Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Dr. Jane Goodall (@JaneGoodallInst), who, at the young age of 26, followed her passion for animals and Africa to Gombe, Tanzania, where she began her landmark study of chimpanzees in the wild, immersing herself in their habitat as a neighbor rather than a distant observer. Her discovery in 1960 that chimpanzees make and use tools rocked the scientific world and redefined the relationship between humans and animals.
In 1977, she established the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) to advance her work around the world and for generations to come. JGI continues the field research at Gombe and builds on Dr. Goodall’s innovative approach to conservation, which recognizes the central role that people play in the well-being of animals and the environment. In 1991, she founded Roots & Shoots, a global program that empowers young people in nearly 60 countries to act as the informed conservation leaders that the world so urgently needs.
Today, Dr. Goodall travels the world, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees, environmental crises, and her reasons for hope. In her books and speeches, she emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living things and the collective power of individual action. Dr. Goodall is a UN Messenger of Peace and Dame Commander of the British Empire.
The next chapter of Dr. Jane Goodall’s life’s work unfolds in a brand-new documentary, Jane Goodall: The Hope, on Nat Geo, Nat Geo WILD, and Nat Geo Mundo. The two-hour special takes viewers through the chapters of Dr. Goodall’s journey in the 60 years since her groundbreaking discoveries researching wild chimpanzees in Gombe, including her activism, creation of her non-profit organization, the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), and Roots & Shoots youth program, along with her current efforts to inspire the next generation.
Dr. Goodall’s work through the Jane Goodall Institute is advanced through the generous support of people like you and me. To show your support, visit janegoodall.org/tim.
Transcripts may contain a few typos—with some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors.
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Tim Ferriss: Dr. Goodall, welcome to the show.
Jane Goodall: Thank you very much.
Tim Ferriss: I’m thrilled to finally connect. I don’t use the word hero much, but you’ve certainly been a hero and an idol to me for many decades. In a previous lifetime, I wanted to be a marine biologist. And I am also very lucky in a sense that I have you in one place because your team has told me that you travel and have traveled 300+ days a year for the last several decades. But my understanding now is that you are in Bournemouth. And I thought we would start perhaps close to the beginning, and this certainly takes place in England. Just as context from your childhood, I understand that you grew up during wartime and I would love to hear you describe what that experience was like.
Jane Goodall: Well, I’m really glad I grew up at that time. Because although it was shocking, I mean we were in Bournemouth, but some bombs were dropped here that the German fighters used to dump their bombs near the coast if they hadn’t managed to hit the target, and we’re sort of in the middle. We heard the bombs falling. We had sirens, air raid warnings. We had to go into an air raid shelter, which was a little tiny cage really, supposed to be keeping people safe. Families with children were issued them. And people were killed and damaged. And we never knew where the bombs would fall in London. My uncle was a surgeon, so he’d come back every other weekend with shocking tales of what had been happening.
But the reason I say I was glad I grew up then is because I learned to take nothing for granted. One square of chocolate was a huge treat. Food was rationed. Clothes were rationed. We had very little money. There was no television. The only television were the newsreels, that was just about the war. And so books became very, very important. And I still got my childhood books. They’re here with me in the room as I speak to you.
And so we luckily had this garden, it was my grandmother’s house, and I spent lots and lots of time out there with my dog. The really shocking part was hearing about the Holocaust and seeing photographs of the skeletons of the Jews when the camps were opened up — I mean the skeletons of living people. And that really, it changed everything and I started thinking at age 10 about good and evil. That was my growing up in the war.
Tim Ferriss: As you were growing up, I read a number of stories that seem to, in a sense, foreshadow much of what would come later. But I read stories of your mother finding you observing earthworms in your bed, I read of stories of you hiding and waiting for more than four hours to see a hen laying an egg and the police almost being called because you were missing. Is that comfort with patience, and on some level, isolation, something that you developed yourself? Is that something you’ve observed in other family members? I would love to hear you comment on that if you could.
Jane Goodall: It was just me. I mean, all the family loved animals, but they didn’t observe them or watch them, or I didn’t have any example at all. I was just born that way, and the luck was having such a supportive mother. I mean, earthworms in my bed, imagine all the earth and the muck. And lots of mothers would have been horrified and thrown them out of the window, but she just very quietly said, “You know they’ll die here.” And we took them back in the garden.
And then the henhouse story, it’s one I tell a lot because we went to stay on a farm in the country and I was given the job of collecting hens’ eggs, and it was a proper farm. There were no animals cooped up in tiny, prisonlike quarters and animal concentration camps. They were free-roaming in the field and the hens in the farmyard, but they lay their eggs in these little henhouses. And apparently I began asking everybody, “But where does the egg come out?” Nobody told me.
I distinctly remember seeing this hen go into a hen house and I crawled after her, and with squawks of fear, she flew out. I can still feel her wings hitting my face. And I must have thought in that little four-and-a-half-year-old brain, “Well, no hen will lay an egg here. It’s a dangerous place.” So I waited. That was the time. I waited and waited in this empty hen house, but I was rewarded. The hen came in, and I didn’t know the family had been worried.
I was rushing towards the house and there was Mum. You can imagine how worried she was having nearly called the police. But instead of, “How dare you go after — don’t you dare do that again,” which would have killed the magic, she sat down to hear this amazing story. And the reason I love it is there’s the making of a little scientist: curiosity, asking questions, not getting the right answer, deciding to find out for yourself, making a mistake, not giving up, and learning patience. A different kind of mother might have crushed that early scientific curiosity, and I might not have done what I’ve done.
Tim Ferriss: And it seemed to really cultivate not just ability but perseverance with observation. And in watching footage of you, and we’ll certainly get to Africa and other experiences in your biography, that you appear to have many sensitivities. And I could be off base with that, but I want to ask you a bit more about your mother. Because in reading a New York Times profile from, I suppose, about a year ago, there was one paragraph that caught my eye, and it was related to your childhood during wartime and related to your father’s brother, Rex, who had joined the Air Force and was killed. And the sentence that caught my eye was, “One day we were in Bournemouth in the evening and suddenly she — your mother — screamed, ‘Rex’ and started sobbing hysterically. And it was the very moment he was shot down over Egypt.” So just for clarity, is that to say that she somehow intuited that he had been shot down before receiving news?
