GEORGE TOWN: Nature’s resilience allows her to bounce back from adversity, but people must first take action and give it a chance.
That was among the main points highlighted in a public talk titled “Reasons For Hope: A Message from Dr Jane Goodall” at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) on Saturday.
The world-renowned primatologist, conservationist and United Nations Messenger of Peace said
the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss could be reversed if humans work together to bring about change.
“Many animals in Malaysia are at risk of extinction, but it is not too late if people care enough, ” she said, pointing to examples like the Malayan Tiger, among others.
Speaking to a near-capacity crowd inside Dewan Tuanku Syed Putra, Goodall said more had to be done about the illegal wildlife trade that was a major contributor to the decline of such creatures.
“The loss of one species can lead to the collapse of an entire ecosystem, ” she said. “Every little species has a role to play in this amazing, interconnected tapestry of life.”
The 85-year-old expressed shock upon learning that in Malaysia, one could buy a baby primate as a pet or to be used for entertainment.
She likened this to forcibly taking a human baby away from his family.
Goodall said it was not too late to reverse the loss of natural forests, which had made way for human settlements, logging, farming and plantations – such as for oil palm in Malaysia.
“Forests are the great lungs of the world. They give us clean air and clean water and provide us with the spiritual strength that we don’t have.
“Fortunately, more and more people are beginning to understand the importance of forests and the importance of protecting and trying to restore them, ” said Goodall, who was on her third visit to Malaysia, but her first to Penang.
Goodall is one of the world’s foremost experts on chimpanzees, having conducted long-term studies on the primates at the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania in the 1960s.
And while the social interactions of chimpanzees have some similarities with humans, what sets us apart is our intellect.
“Our intellect is extraordinary, so why are we destroying our only home?”
She said in some cities, pollution was so bad that few would venture outside, while the reckless burning of greenhouse gases wrapped the planet in a suffocating blanket.
The use of chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides is also poisoning our soil, rivers and oceans. However, she firmly believes all is not lost.
Rays of hope come from the youth-led Roots & Shoots environmental action programme initiated by the Jane Goodall Institute back in 1991.
The programme, which has over 150,000 members in 130 countries, allows people across the globe to effect positive change through small, local projects.
The talk was organised by The Habitat Foundation – a charitable trust based in Penang committed to supporting the conservation of biodiversity and safeguarding the environment – in partnership with Roots & Shoots Malaysia.
It was also supported by USM and the Malaysian Primatological Society and coincided with the university’s 50th anniversary.