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  • Chris Anderson: Dr. Jane Goodall, welcome.

  • Jane Goodall: Thank you,

  • and I think, you know, we couldn't have a complete interview

  • unless people know Mr. H is with me,

  • because everybody knows Mr. H.

  • CA: Hello, Mr. H.

  • In your TED Talk 17 years ago,

  • you warned us about the dangers of humans crowding out the natural world.

  • Is there any sense in which you feel

  • that the current pandemic is kind of, nature striking back?

  • JG: It's very, very clear that these zoonotic diseases,

  • like the corona and HIV/AIDS

  • and all sorts of other diseases that we catch from animals,

  • that's partly to do with destruction of the environment,

  • which, as animals lose habitat, they get crowded together

  • and sometimes that means that a virus from a reservoir species,

  • where it's lived harmoniously for maybe hundreds of years,

  • jumps into a new species,

  • then you also get animals being pushed into closer contact with humans.

  • And sometimes one of these animals that has caught a virus can --

  • you know, provides the opportunity for that virus to jump into people

  • and create a new disease, like COVID-19.

  • And in addition to that,

  • we are so disrespecting animals.

  • We hunt them,

  • we kill them, we eat them,

  • we traffic them,

  • we send them off to the wild-animal markets

  • in Asia,

  • where they're in terrible, cramped conditions, in tiny cages,

  • with people being contaminated with blood and urine and feces,

  • ideal conditions for a virus to spill from an animal to an animal,

  • or an animal to a person.

  • CA: I'd love to just dip backwards in time for a bit,

  • because your story is so extraordinary.

  • I mean, despite the arguably even more sexist attitudes of the 1960s,

  • somehow you were able to break through

  • and become one of the world's leading scientists,

  • discovering this astonishing series of facts about chimpanzees,

  • such as their tool use and so much more.

  • What was it about you, do you think,

  • that allowed you to make such a breakthrough?

  • JG: Well, the thing is, I was born loving animals,

  • and the most important thing was, I had a very supportive mother.

  • She didn't get mad when she found earthworms in my bed,

  • she just said they better be in the garden.

  • And she didn't get mad when I disappeared for four hours

  • and she called the police, and I was sitting in a hen house,

  • because nobody would tell me where the hole was where the egg came out.

  • I had no dream of being a scientist,

  • because women didn't do that sort of thing.

  • In fact, there weren't any man doing it back then, either.

  • And everybody laughed at me except Mom,

  • who said, "If you really want this, you're going to have to work awfully hard,

  • take advantage of every opportunity,

  • if you don't give up, maybe you'll find a way."

  • CA: And somehow, you were able to kind of, earn the trust of chimpanzees

  • in the way that no one else had.

  • Looking back, what were the most exciting moments that you discovered

  • or what is it that people still don't get about chimpanzees?

  • JG: Well, the thing is, you say, "See things nobody else had,

  • get their trust."

  • Nobody else had tried.

  • Quite honestly.

  • So, basically, I used the same techniques

  • that I had to study the animals around my home when I was a child.

  • Just sitting, patiently,

  • not trying to get too close too quickly,

  • but it was awful, because the money was only for six months.

  • I mean, you can imagine how difficult to get money

  • for a young girl with no degree,

  • to go and do something as bizarre as sitting in a forest.

  • And you know, finally,

  • we got money for six months from an American philanthropist,

  • and I knew with time I'd get the chimps' trust,

  • but did I have time?

  • And weeks became months and then finally, after about four months,

  • one chimpanzee began to lose his fear,

  • and it was he that on one occasion I saw --

  • I still wasn't really close, but I had my binoculars --

  • and I saw him using and making tools to fish for termites.

  • And although I wasn't terribly surprised,

  • because I've read about things captive chimps could do --

  • but I knew that science believed

  • that humans, and only humans, used and made tools.

  • And I knew how excited [Dr. Louis] Leakey would be.

  • And it was that observation

  • that enabled him to go to the National Geographic,

  • and they said, "OK, we'll continue to support the research,"

  • and they sent Hugo van Lawick, the photographer-filmmaker,

  • to record what I was seeing.

  • So a lot of scientists didn't want to believe the tool-using.

  • In fact, one of them said I must have taught the chimps.

  • (Laughter)

  • Since I couldn't get near them, it would have been a miracle.

  • But anyway, once they saw Hugo's film

  • and that with all my descriptions of their behavior,

  • the scientists had to start changing their minds.

  • CA: And since then, numerous other discoveries

  • that placed chimpanzees much closer to humans than people cared to believe.

  • I think I saw you say at one point that they have a sense of humor.

  • How have you seen that expressed?

  • JG: Well, you see it when they're playing games,

  • and there's a bigger one playing with a little one,

  • and he's trailing a vine around a tree.

  • And every time the little one is about to catch it,

  • the bigger one pulls it away,

  • and the little one starts crying

  • and the big one starts laughing.

  • So, you know.

  • CA: And then, Jane, you observed something much more troubling,

  • which was these instances of chimpanzee gangs,

  • tribes, groups, being brutally violent to each other.

  • I'm curious how you process that.