Jane Goodall: Oh, absolutely. I mean, nope, we didn’t know for quite some time, and there other occasions. We were walking on the beach and normally we had to go up to our little guest house the quickest way. But on this occasion Mum decided to take the long way, which she never did because she had a weak heart, but she took us the long way. I still remember looking up at the blue, blue sky and seeing an aeroplane quite high and seeing two black things that looked like cigars coming out on each side. And Mum threw me and my sister to the ground. I can still hear the terrible explosion, and one of those bombs fell right on the path where we would surely have been if we’d gone the short way, the normal way.
Tim Ferriss: Have you experienced any of that, for lack of a better word, intuition in your own life, in the field or elsewhere? Or is that something that was unique to your mother?
Jane Goodall: Well, it’s pretty unique to her, but I experienced very vividly the presence of my second husband after he died and it ties in with what other people have seen and felt. In other words, we’re going into sort of a different realm here, but I don’t know what people believe and I’m not quite sure what it all means, myself. People have been asking me, “What’s your next big adventure?” And I always say dying because when we die there’s either nothing, which is fine, or there’s something. And if there’s something, what an adventure to find out.
Tim Ferriss: You have had more adventures than most, and I suppose this is a good time for those who certainly recognize your name, I think almost everyone will recognize your name and they’ll know that you’re considered to be one of the world’s foremost experts on chimpanzees. But beyond that, I think many people don’t know about the early chapters, and I’d like to segue to that because it opens up a number of doors that we can explore. Let’s flash back if we could to March 1957, and I believe your passport is missing. Can you explain what has happened?
Jane Goodall: Well, we’d done our last minute shopping and, of course, in those days there weren’t planes going back and forth — that’s how long I’ve lived! And it was by boat, and we were actually on a, I suppose, a train or bus or something. I can’t remember the details. And suddenly, I found I didn’t have my passport, and I remembered we’d been shopping in Peter Jones, and so Mum rang up, the shop said they’d found it. We found somebody to go and collect it, who rushed to the dock. Otherwise, I couldn’t have sailed and all my money would have been wasted. What a drama! What a way to start.
Tim Ferriss: And that money, just for those who aren’t familiar, that was painstakingly gathered over a rather long period of time with various jobs, was it not? It’s not like you had this in a bank account just waiting to be used for whatever purpose for a long period of time.
Jane Goodall: When I left school, there was no money for university and I had to have a job. We had very little money. I first of all did a secretarial course, which was boring, but I got my diploma. I got a job and then came the letter from a school friend inviting me to Kenya. You couldn’t save money in London, so I went home and got a job as a waitress in a hotel around the corner, very hard work in those days. Families coming to spend a week by the seaside and you’ve got to look after them for a whole week if you wanted any certain — the tips were small, but I made sure they all knew I was saving up for Africa. That’s how I got the money.
Tim Ferriss: I would love just to spend a moment, and we don’t have to spend a lot of time on this, but discussing Louis Leakey. And I’ve read various accounts of how you connected with him, but I’d like to hear it directly from you, and perhaps you could describe what it was that he saw in you. But that initial contact and how that came to be is of great interest to me. If you could speak to that, I would appreciate it.
Jane Goodall: Okay. Well, I’d been staying with my friend for about, I suppose, a couple of months and somebody said to me at a party, “If you’re interested in animals, you really should meet Louis Leakey.” He was curator at that time of the Natural History Museum. But of course, he’s best known as a very imminent paleontologist. He’d spent his life with his second wife, Mary Leakey, searching for the fossils of Stone Age ancestors across Africa. I was very shy back then, but I rang the museum and said, “I’d love to make an appointment to meet Dr. Leakey.” And a voice said, “I’m Leakey. What do you want?” But anyway, I was so passionate about animals.
Anyway, I went to see him and he took me all around. He asked me many questions about the stuffed animals that were there. And I think he was impressed that, because I’d read everything I could about Africa, I could answer so many of his questions. Well, I’d mentioned earlier that boring secretarial course that I did. Two days before I met Leakey, his secretary had suddenly quit. He needed a secretary, and there I was. I mean, you never know in this life. So I’m just suddenly surrounded by people who can answer all my questions about the mammals and birds and the reptiles, the amphibians, the insects, the plants. It was Heaven.
Oh, you asked Leakey, what did he see in me? He had a feeling that women made better observers. He thought they were more patient. He also wanted somebody to go and study chimpanzees because of his interest in human evolution, the fossils of early man that he was uncovering. You can tell a lot from a fossil, about whether the creature walked upright and muscle attachments, the wear of the tooth shows you roughly the kind of diet, but behavior doesn’t fossilize.
He reckoned there was an apelike, humanlike common ancestor about six million years ago, just now generally accepted. And that he thought, well, if Jane finds behavior in chimps and humans today that is similar or the same, maybe it came directly from the common ancestor and has been with us through our long, separate evolutionary journeys. In which case, he could have a better way of imagining how his early humans used to behave. He wanted a mind uncluttered by the reductionist thinking of the animal behavior of people at the time. It was a very new science. They were anxious to make it a hard science, which it shouldn’t be. And so the fact I hadn’t been to college was a plus, and the fact that I was a woman was a plus. I just hit it lucky.
Tim Ferriss: Well, he seems to have picked the winning lottery ticket or at least a very formidable combination of traits. And if we take that mention of patience or his belief that in part women make better observers because of more patience, if we flash forward then to you landing in Gombe Stream National Park Tanzania, if I’m from getting the pronunciation correct. I was watching it at the first Nat Geo, or maybe not the first, but one of the more recent Nat Geo documentaries about you titled Jane, and in that, and also in your writing, I believe it took something like five months of constant effort and having chimpanzees flee from your presence to finally be what we might call accepted.
