The antidote to inaction on environmental issues, according to Jane Goodall, is hope.
Goodall, the scientist, conservationist and activist known for her research on chimpanzee behavior, made a stop in Utah on Thursday to encourage residents, particularly young people, to take action to combat climate change, improve air quality and preserve public lands.
“Every individual makes a difference every day,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune in a phone interview prior to her speaking engagement.
“We have a choice,” she said. “What do we buy? What do we eat? What do we wear? Did it harm the environment, involve animal cruelty or child labor? And do you actually need it — we have so much waste.”
Goodall, who has been traveling the world promoting environmental issues, said this would be her fourth or fifth trip to Utah. She said she has followed local issues in the news, including the president’s shrinking and dividing of Bears Ears and Grande Staircase-Escalante national monuments into smaller parcels, which she called “tragic.”
Utahns should be writing letters and organizing demonstrations to urge their legislators to protect public lands, Goodall said.
Though government action on environmental issues such as air quality and climate change may seem slow in the Beehive State, Goodall encouraged environmentally-minded Utahns to continue agitating — nonviolently — for change.
“The most important thing is not to give up,” she said.
Goodall has launched the Roots & Shoots program that encourages young people throughout the world to lead projects that improve the wellbeing of people, animals and the environment in their communities. She pointed to the recent youth demonstrations against gun violence as evidence of the power young people have.
“It’s their future that’s at stake, and we’ve messed it up,” she said.
Through their activism, Goodall said, children are changing the attitudes of their parents and grandparents.
Goodall said she wanted to reach Utahn’s hearts, to give them hope in order to prevent inaction.
“Many people don’t take action because they feel helpless,” she said. “So the message is, don’t feel helpless — every day you make a difference. You have to give people hope, because if you lose hope, you do nothing.”