God Bless You, Mr. Greybeard

Bill Moyers interviews Jane Goodall in Guernica:

Goodall-300 When Jane Goodall walked into the building for this interview, faces lit up. Our security chief told me she does animal rescue work after hours because of Goodall. Our stage manager whispered into my ear, “She’s been my hero for decades.” And the nine-year-old daughter of our video editor hurried into the studio because she was writing a school report on Goodall (she got an A, by the way). Everyone was aware of who Jane Goodall is or what she has done to close the gap between the animal world and our own species. Goodall herself evolved from a youthful enthusiast of animals—inspired by her father’s gift to her of a toy chimpanzee he named Jubilee—to the world’s most noted observer of chimpanzees and a global activist for all of life on earth. Through a chain of unintended consequences, the young Goodall met the famous anthropologist Louis Leakey in Kenya, was hired as his secretary, and then was sent into the forest as his primary researcher on chimps. Over many years in the Gombe Stream National Park, she came to know her subjects as individuals with distinct personalities, and with social and family lives shaped by their emotions, as are our own. Her landmark studies diminished the distance between human and nonhuman, and her television specials were so popular it became easy to think all of us had grown up with her and the chimps.

Bill Moyers: This life you’re living now is such a contrast to the life of the Jane Goodall we first met many years ago, living virtually alone in the forest in the company of chimpanzees, sitting for hours quietly taking notes, observing. And now, three hundred days a year, you’re on the road. You’re speaking. You’re lobbying. You’re organizing. Why? What’s driving you?

Jane Goodall: It actually all began in 1986. In the beginning of the year, I was in my dream world. I was out there with these amazing chimpanzees. I was in the forests I dreamed about as a child, I was doing some writing and a little bit of teaching once a year. And then this conference in Chicago brought together the people who were studying chimpanzees across Africa and a few who were working with captive chimps, noninvasively. We were together for four days and we had one session on conservation. And it was so shocking to see, right across the chimpanzees’ range in Africa, forests going, human populations growing, the beginning of the bushmeat trade, the commercial hunting of wild animals for food, chimpanzees caught in snares, population plummeting from somewhere between one and two million at the turn of the last century to at that time, about 400,000. So I couldn’t go back to that old, beautiful, wonderful life.

More here.