I have two questions related to that. The first is, what do you think made the difference? Why did they go from fleeing to accepting? And second is, when you first really had the opportunity to look deeply into a chimpanzee’s eyes, what did you see, and just as importantly, what did you feel?
Jane Goodall: All right. Well, the acceptance in the movie, it sort of looked as though they suddenly accepted me. It wasn’t like that. It was very gradual, and it was partly thanks to this one male who began to lose his fear much ahead of the others and I called him David Greybeard because he had a lovely white beard. And because he began to let me get closer and closer, I think if I came to a group in the forest and he was with that group — because they separate into separate small groups and sometimes alone — but if he was there then the others were ready to run, but he was sitting calmly and I suppose that made them feel, “Well, she can’t be so dangerous after all.” Gradually I could get closer.
And the first time I came close to a group that didn’t run away I think was one of the proudest moments of my life. I’d made it just in time before the six-months money ran out. And so the fact that I’d seen David Greybeard use and make tools to fish for termites, thought to be something only humans were capable of, that’s what brought The Geographic in right at the beginning, six months after the study began, and they agreed to go on funding it.
Tim Ferriss: Was David Greybeard the first chimpanzee that you were able to get close enough to sort of connect eye to eye with?
Jane Goodall: Yes, definitely.
Tim Ferriss: What did you see and feel when you had that opportunity?
Jane Goodall: Well, I saw that I was looking into the eyes of a thinking, feeling being, and it was not so surprising as you might think because I had always felt that animals were thinking, feeling beings. But with a chimpanzee, they’re so like us, behaviorally and biologically. It’s not like looking at another human, it’s different and I can’t explain how it’s different. But it was a very magical moment because he looked back. That was the thing. He didn’t run. He just sat there and looked back at me.
Tim Ferriss: I would love to ask questions about what we might learn and what perhaps you’ve learned about human nature or even questions that have been raised in your interactions and observations of chimpanzees. And you mentioned it briefly, but it’s hard to overstate just how incredible and shocking and world-shattering for many people it was that you observed chimpanzees, not just using tools but constructing tools for, in this case, consuming termites. I mean, it made news around the world.
You had many other observations. I believe also that either the belief that chimpanzees were purely vegetarians — also you observed not to be the case with their consumption of other primates.
Jane Goodall: Apes.
Tim Ferriss: Exactly. And you noted, and I know this was a real, in some eyes, a faux pas, at the time, real personalities and you might’ve been accused of anthropomorphism and all of these things, but you observed different personalities in different chimpanzees. I thought perhaps we could just start with a story and that is the story of Old Man and Marc Cusano, if I’m getting the pronunciation right. And then I have questions about a few other chimpanzees you personally had quite a bit of interaction with.
Jane Goodall: Okay. Well, Marc Cusano and Old Man, this was on an island in Lion Country Safari in Florida. And Old Man had been in a medical research lab. He’d been captured from the wild. His mother was shot and he was called Old Man because an infant chimp who’s distressed and frightened, they have wrinkled faces and they huddle and they do look very old. And he was lucky. He was about 12 and for some reason he was no more use to the lab. And he was put on an island with three females, two of them from medical research, one from a circus.
And Marc Cusano was employed to look after them and he was told, “Don’t go anywhere near them. They’re vicious. They hate people. They’re much stronger than you. They’ll kill you.” So he threw food from his little paddle boat onto the island and began watching them. And a baby was born, so Old Man was the father. And he felt, “These are such amazing beings. I must have some kind of relationship with them if I’m to look after them.”
So he began going closer and closer. And one day, he held out a banana in his hand. When Old Man took it, he said, “I know how you felt when David took a banana from you.” One day he went onto the island, one day he groomed Old Man, one day they played. And Old Man — laughed. And they became basically, it was a friendship.
And then one day Marc slipped. It had been raining. He fell flat on his face. Unfortunately, frightened this infant who was the love of Old Man’s life; Old Man used to protect him and carry him and share food. Well, the mother, hearing her child scream, raced and attacked Marc, biting into his neck. The other two females to support her, ran in, one bit his wrist, one bit his leg. And Marc thought, “Well, how on earth am I going to get away from them?” Because they’re much stronger than us.
He looked up and he saw Old Man thundering across the island with a furious scowl on his face, and he thought his time had come to die; he’d come to protect his precious infant. But what Old Man did was to pull those three screaming, wild females off Marc and keep them away while Marc dragged himself to safety.
And I met Marc when he came out of hospital. He said, “No question, Old Man saved my life.” And so I always think if a chimpanzee who’s been abused by people can reach out to help a human friend in time of need, then surely we with our greater capacity for compassion, can do the same to the chimpanzees in their time of need.
Tim Ferriss: Thank you for telling that story and it’s, I think, a useful and beautiful segue into a discussion of some of the other things that you observed. And in this case we see compassion on the part of Old Man and then perhaps on the other hand, you’ve also observed quite a lot of aggression and violence within chimpanzee communities. The, I think it was 1974 to ’78 Gombe Chimpanzee War, I saw footage of, I think it was the Southern troop being annihilated or at least the dead bodies of those chimps. I believe, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that in some cases dominant females will deliberately kill the young of other females to maintain dominance. Observing that in chimpanzees, but also observing the compassion as you have, what has that led you to believe or infer about human nature?
Jane Goodall: Well, it’s interesting. When I began talking about that aggression, many scientists told me I should play that down because it might indicate that aggression in humans was inherited from our past ancestors — which for me was very clearly the case. And I thought, well, I’m not going to be bullied, and I never have been by scientific opinion. So I continued to talk about it and it was a time, you wouldn’t remember, it was 1977 I think, and it was a time when, where the aggression is innate, inborn, or acquired, learned, was a huge controversy. And that’s when I first really talked about it to a scientific community. And I don’t know, I mean it seems obvious to me that we’ve inherited from our common ancestor traits of aggression and also traits of compassion and empathy.
