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Head, heart must be in tune to save planet

By Zhou Wenting | China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-18 09:18
Jane Goodall attends celebrations for the 25th anniversary of Roots & Shoots' presence in China, on Wednesday in Beijing. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

Zoologist Jane Goodall shared her beliefs while in China for anniversary celebrations of her educational body

British zoologist Jane Goodall was recently in Beijing to attend celebrations for the 25th anniversary of Roots & Shoots' presence in China. The Wednesday event marked her 16th visit to China.

"I try to visit each Roots& Shoots branch in the world every two years to advocate animal protection and environmental preservation amid urbanization, and that keeps me traveling 300 days a year," Goodall, 85, said.

Roots & Shoots is a community-based action program initiated by the primatologist in 1991 to spread awareness among young people to work on environmental, conservation and humanitarian issues. It has 50 chapters around the world and 20,000 members in China, from kindergarten to university.

Since Roots & Shoots began, Goodall, who is also a United Nations Messenger of Peace and world-renowned ethologist and conservationist, has become a frequent traveler.

She is still passionate when it comes to her favorite topics - zoology and animal protection.

"Humans and animals are closely interconnected on this planet and animals are important," she said. "They have feelings, personalities and a family life. They can feel fear and pain."

Born in London in 1934, Goodall became known for her detailed and long-term research on the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania that began in the 1960s.

Chimpanzees can use 700 different gestures to express themselves and communicate, and can learn sign language. Goodall, who lived among the chimpanzees, has an obvious passion for the primates, indicated by the tone of her voice and the sparkle in her eyes when she talks about them. But chimpanzees aren't the only intelligent animals. Goodall said scientists have discovered that crows, octopuses, pigs and bees are much smarter than people used to imagine.

Pangolin campaign

Goodall believes that the more people know about animals, the more enthusiastic they will be when it comes to animal and ecological conservation, which is where Roots & Shoots can play an active role.

The organization has been cooperating with universities and schools to educate young people about animals, especially endangered species such as the Chinese pangolin.

A traditional Chinese belief is that the scales of a pangolin can help new mothers produce more breast milk.

In 2017, the International Union for Conservation of Nature placed Chinese pangolins on the Red List of Endangered Species, after a team of experts said the population had dropped by 90 percent in the previous decade.

Earlier this year, nearly 100 Roots & Shoots university groups in China launched a pangolin protection campaign in the maternity departments of 150 hospitals in more than 40 cities. The campaign message was that just as human newborns need their mothers, pangolin babies depend on their mothers too, and the pain of separation cannot be tolerated by either species.

"People might say, 'it is our culture', but culture can change," Goodall said.

On the other hand, Goodall praised China for taking the worldwide lead in solar and wind power as well as cleaning up waterways and restoring the environment.

Personal choices

Goodall said every individual makes some impact on the planet every day and all of us have the power of change.

"We can think about what we buy and how it was made. Did it harm the environment? Did it result in cruelty to animals? How far did they come? How much fossil fuel did it take to bring it to us? And do we actually need it?" she said.

She urged people to act quickly to help prevent a climate crisis and save endangered species from extinction, which will harm biodiversity and change habitats.

People should also abandon stressful interactions with animals, such as swimming with dolphins and riding on elephants for the sake of a selfie. This is where education should come in, she said.

Yang Huan, a member of the 100-strong Roots & Shoots group at Lanzhou University of Technology in Gansu province, said the members regularly visit 13 primary schools in the city to try to popularize animal and environmental conservation.

"We clearly feel that children have strong affection for animals," Yang said. "When we talked about animals that need protection in one session, we told them that when elephants bind their trunks together it's one way for them to communicate with and reassure each other. The children really enjoyed the session."

Goodall said it was bizarre that humans, the most intelligent creature, could put people on the moon and push the boundaries of technology, while at the same time destroy their home. This showed a disconnect between the clever brain and the human heart, of love and compassion, she said.

"I believe that only when the head and heart work in harmony can we attain our true human potential," she said.

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