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Jane Goodall would love to pet your dog, if that’s okay

Here’s how the primatologist and activist keeps motivated for the fight ahead.

Jane Goodall would love to pet your dog, if that’s okay
Jane Goodall, Primatologist and founder, Jane Goodall Institute [Photo: Marco Grob/Trunk Archive]

Gradually, awareness about the harm we have inflicted on the planet has been growing. But while a few take action, most people do nothing. Why? Because they feel hopeless and helpless. “What can I do about it?” they say to themselves. So they do nothing and sink into apathy. The most important message I have for these people is to help them understand that every single day, each of us makes some impact on the planet—and we can choose what sort of impact we make. It is the cumulative effect of millions—or billions—of ethical choices regarding what we buy (especially concerning our diet) that will move us toward a better world. Of course, some people—decision makers in government, CEOs of big corporations, and so on—can make individual choices that will have a huge impact.

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I am motivated to carry on [with this work] because I care passionately about the natural world, animals, future generations. I know that my talks, meetings, and so on make a difference—otherwise I would stop right now. I hate the traveling [which she does up to 300 days a year]. But after almost every lecture, someone, usually many, will tell me that I have changed their lives, that they promise to do their bit. Video messages and Skype-ins are effective, but everyone says it is different if I am there in person. And I am 85—closer to the end. So while my body agrees, I must make use of that precious time. And, if anything, speed up and not slow down. Also, of course, I’m obstinate and will fight to the end.

Time she gets up: “There is no such thing in my life as a ‘typical’ day, but I’m usually awake by 6 a.m.”

First thing she does in the morning: “If possible, I make coffee. I take a water-heating coil with me [when I travel], filter papers, and filter—they’re light. Then I’ll take a saved roll or piece of bread from the day before and make toast on [an] upside-down iron—always meticulously cleaned afterward.”

What keeps her going: “Precious moments when I can have a quick walk in nature. I always hope to meet and greet a dog, get a ‘dog fix’—any old dog whose owner agrees.”

What she does on flights: “Long flights are my favorite—I can catch up with emails (off­line, using Outlook, for sending later) and write forewords for people’s books or ‘Notes From the Road’ for the Jane Goodall Institute and [my youth-focused nonprofit] Roots and Shoots. Or sometimes it is necessary to catch up on sleep. I upgrade to business [class] on air miles, but I hate first class on long flights. I’m not that kind of person.”

Last thing she does at night: “I often play an audiobook, and if it’s one I know, I usually drift off. It stops circling thoughts, takes my mind off of worries.”

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Time she goes to bed: 11 p.m. at the earliest.

A version of this article appeared in the Winter 2019/2020 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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