Dr. Jane Goodall’s Reasons for Hope
It is easy to be overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness as we look around the world. We are losing species at a terrible rate, the balance of nature is disturbed, and we are destroying our beautiful planet. We have fear about water supplies, where future energy will come from, and most recently, the developed world has been mired in an economic crisis. But in spite of all this, I do have hope. And my hope is based on four factors:
The Human Brain
Firstly, we have at last begun to understand and face up to the problems that threaten us and the survival of life on Earth as we know it. Surely we can use our problem‐solving abilities, our brains, to find ways to live in harmony with nature. Many companies have begun “greening” their operations, and millions of people worldwide are beginning to realize that each of us has a responsibility to the environment and our descendants. Everywhere I go, I see people making wiser choices, and more responsible ones.
The Indomitable Human Spirit
My second reason for hope lies in the indomitable nature of the human spirit. There are so many people who have dreamed seemingly unattainable dreams and, because they never gave up, achieved their goals against all the odds, or blazed a path along which others could follow. As I travel around the world I meet so many incredible and amazing human beings. They inspire me. They inspire those around them.
The Resilience of Nature
My third reason for hope is the incredible resilience of nature. I have visited Nagasaki, site of the second atomic bomb that ended World War II. Scientists had predicted that nothing could grow there for at least 30 years. But, amazingly, greenery grew very quickly. One sapling actually managed to survive the bombing, and today it is a large tree, with great cracks and fissures, all black inside; but that tree still produces leaves. I carry one of those leaves with me as a powerful symbol of hope. I have seen such renewals time and again, including animal species brought back from the brink of extinction.
The Determination of Young People
My final reason for hope lies in the tremendous energy, enthusiasm and commitment of young people around the world. As they find out about the environmental and social problems that are now a part of their heritage, they want to right the wrongs. Of course they do – they have a vested interest in this for it will be their world tomorrow. They will be moving into leadership positions, into the workforce, becoming parents themselves. Young people—when informed and empowered, when they realize that what they do truly makes a difference—can indeed change the world. We should never underestimate the power of determined young people.
I meet many young people with shining eyes who want to tell Dr. Jane what they’ve been doing, how they are making a difference in their communities. Whether it’s something simple like recycling or collecting trash, or something that requires a lot of effort, like restoring a wetland or prairie, or whether it’s raising money for the local dog shelter, they are a continual source of inspiration. My greatest reason for hope is the spirit and determination of young people; once they know what the problems are and have the tools to take action, they can achieve so much.
Million Solar Stars
With Shanghai Roots & Shoots student leadership and inspiration from the Million Tree Project, the Million Solar Stars initiative is helping bring clean energy to education through the determination and shining spirit of our youth. Million Solar Stars provides rays of hope as it aims to expand solar power education in schools. As we aspire to educate our students with ever‐important science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) lessons, and while we diversify curricula with real‐life, project based learning and Education for Sustainability, wisdom would say, “Look to the spirit, belief, and hope of our youth, and engage creative young minds to help solve global issues.”
So let’s move forward in this new millennium with hope, for without it all we can do is eat and drink the last of our resources as we watch our planet slowly die. Let’s have faith in ourselves, in our intellect, in our staunch spirit and in our young people. And let’s do the work that needs to be done, with love and compassion.”
‐Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE