. But oh dear, our footprint on the planet is gigantic.
This wasn’t so all those years ago when we were just hunter-gatherers, but the one difference between us and all the other creatures is that we developed an oversized brain, probably because we have no natural defences and we had to compete with fears, predators that roamed the country back then.
From that time on, we had an increasing advantage over other animals. Then came the agricultural revolution, and humans were able to settle in one place, and populations began to grow.
Next came the industrial revolution. From then on, our impact has become ever more destructive.
You all know the problems we face today. These include climate change, loss of biodiversity, and of course, the COVID pandemic.
Well, we only have ourselves to blame because, for years, humans have shown so little respect for the natural world and animals.
We’ve destroyed forests and other ecosystems. We’ve polluted land, air, and water with agricultural, industrial, and household waste, much of it full of toxic chemicals.
We’ve burned increasing amounts of fossil fuel. This has created massive amounts of the most prevalent greenhouse gas, CO2. It’s those gases that form a blanket around the globe, trapping the heat of the sun, leading to global warming.
We’ve killed wild animals for food, clothing, pets, and sport. Yes, sport. Traffic them around the world, crowded wild animals into tiny unhygienic spaces in wildlife markets, and crowded domestic animals into horrendous factory farms. All these have created conditions that make it relatively easy for a pathogen, such as a virus, to spillover from an animal to a person, where it may create a new disease, such as COVID-19.
I cannot send out this message without reference to put into war in Ukraine. The scale of human and animals suffering is horrendous and heartbreaking. Think also of the harm to the environment caused by the emissions from tanks and planes and bombs and all the rest of it.
Today, Earth Day, is a time for all of us to think about how we, as individuals, can help this precious blue and green planet. What each one of us can do to help.
Today, more people are aware how everything is interconnected, and that we need to alleviate poverty. Because the poor will destroy the environment just to create more cleared land for growing food or making money from charcoal or timber, buy the cheapest food because they can’t afford other options.
But, it’s cheap because of unfair wages or horrible cruelty to animals.
We need to reduce the unsustainable lifestyles of the rest of us and learn to recycle and reuse.
We must, through consumer pressure, persuade businesses to operate in ways that are socially and environmentally ethical, rather than carry on with business as usual.
More people are beginning to understand that long-term protection of the environment and indigenous cultures is more important than short-term profit.
We must do anything we can to encourage our governments to heal the widening gap between the haves and the have nots because this inequality leads to violence and hatred. On this day, we should think about the communities of plants and animals with whom we share or should share the planet, and all that we have done to harm them.
More importantly, let’s think about what we can do to protect and restore.
The Jane Goodall Institutes around the world are working to protect chimps and other wildlife and environments. Also, helping local disadvantaged communities to find ways of living without destroying their environment. Then giving them the tools to monitor and protect the health of the natural world around them.
They understand that this is not only to protect biodiversity and wildlife, but for their own future, so they become our partners in conservation. More people are understanding the One Health idea. That our human health is closely related to the health of the local environment and that of the wild and domestic animals who live there.
We all depend on the health of all.
Our Roots & Shoots members, hundreds and thousands of them of all ages, in over 60 countries, are working on projects of their choice to make the world better for this interconnected world. People, animals, and the environment.
I think there will be a lot of tree planting and programs to restore and protect forests around the world. Many people will be volunteering in shelters for homeless animals, doing projects to raise money for a whole variety of causes.
Some people are determined to move towards a plant-based diet. Some are supporting restorative agriculture, permaculture, and so on.
Around the globe, there will be prayers for the suffering of the Ukrainians and all the other suffering underprivileged people, and for the animals around the world. There’ll be volunteers rolling up their sleeves and helping where they can.
Although the overall picture seems overwhelmingly grim, that simply means we must all get together, roll up our sleeves, and each do our bit to help heal our planet. We must get together now before it’s utterly too late.
There’s one thing I want to beg of everyone who watches this. Don’t help planet earth on this one Earth Day only. It is so important to do something to help every day, even the smallest things.
Don’t forget that millions of small things cumulatively lead to major change.
Finally, do let us know what you do for Earth Day and your plans to make every day Earth Day.
So that we can share the cumulative benefits of everything that we do with our community.
Thank you all, and have a productive and wonderful Earth Day.