Tim Ferriss: To what extent, if we take an example from your personal experience and I know very little about Frodo, but Frodo seems to have been amongst the chimpanzees you had exposure to. One of the more aggressive, but I’d love to hear you speak to this, and how would you explain the variance among chimpanzees? Was it also in — appear to be innate? Did it seem to stem from some type of trauma? How did you think about that and perhaps Frodo specifically?
Jane Goodall: Well, they’re all different. Some are much more aggressive than others, just like we are. And Frodo was spoiled. He was a spoiled brat. His mother was the highest ranking female at the time, Fifi. He had two, he had one older brother who always came to his defense, as did Fifi. And so he always got his own way and he was a real bully. So if there were two young ones playing, same age as him perhaps, and he came to join them, they would stop playing immediately because they knew if he entered the game he’d suddenly become rough and cause one of them to be hurt. So it wasn’t just humans, field assistants, and especially me that he targeted with his displays, hitting over, dragging. I got it worst of all. I was stamped upon. But he was not trying really to hurt me. He was trying to assert his dominance. And I guess they don’t realize quite how strong they are. I mean if he wanted to kill me I wouldn’t be speaking to you now, that’s for sure.
Tim Ferriss: And is the assertion of dominance, and I don’t know how much of this is conscious and I don’t know how one would even know, but is that, is that a conscious or potentially conscious political maneuver to get better access to resources and so on? Or is it really just a conditioned behavior based on as you said, being spoiled and that just being some type of primitive drive that they have and perhaps even we have?
Jane Goodall: Because Frodo’s brother before him became the top ranking male and Freud had a very different character. He was reflective. He became dominant not through aggression but from being smart. Some of the males get to the top by sheer aggression, by bullying, by swaggering about, waving their arms. They remind me so much of some human politicians! It’s not true, but there are other males who get to the top by skillfully forming alliances and they only tackle a higher ranking male when their ally is there to support them. And then there are some who just persist. They persist in charging towards groups of superior males who are grooming each other, startling them so that they run away. And in the end, this was Goblin, and I think the other males thought, “Well, he’s just going to go on doing this. All right, let’s just let him get to the top. We don’t care anymore.” That’s how it seemed and he reigned for 10 years. And he was small and he wasn’t very aggressive at all.
Tim Ferriss: You are, I think for many people, a messenger of hope. And I personally swing quite often, more often than I would like between having faith in humankind, human nature, and feeling as though we are perhaps hard-coded, or through DNA destined to at times revert to our lesser selves, lowest selves, most aggressive, selfish selves. How have you formed your own thinking or I should say what is, what is your thinking about human nature and where it has led us and how that relates to perhaps poor decisions and good decisions that we’ve made that have landed us where we are? Certainly you’re in your childhood home, spending more time in England now than you have in decades. I’m also in lockdown. But how after your many decades of observation, of not just chimpanzees but humans, where do you currently stand on thinking about human nature?
Jane Goodall: Well, I find sadly that there are some people who really cast a very bad light on human beings if we looked down from another planet. And that’s, I mean, as I told you earlier, I was so shocked about the Holocaust and that’s what made me think about human evil. And the way we differ from the chimps is that chimps can be aggressive and chimps can kill, but it’s something that’s roused in them. It’s a strong emotion and they just display and attack. But human beings can sit, and think, and plan deliberate torture, mental and physical, in cold blood. And that I think is where we differ, and it changes from aggression to evil.
And it’s a dichotomy. I mean some people are saintly, and patient, and do good. And other people are the opposite. And unfortunately today we have many presidents and prime ministers who seem to be more concerned for their own advancement, their own careers, their own power, their own acquisition of wealth than for the good of the people who elected them. So we’re both. And it’s going to be a race, isn’t it? As to which side will win. And if the greedy materialism of the capitalist materialistic world wins, then we’re doomed. And this is why I spend so much of my time trying to grow our program for young people because I would say almost none of the young people who’ve been through this program, which began in ’91 and is now in six countries and is kindergarten through university and I don’t know of more than two who’ve strayed from the path of having good values, respect for nature, respect for each other. So I want to grow more and more of these young people because they’re the future and we’ve been stealing their future for decades.
Tim Ferriss: And this is the Roots & Shoots youth program that you’re referring to?
Jane Goodall: Yes.
Tim Ferriss: Rootsandshoots.org, I’ll also put that in the show notes for everyone of course. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. And as it relates to youth program, the cultivation of minds that are inclined to bend towards the light instead of the darkness or towards good instead of evil. I know those are very strong words, but let’s use them for now. If we’re looking at the current situation as it relates to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 and so on, could you speak to what got us into this fix? And I mean I’m thinking of course the wildlife trade, its effects on human health and so on. It doesn’t need to be specific to that. But how we got here, how we contributed to it, and then also if you’re teaching youth how you would educate them so that they don’t make the same mistakes?
Jane Goodall: Okay. Well you sort of asked three questions there.
Tim Ferriss: I did. I did. It’s a bit of a sloppy question. Sorry about that.
Jane Goodall: Let’s start with the COVID-19 because that’s on everybody’s minds right now. And the shocking thing is it’s been predicted by science for decades just like climate change has been predicted. And I only wish that somehow there’d been lockdown about climate change the way that there’s been lockdown over this spread of this virus. Because we have known for all this time that because we are destroying the environment of some of these animals, they’re spending, they’re having to spend more time in contact with each other because they’ve got less habitat and also more time in contact with humans. And sometimes that involves cooperating, but there’s also people penetrating deeper and hunting. And then of course selling the meat in the African markets, bushmeat, and then selling meat across Asia, in these terrible, what they’re known as wet markets, and also selling animals for medication, for pets. All of this bringing us in close contact.