  • And whether it made you, kind of,

  • I don't know, depressed about us, we're close to them,

  • did it make you feel that violence is irredeemably

  • part of all the great apes, somehow?

  • JG: Well, it obviously is.

  • And my first encounter with human, what I call evil,

  • was the end of the war

  • and the pictures from the Holocaust.

  • And you know, that really shocked me.

  • That changed who I was.

  • I was 10, I think, at the time.

  • And when the chimpanzees,

  • when I realized they have this dark, brutal side,

  • I thought they were like us but nicer.

  • And then I realized they're even more like us

  • than I had thought.

  • And at that time, in the early '70s,

  • it was very strange,

  • aggression, there was a big thing

  • about, is aggression innate or learned.

  • And it became political.

  • And it was, I don't know, it was a very strange time,

  • and I was coming out, saying,

  • "No, I think aggression is definitely

  • part of our inherited repertoire of behaviors."

  • And I asked a very respected scientist what he really thought,

  • because he was coming out on the clean slate,

  • aggression is learned,

  • and he said, "Jane, I'd rather not talk about what I really think."

  • That was a big shock as far as science was concerned for me.

  • CA: I was brought up to believe a world of all things bright and beautiful.

  • You know, numerous beautiful films of butterflies and bees and flowers,

  • and you know, nature as this gorgeous landscape.

  • And many environmentalists often seem to take the stance,

  • "Yes, nature is pure, nature is beautiful, humans are bad,"

  • but then you have the kind of observations that you see,

  • when you actually look at any part of nature in more detail,

  • you see things to be terrified by, honestly.

  • What do you make of nature, how do you think of it,

  • how should we think of it?

  • JG: Nature is, you know,

  • I mean, you think of the whole spectrum of evolution,

  • and there's something about going to a pristine place,

  • and Africa was very pristine when I was young.

  • And there were animals everywhere.

  • And I never liked the fact that lions killed,

  • they have to, I mean, that's what they do,

  • if they didn't kill animals, they would die.

  • And the big difference between them and us, I think,

  • is that they do what they do because that's what they have to do.

  • And we can plan to do things.

  • Our plans are very different.

  • We can plan to cut down a whole forest,

  • because we want to sell the timber,

  • or because we want to build another shopping mall,

  • something like that.

  • So our destruction of nature and our warfare,

  • we're capable of evil because we can sit comfortably

  • and plan the torture of somebody far away.

  • That's evil.

  • Chimpanzees have a sort of primitive war,

  • and they can be very aggressive,

  • but it's of the moment.

  • It's how they feel.

  • It's response to an emotion.

  • CA: So your observation of the sophistication of chimpanzees

  • doesn't go as far as what some people would want to say

  • is the sort of the human superpower,

  • of being able to really simulate the future in our minds in great detail

  • and make long-term plans.

  • And act to encourage each other to achieve those long-term plans.

  • That that feels, even to someone who spent so much time with chimpanzees,

  • that feels like a fundamentally different skill set

  • that we just have to take responsibility for

  • and use much more wisely than we do.

  • JG: Yes, and I personally think,

  • I mean, there's a lot of discussion about this,

  • but I think it's a fact that we developed the way of communication

  • that you and I are using.

  • And because we have words,

  • I mean, animal communication is way more sophisticated

  • than we used to think.

  • And chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans

  • can learn human sign language of the Deaf.

  • But we sort of grow up speaking whatever language it is.

  • So I can tell you about things that you've never heard of.

  • And a chimpanzee couldn't do that.

  • And we can teach our children about abstract things.

  • And chimpanzees couldn't do that.

  • So yes, chimpanzees can do all sorts of clever things,

  • and so can elephants and so can crows and so can octopuses,

  • but we design rockets that go off to another planet

  • and little robots taking photographs,

  • and we've designed this extraordinary way of you and me talking

  • in our different parts of the world.

  • When I was young, when I grew up,

  • there was no TV, there were no cell phones,

  • there was no computers.

  • It was such a different world,

  • I had a pencil, pen and notebook, that was it.

  • CA: So just going back to this question about nature,

  • because I think about this a lot,

  • and I struggle with this, honestly.

  • So much of your work, so much of so many people who I respect,

  • is about this passion for trying not to screw up the natural world.

  • So is it possible, is it healthy, is it essential, perhaps,

  • to simultaneously accept that many aspects of nature

  • are terrifying,

  • but also, I don't know, that it's awesome,

  • and that some of the awesomeness comes from its potential to be terrifying

  • and that it is also just breathtakingly beautiful,

  • and that we cannot be ourselves, because we are part of nature,

  • we cannot be whole

  • unless we somehow embrace it and are part of it?

  • Help me with the language, Jane, on how that relationship should be.

  • JG: Well, I think one of the problems is, you know, as we developed our intellect,

  • and we became better and better

  • at modifying the environment for our own use,

  • and creating fields and growing crops

  • where it used to be forest or woodland,

  • and you know, we won't go into that now,

  • but we have this ability to change nature.

  • And as we've moved more into towns and cities,

  • and relied more on technology,

  • many people feel so divorced from the natural world.

  • And there's hundreds, thousands of children

  • growing up in inner cities,

  • where there basically isn't any nature,