UN peace messenger Goodall urges more environmental awareness and action

26 April 2006

Renowned primatologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall has met at UN Headquarters with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who voiced strong support for her advocacy of informed, compassionate action to protect the environment for all living beings.

Mr. Annan “has long supported Jane Goodall’s work on behalf of environmental affairs, particularly those concerning Africa, and he’s been very pleased by her work as a UN peace messenger,” a spokesman for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, said following Tuesday’s meeting.

Among the issues discussed were The Jane Goodall Institute’s youth programme “Roots & Shoots” and her new book, Harvest for Hope. The Institute works with the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and its Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP), an initiative launched in 2001 with the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to save those mammals and their habitat.

Ms. Goodall is motivated by her conviction that individual actions, taken collectively, can be a major force for positive change. “People just think, ‘I am one person it doesn’t matter,’” she told the UN News Service, acknowledging that “if you were one person it wouldn’t – but you’re not. You’re millions, all really wanting to help.”

She emphasized that the combined result of this impulse is powerful. “When you take 6 million people all saving water everyday, 6 million all saying ‘I will not buy polluted food, I won’t buy it! I don’t want my children to be made sick,’ the impact will be felt. If every individual starts acting that way, then it’s going to change the world very fast,” she said.

Ms. Goodall, who travels over 300 days a year, spends most of her time developing her Institute, which is dedicated to wildlife research, education and conservation.

Roots & Shoots, a youth community-centered programme with 8,000 affiliated groups in 90 countries, focuses on environmental, human community and wildlife issues. “Roots and Shoots is very much about breaking down the barriers that we erect between people of different nationalities, religions, cultures and ethnic groups, the barriers we erect between us and the natural world,” she explained.

The UN’s GRASP project “is working with heads of State in Africa where there are chimps and trying to persuade them to enforce the laws which already exist to protect chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos, they are all endangered,” she said.

Ms. Goodall voiced confidence that attitudes have changed. “Breaking down the barriers between us and the animal kingdom used to be seen as a sharp line,” adding that now, major scientific thinkers admit “that it’s a blurry line.”

Jane Goodall was appointed Messenger of Peace by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2002, joining a distinguished group that includes former champion boxer Muhammad Ali, actor Michael Douglas of the United States, former international tennis star Vijay Amritraj of India, and Italian-born opera star Luciano Pavarotti.


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