So the theory seems to be that there’s a virus in a wild animal and because of this closer contact between animals, it jumps into another animal. And that’s when in these very bad conditions, including factory farms, by the way, the virus can then jump into a human if there is a similar kind of virus with which this new one can bind. And that leads to a new form, which as is the case with COVID-19, can be rather devastating. But just think if we treated climate change like this all those years ago when we were warned about it, we might not be in the state we’re in now. So basically what I’m saying is our leaders have not listened to science. The big corporations have not listened to science. And hundreds of people, now we’re in this materialistic money-grabbing age, just want to carry on with business as usual. They don’t want to think about not eating all the meat they want or not favoring the destruction of a piece of habitat to build yet another shopping mall.
So that’s what this virus is teaching us. And will we learn from it? We didn’t seem to learn from SARS. The markets where live animals were banned for a while, but then it started up again. China is now talking about making it permanent, but they’re still allowing animals, wild animals, to be sold for medicine. So that’s a tremendous loophole. Luckily people in China want to close that loophole too.
Tim Ferriss: And if you have a classroom, and as you do now with social media, I mean you are arguably reaching more people now virtually than you might traveling, in travel speaking to live audiences, but let’s just say you had a classroom of 10,000 children, or adolescents, youth who were hanging on your every word. What are the sort of principles or truths that you would infuse in your lessons to them that could possibly help avoid some of these problems that we’ve created or types of thinking? What would the curriculum look like?
Jane Goodall: Well, first of all, let me just say that Roots & Shoots, which began in 1991 with 12 high school students in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, we decided at a meeting, because they were worried about poaching in the parks, and illegal dynamite fishing, and street children, and cruel treatment of animals in the market. I mean they were concerned about all kinds of different things. So we decided that the main message of this new program that we wanted to start together would be that every single individual matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference every single day with a choice as to what kind of difference to make. Right from the beginning, because I learned about the interconnection of things in the rainforest, how every species matters and has a role to play, we decided that every group formed would choose between them three projects, one to help people, one to help animals, one to help the environment, and they would share their projects with each other.
And so we began listening to them. What did they feel mattered? How could we help them? And when young people understand the problems and we empower them to take action and listen to their voices, it’s quite extraordinary. I mean, my main reason for hope is traveling around the world, as I have been. I’ve met so many young people, they’ve been part of Roots & Shoots or similar groups, shining eyes, wanting to tell Dr. Jane what they’ve been doing to make this a better world. And because they can choose, they’re passionate and they sit down together and they discuss it. It’s very democratic. They discuss what they can do between them. They sometimes ask for help, maybe a parent, maybe a teacher, and then they roll up their sleeves and take action. Whether it’s restoring a wetland, whether it’s installing rubbish bins or organic gardens in the schools, whether it’s saving up money to help earthquake victims, and because we put them in touch with each other face to face when possible, but virtually, which is wonderful, they are inspiring each other.
Yes, we do have some curricula because countries want it. UK wanted a curricula, so we’re in 101,700 schools now and some of the African countries want curricula. Sometimes it’s just — so yes, I do have messages for them and I do talk to them about the role that they can play, about the importance of thinking about the consequences of the little choices you make each day. How people may look different, sound different, have a different language, a different color of skin, but if they fall and bleed, the blood is the same. If they weep, the tears are the same. And kids get it. So it’s not so much teaching, it’s sort of the values have developed. They’ve grown up with the program and we now have a number of adults in quite high places and they have kept their values as they leave the program and move on into adult life.
So we’ve got teachers, and people in government and people in law and they’re just remembering the importance of respect. It’s a key word. Respect the environment, respect for animals. And of course I tell them about animals and how each one has a personality, a mind, and emotion. How pigs, and rats, and octopus are amazingly intelligent and how they can feel pain, and fear, and despair. So it depends on the children and their age, kindergarten, university, everything in between. Depends what I tell them. But I do as many gatherings of young people as I possibly can. And as you say, now I can do it virtually and I can talk to them about things that I’ve learned.
Tim Ferriss: I recall a few years ago speaking with a friend of mine who I consider to be a good father, a good parent, and I asked him what advice he would have for someone like me considering having children. I have none of my own yet. And his advice, he had a number of pieces of advice, but his first was: teach your children to be optimists. And it seemed like a precursor or a prerequisite for so many other things. And I’m looking at a Time article, Time Magazine article that is, that you wrote in 2002. And I just want to read one paragraph and then ask you to elaborate or speak to it. So here’s the paragraph. “The greatest danger to our future is apathy. We cannot expect those living in poverty and ignorance to worry about saving the world. For those of us able to read this magazine,” and my side note or listen to this podcast, “it is different. We can do something to preserve our planet. You may be overcome, however, by feelings of helplessness. You are just one person in a world of 6 billion. How can your actions make a difference? Best, you say, to leave it to decision makers. And so you do nothing. Can we overcome apathy? Yes, but only if we have hope.” And I’d love to hear you speak to that. And also just to how you cultivate hope, whether that’s in yourself or the people you speak to?
Jane Goodall: Well, I have my reasons for hope, which I’m always sharing with people. But this thing of people feeling helpless because they don’t know what to do, this message of our youth program, that every individual makes a difference. And if it’s just you picking up trash, if it’s just you saving water, then it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference. But because people are becoming more aware all around the world, then there’s not just you, but thousands, millions of people picking up trash and saving water.
And so the message again being, think about the consequences of the small choices you make every day. What do you eat? Where did it come from? Did it harm the environment? Was it cruel to animals like the intensive farming? Is it cheap because of child slave labor somewhere? Make ethical choices. And because millions of people are making ethical choices, we’re moving in the right direction. And all of our young people, they’re influencing their parents and their grandparents. I know that because their parents tell me. So my reasons for hope, number one is the youth, as I’ve said, because they’re just so inspiring. And secondly, to start by saying it’s very bizarre, but what makes us more different from chimps and other animals is this explosive development of our intellect. I mean, look at what’s happening now with just social media as one example. You and I talking and we’re far apart. We’re reaching millions of people. It’s quite amazing, isn’t it, when you think about it? We’ve sent rockets to Mars and all that sort of thing. So how odd that this most intellectual creature is destroying its only home? So there seems to be this disconnect between the clever brain and the human heart, which is love and compassion. And we’re thinking about how does this help me now instead of how does it affect future generations? So now we’re beginning to use our brains, or scientists are, to come up with more and more sophisticated technology that will help us lead better, live in more harmony with the natural world. If governments would sponsor clean green energy rather than succumbing to their ties with the oil and gas industry, we could be more or less off the grid in many countries today. China and India are moving in that direction rapidly, and UAE as well.
