Reasons to revisit Jane Goodall’s ‘Reason for Hope’ on International Book Lovers Day.

The Jane Goodall Institute shared a tweet early this morning, on Book Lovers Day, asking followers to name their favourite Goodall book.

The colouring book Me . . . Jane, an early primer for her students’ Roots and Shoots program, was always going to prove popular with children. 

In the troubled times in which we find ourselves, though, it was always likely to be her 1999 memoir Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey that was going to jump to the fore. Not so much a straight biography as an account of a spiritual epiphany, Reason for Hope is both an appeal to our better natures and shared words of advice about how anyone and everyone can find a reason to hope.

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The ground-breaking — if controversial — primatologist whose pioneering work with the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream, Tanzania in the early 1960s changed the way we look at our closest biological relatives has always been one to swim against the tide of mainstream thinking. Where many choose to see only darkness and destruction, Goodall has always preferred to find that glimmer of light at the end of a long, seemingly dark tunnel, however faint that light may be.

In Reason for Hope — a good book to revisit on International Book Lovers Day — and through her Institute (janegoodall.org), and throughout her periodic lecture tours around the world, she hits the same grace  notes, over and over again.

Perhaps, one day, we’ll figure them out on our own.

Goodall’s words:

The Human Brain.

“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." 

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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. The [2016] presidential election in the U.S. (was) one example. As I travel around the world I meet so many incredible and amazing human beings. They inspire me. They inspire those around them." 

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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." 

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The Determination of Today’s 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 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, something that requires a lot of effort, like restoring a wetland or a 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. 

"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 Institute

©Jane Goodall Institute

Goodall’s published works span six decades, from My Friends the Wild Chimpanzees (1969) through In the Shadow of Man (1971) to, more recently, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink (2009) and Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants (2013).

Her books have been published in 48 languages,.

It’s Reason for Hope, though, which is most pertinent today, on Book Lovers Day, in the second year of Our Lord, Trumplandia.

“Each one of us matters,” Goodall wrote in Reason for Hope. “(Each one of us) has a role to play, and makes a difference. Each one of us must take responsibility for our own lives, and above all, show respect and love for living things around us. . . . 

“It is these undeniable qualities of human love and compassion and self-sacrifice that give me hope for the future. We are, indeed, often cruel and evil. Nobody can deny this. We gang up on each one another, we torture each other, with words as well as deeds, we fight, we kill. But we are also capable of the most noble, generous, and heroic behaviour.

“We have a responsibility toward the other life-forms of our planet whose continued existence is threatened by the thoughtless behaviour of our own human species. . . . Environmental responsibility – for if there is no God, then, obviously, it is up to us to put things right.”