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Dr. Jane Goodall on the path to a kinder world

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, renowned ethnologist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, believes raising children in partnership with nature is the key to our planet’s future. As we reflect on her wisdom from The Artipoppe Podcast, we’re reminded of the incredible power of motherhood. Our children are the architects of a better world. Plus, “reclaim control over your creations” in the Astrological Forecast for October.

On the tapestry of life 
“We’ve lost our connection with the natural world and forgotten that we are a part of it and depend on it. What we depend on are healthy ecosystems — which is this complex, interrelated collection of plants and animals that make up that ecosystem. And I see it as a tapestry. Every time a species becomes extinct, it’s like a thread being pulled from that tapestry, and when enough threads have been pulled, the tapestry hangs in tatters, and the ecosystem collapses. And so, we desperately need to regain our relationship with the natural world.”

On the importance of daily actions 
“It’s important for people to know that every one of us makes an impact every day. People look around at all the problems facing us on the planet, and they feel helpless and hopeless and often sink into apathy and do nothing. What we need to do is share the good news stories — all the amazing people and amazing projects around the world that are reversing and healing some of the scars we’ve inflicted. We really need to have a wakeup call that everybody needs to act in whatever way they can. Businesses need to develop ways of more ethically producing their goods, and consumer pressure plays a major role there.”

On the power of hope 
“If you lose hope, you become apathetic and you do nothing. If you don’t have hope that what you do is going to make a difference, why bother? When people lose hope, it is very often because they look around at the global occurrences and feel helpless. That is why the message that every one of us can make a difference every day is so important. If you’ve lost hope due to concerns about what is happening in the world, change the way you think. Think about where you live — what is something you can do where you live to make things a little bit better? Then, roll up your sleeves and act, and try to get others to help you. If you see that what you are doing is truly making a difference, that leads to more hope, and that leads to more action. The more hope and action you take, the more you inspire others to join you. Hope is tremendously important. What you do does make a difference. The human spirit is indomitable. Don’t give up.”

On our responsibility to our planet 
“We need to move to renewable energy and turn away from intensive industrial agriculture, characterized by monocultures, GMO crops, and massive use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers — it is killing our soil. We must act now. There is a move towards regenerative farming, where you change monocultures into farming that works with nature rather than against it. We know what we should be doing, but do we have the will to do it? That is where I think young people are rising up because they understand it’s their future at stake. I get very angry when people say it’s the younger generation’s responsibility. It is not their responsibility — it is their challenge, but it is our responsibility. Nature will come back, if given the chance. Within nature, there is an intelligence. When I am in nature, particularly the forest, I feel so closely connected with this great spiritual power. Nature will survive. We may become extinct, but nature will rebound. Nature will find a way to come back.”

On the loss of wisdom 
“Chimpanzees are so like us in almost every way. As our closest living relatives, we can step back and ask ourselves what the difference is between us. It is the explosive development of our intellect. If we realize that we are the most intellectual creature on the planet, it is utterly bizarre that we are destroying our planet — it’s our only home. It’s because we’ve lost wisdom — the wisdom where you make a choice thinking about how it will affect generations ahead. We are thinking about short-term gain rather than protecting the environment for the future.”

On our children’s reconnection with the Earth 
“The biggest problem with our children today is that they are wedded to electronic devices, and some children never get the chance to bond with nature. Incorporating environmental education into school curriculums is really important, especially for kindergarten-aged children. The child can learn to play in the dirt, experience the wonder of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, and witness a flower bud opening into its beauty. We need our children to reconnect with nature so that they learn to love it and then want to protect it. Nature gives children this feeling of magic and awe and wonder. If the next generations aren’t better stewards than we’ve been, that is the end of us.”

On our collective golden rule
“It is really important that children learn to treat animals kindly. If you go to the roots – the purity – of every single major religion that ever has been, it is the same golden rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Today, it is desperately important that ‘others’ includes animals and Mother Nature. If everybody obeyed that golden rule, the world would be a wonderful place.”

On the maternal nature of chimpanzees 
“Chimpanzee mothers seldom use physical punishment when their child is small. Instead, they distract. For instance, if a chimpanzee mother is trying to eat and her child repeatedly interrupts, the mother will start tickling the infant with one hand while continuing to feed with the other. This is something we can learn from. I feel it is so important when raising our children that a child isn’t punished for something they don’t yet know is wrong. We have the advantage of words. By the time an infant can understand words, we can gently explain to a child what they mustn’t do. Only when the child is openly defiant can we get stern, and we should never administer physical punishment. What we learn from chimpanzee mothers is to be supportive, to be protective without being overprotective, to be affectionate, to play, and to distract our young until they have learned what they shouldn’t do.”

On guidance for new parents 
“The message to new parents is that how you treat your child is going to be very important not only for the development of that child, but the role that the child will play in creating a better future. Support your child and give them an opportunity to interact with nature. Don’t worry if they get dirty hands — it builds up their immunity. If you’re a new parent, just try and support your child, reason with them verbally, and help them understand that everything they do has an impact. We are all interconnected, and one little good deed can lead to many other good deeds. Help them understand that when you are kind to someone, it makes you feel good.”

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