But each one of us can use our brains to think about the environmental footprint we make each day. And then there’s the resilience of nature. I tell people stories about areas that were totally destroyed. Rivers, lakes, Lake Erie was so polluted that it caught fire, it was so polluted. And now there’s fish swimming in it because people cared. Animals on the brink of extinction are being given another chance. We just have to save the habitats. We have to change the mindset of those companies that want to destroy a forest to make money out of the wood, or destroy forests to get minerals out of the ground to make more money.
But then we’ve got to solve poverty because as you quoted earlier, if you’re really poor, what can you do except cut the last tree down because you’re desperate to grow food to feed your family, eat the cheapest junk food because you’ve got to do it to live. So we have to solve poverty and the unsustainable lifestyle of the rest of us. But my last reason for hope is this indomitable human spirit, the people who tackle what seems impossible, and won’t give up. And they may die as a result of their conviction, but in the end they succeed.
Tim Ferriss: I would love to speak about the power of storytelling. We’ve been discussing for at least a few minutes, or at least made mention of intellect and technology, two powerful and very interrelated facets of our human experience. In watching the trailer for perhaps the next chapter of your life’s work that will be shown, and the story told in Jane Goodall: The Hope which is going to premiere on Earth Day, April 22nd on Nat Geo, and I’ll include Nat Geo Wild, and Nat Geo Mundo, I’ll include all of those details in the show notes.
And also we’ll have already mentioned them in the introduction. But there was a quote in that trailer about changing minds, and the quote is this: “If you want somebody to change their mind, it’s no good arguing. You’ve got to reach the heart.” And I wanted to, this might seem like a strange segue, but I wanted to start with one question of Mr. McGregor, and how he came to his end. Could you speak to who Mr. McGregor was and ultimately how he died?
Jane Goodall: Mr. McGregor was an old male even when I first got to Gombe, slightly bald on the top of his head, a bit cantankerous. And he was just really very, very special. And he had a special relationship with a young female. I don’t know if she was related to him, but he was old and she was young. He used to protect her. And then probably the darkest days, even worse than the war, was when the chimps were affected with a polio epidemic. And it was a terrible time. First one would come back dragging a paralyzed limb, one male learned to walk upright because one arm got totally paralyzed. But Mr. McGregor was paralyzed in both legs and he dragged himself up to the feeding station.
And I think the most awful part was that the other chimpanzees shunned him, a fear of strangeness, which of course is very adaptive if it’s an infectious disease. But I can never forget there was a group of the other males grooming in a tree, and with enormous effort, Gregor dragged himself from branch to branch with just the strength of his arms. And they took one look and climbed down. And the look on his face like, “Oh, all this effort. What have I done wrong? Why are they going away?” Very slowly, he went down to the ground again. And in the end we had to shoot him because, well, we didn’t have any other way of euthanizing him. We could have kept him alive, feeding him bananas. But if you’d seen the sadness on his face, there was no way that was a life for a chimpanzee, it would have been cruel. So it made a deep, deep impression on me, Mr. McGregor. And when I saw it in the movie, it brought it all back. It was a terrible time.
Tim Ferriss: What did you take from that experience, whether Mr. McGregor and that entire experience, or the polio itself affecting the chimpanzees around you, what did you take from that experience or learn from that experience?
Jane Goodall: Well, they definitely caught it from human beings. Fortunately, none of us, none of us at all. But there was an epidemic in the nearby town. And for some odd reason, the doctor said it wasn’t polio. I didn’t know what he thought it was. So there was no medication, there was no vaccination. And the first lame chimps were seen way down south near that place. And I presume that it spread from them up to our community because there was nobody in our staff or anybody who got polio.
What did I take away from it? The fact that, I think human beings have tended to treat people who behave strangely with fear and shun them. And that’s led to a lot of suffering. Like people with cerebral palsy, people used to shut them away, not realizing that inside all those strange movements and sometimes strange sounds inside is a perfectly normal brain, but that brain can’t express itself. So Mr. McGregor had what we think was his younger brother. And Humphrey was the only one who never left. He wouldn’t go near Gregor, but he stayed nearby in the trees even when all the rest of the group went far away feeding on some fruit, Humphrey stayed. And after we euthanized Gregor, we did it when no chimps were around, including Humphrey. For at least the next month Humphrey came and sat in trees near where Mr. McGregor had been. So it just taught me a lot about how chimpanzees and humans react to something strange.
Tim Ferriss: And if we then look at the work you’re doing now, the work you’ve been doing over the last several decades, but particularly with the youth program, and also in my mind trying to effect change with decision makers, the people in positions of power who are responding to their own incentives, whether that could be getting reelected, it could be power of some other type, it could be acquisition of capital, could be any number of things. Are there any stories that you have found particularly effective for reaching the heart to grab the attention of people as you’ve traveled and spoken with so many over so many decades, is there anything that sticks out to you?
Jane Goodall: Well, first of all, you’re absolutely right, it’s telling stories. I always try it and spend a little bit of time finding out the person I’m going to meet if it’s somebody in government or something. Do they have children? Do they have dogs? Just so you can start something off and not just, “I’m here for this, blah, blah, blah.” Lobbying on the Hill, for example. Then try to tell stories, because I’ve found that if you point fingers, if you’re argumentative, if you’re blaming, then you don’t see change because they’re not going to let, especially a woman, some high-powered man is not going to let a woman make him look stupid by saying, “Oh, you’re right and I’m wrong.”
Change, I believe, has to come from within. And so if you can reach the heart. And there was a medical research lab, and I managed to get better conditions in that lab by reaching the heart of the director of the lab telling stories about the chimps. And there was another director of a lab, and this is slightly different, but he had a 16-year-old daughter who came to one of my lectures. And I was showing secretly filmed footage of the awful conditions in the lab of which he was director, conditions for the chimps. He said his daughter came back one day from this lecture sobbing and saying, “Daddy, you’re so cruel. How can you do this?” And he said, “Jane, for two years I absolutely hated you.” But he said, “Please could you come and see the lab now? Because you were right.”
And I never accused him directly. It was through his daughter and he changed the lab completely. And then the last story I love. I was in a taxi, it was very early in the morning, I was very tired. I was going to have a snooze on the way to the airport. And, oh, he’d heard that I was one of those animal lovers, and, oh, he couldn’t stand that. And his sister was one of those animal lovers too. And there were all these poor people, why weren’t we helping them? What was it about animals? So I thought, oh, well that’s the end of my snooze. And I pulled open the window, leaned forward in the jump seat, and I told him stories about the chimps and stories about dogs all the way to the airport.
Well we got there and he just grunted. And I thought, well, it didn’t make any difference, but I had to try. He owed me £10 at the end because he didn’t have any change. So I said, “Well, give it to your sister for the work she does in the animal shelter.” I never thought he would, but I got back two weeks later and there was a letter from the sister and she said, “First of all, I really want to thank you for your donation. But secondly, what did you do to my brother?” She said, “He’s listening to me. He’s been three times to help me in the shelter.” So it’s always worth doing your best because you never know what effect that it’s going to have. Sometimes you will never know. It was pure luck that that ended up the way it did.
Tim Ferriss: That’s incredible. And if we dig into that just a little bit more, whether it’s that first director of the lab, or the cab driver, you mentioned telling stories about the chimps, but there are many different ways to tell stories, and there are many stories that could be told. What types of stories did you tell either of them that you think could have had that impact?
Jane Goodall: Oh, well, I talked about the very strong bonds between family members, the maternal behavior. I told stories like when one infant lost his mother, he was three years old, little Mel. He didn’t have an older brother or sister who would have adopted him because that’s what they do. But he was adopted by a 12-year-old unrelated adolescent male who carried him around, who shared his food with him, drew him into the night nest so that they slept curled up together. And most amazingly an adolescent male will usually keep well out of the way of adult males when they’re socially roused, and charging about, and screaming. But little Mel, who normally would have been taken away by his mother before he got into danger, and Spindle risked everything by running in to rescue him. If he got too close to those males, even though he was beaten up quite badly himself because the adolescent males are scapegoats for the big males. And he saved Mel’s life without any question. So that’s the kind of story that I tell them.
Tim Ferriss: You also seem to be, aside from an expert storyteller, very good at using imagery or symbols, and sometimes stories themselves are symbols. But could you describe Mr. H? Who’s Mr. H?
Jane Goodall: Mr. H was given to me 28 years ago by a man called Gary Haun, which is why he’s Mr. H. Gary went blind when he was 21, decided to become a magician. Everybody said, “But Gary, you can’t be a magician if you’re blind.” He does shows for children. I’ve watched him three or four times now. And of course he sets his props up ahead of time. The children don’t know he’s blind. And at the end he’ll tell them, and he’ll say, “Something might go wrong in your life. You can’t tell. If it does, don’t give up. There’s always a way forward.” And he does SCUBA diving, cross country skiing, skydiving.
But I think most amazing, he’s taught himself to paint. And when he gave me Mr. H, he thought he was giving me a stuffed chimp, but Mr. H has a tail. And I made him hold the tail. He said, “Never mind, take him with you and you know I’m with you in spirit.” So he’s one of those examples of the indomitable human spirit, doing skydiving when you’re blind, teaching yourself to paint. And there’s a picture in this, he’d done a little book called Blind Artist, which you can only get on Amazon. And the self portrait of Mr. H, he’s never seen him, he’s only felt him. And it’s unbelievable.
Tim Ferriss: And Mr. H, if I’m not mistaken, has been many places with you. I don’t know if you still have Mr. H, but —
Jane Goodall: Indeed I have. I definitely have Mr. H, he’s in this room with me. If I forget to take him to a lecture, surely be a child who bursts into tears that, “I wanted to touch Mr. H!” Because I tell them the inspiration rubs off. But I have other symbols. I have one of the long, long, long, I think, I’m trying to match up with my hands, over two-foot feather from the wing of a California condor. I’ve got all the proper permits for it. And they were down to 12 birds, and now there’s very many of them flying the skies.
And so I have that as a symbol of the fact we can save animals from extinction. I’ve got a piece of the Berlin Wall. There was a time after the war when we thought that Berlin Wall was up forever between the East and West Germany, but it came down. Walls do come down despite what one of our country’s presidents thinks about walls. And so I carry these little symbols with me. I’ve got a piece of limestone from the quarry where Nelson Mandela labored for 21 years, I think it was 21 years in the limestone quarry before he attained his freedom and moved his country out of the evil regime of apartheid.
Tim Ferriss: Do you still have Jubilee? And could you just explain who Jubilee is?
Jane Goodall: Jubilee. So many people think that, because my father gave me a very large stuffed chimpanzee when I was one and a half, that that is why I chose to study chimpanzees. It couldn’t be further from the truth, but I did love Jubilee. And Jubilee, I had when I was one and a half, and I’m 60, I mean 86 now. So you can imagine he’s nearly bald now, and he’s actually sitting in The National Geographic exhibition in DC, in a specially built bulletproof glass case because I didn’t want him — I thought, “It’s dangerous for him to go away. He’s much too precious.” But he was hand carried and he’s sitting there. And that exhibition is going to go online. They’ve made some way of showing it to people. So people will be able to see the real Jubilee in that, it’s called Becoming Jane. So Jubilee went with me everywhere when I was a child, literally everywhere.
Tim Ferriss: And when you then had your own child, after your experiences with your mother, my understanding is that you didn’t have much of a relationship with your father, but more so with your mother. And then your experiences with the chimpanzee mothers, Flo, for instance. How did you think about mothering or parenting? I imagine a lot of it was very primal drive that was created in you, but what did you decide? Were there any decisions based on what your mother did with you, or what you observed in Flo and others that affected your parenting style or mothering style?
Jane Goodall: Yeah, well, I was never a gooey over baby type, really. And of course, when I was pregnant I thought about mothering. And I was in Africa. I thought about the way Mum raised me, I got, Dr. Spock was all the rage then, and actually he has some really sound advice. But I also thought about Flo. I had all those three examples along with, as you say, an instinct because after the baby was born, of course I adored him. And in that film, Jane, I’d forgotten what a gorgeous baby he was actually, he was enchanting.
Anyway, so what I learned from the chimp mothers is, just like us, there are good and bad mothers. And the good chimp mothers are like mine, they support their child even if they know they’re going to get attacked, they will run to rescue their child from danger. And the offspring of those, now we can look back and find that they tend to do better. They’re more assertive, more confident, the males reach a higher position in the hierarchy, probably sire more offspring. And the females are better mothers. But the one thing that I really took away from Flo and the other chimp mothers, they loved to play with their babies. They would spend hours playing with them and I thought, “Yes, I’m going to have fun with my baby too.” And I did a lot of things that chimp mothers did, lying on my back and dangling Grub from my feet and tickling him and things like that. So I had a lot of fun with him. And that came from the chimps.
Tim Ferriss: How did he get the name Grub?
Jane Goodall: Oh, it was very silly. He was born about the same time as a little chimp called Goblin. And Goblin was a very messy eater. I mean all the other chimps would tumble around playing and come out sleek and black. And he’d have every burr around stuck to his hair. And one case he got hold of a very big banana. It was about as big as him and he’s eating it, but he eats far too much. So he takes a mouthful, large mouthful. He spits it into his hand, he looks at it and then he smashes the hand with the banana all over his face.
My son, he was a messy eater too. He didn’t want to be weaned and he didn’t like baby food and he would do much like Goblin. He was a complete mess with it. And so it became Goblin, the chimp Goblin Grub. And then my son became Grublin Gob. So his real name — nickname — is Grublin.
Tim Ferriss: And in the film, Jane, I’m referring to for people listening and we don’t have to spend a ton of time on this if you prefer to discuss other things. But I found myself wondering after Grub was really raised in the Bush and had this natural existence at some point the decision was made to help him socialize and be educated. And I remember the footage in this film of walking down the street hand-in-hand in London. What was it like for him going from these all natural environments to that urban environment and being dropped off at school? And just I suppose the time after that he was dropped off?
Jane Goodall: Well, he was quite a bit at the time, not in the bush, he was in Nairobi and he did go to school there. So it wasn’t that new. And also my mother had been out visiting twice, so he knew her very well. And when he went back to England, he wasn’t just dumped in the school. He went to live where I am now in this house. Actually in this very room. And so he was with an extended family and he actually loved school. So it wasn’t, it sounds brutal, but it was more brutal for me than him because he enjoyed school and I felt that I shouldn’t have let him go, but I wouldn’t have if Mum and the family hadn’t been there. So it was in a very loving home and it wasn’t really that strange.
Tim Ferriss: How do you relate to being alone? It seems that you’re very comfortable, incredibly comfortable spending time solitary, by yourself. Certainly in Africa that seemed to be the case. How do you relate to that? I think that that being alone is something many people fear. How does it — oh no, I was just going to say how do you think about it and relate to it?
Jane Goodall: Well, when I was a child, I was spending hours alone out with the birds and watching insects with my dog going up and down the cliffs of Bournemouth, which was actually really good training for Gombe. It’s not that different. And I used to spend hours up in the top of my favorite tree, which I’m looking at right now. Beech — it’s a beech tree. And I felt up near the birds and closer, I don’t know, it was a wonderful feeling being alone. Being alone out in the forest in Gombe, absolute bliss. And the biggest problem with my life on the road is that I have so little time alone. So hotel rooms come to be a haven in a way because I can shut and lock the door and I’m alone.
Tim Ferriss: And do you find that you recharge by yourself or what is your experience like by yourself? I know that might sound like a strange question, but many people busy themselves to avoid being alone or feeling alone. What does it feel like for you to be alone?
Jane Goodall: It just feels really peaceful. It means that I can think my own thoughts. I can do things like reading and I think being a child growing up with no TV, reading is much less busy than watching a TV show. And I think it’s very sad that so many children don’t get to read more and have all this television all the time. I was in love with Tarzan and when Mum saved up to take me to probably the first Johnny Weissmuller film that came over. Great treat for Jane, she took me and after a little while I started to cry and she had to take me out. She said, “Whatever’s the matter?” I said, “But that wasn’t Tarzan.” Because as there was no TV and no movies, I had my own Tarzan that I fell in love with and it wasn’t Johnny Weissmuller. We don’t have that opportunity anymore because right from the beginning they’re deluged with information of how they should see the world.
Tim Ferriss: You strike me as someone with not just unique perspectives on the world but a unique capability in sharing them through not just storytelling and sheer endurance but also a high degree of compassion and this is all a way of leading up to a question related to something you mentioned earlier and that is you just, a handful of days ago really, turned 86 and you seem as sharp as ever, as busy as ever. Someone on your team was saying that their impression is that you seem to work from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. with the exception of a dog walk in the middle. To what do you attribute the maintenance or maybe even increase of your mental clarity and sharpness and endurance for such a long period of time?
Jane Goodall: Well first of all, I’ve obviously inherited very good genes from my father, actually. That was a major contribution he made to who I am. A lot of the rest of it came from Mum, but he was tough and strong. He could endure. So he was in the War. Anyway. What do I attribute it all to? Well, I don’t actually think people say, “Do you exercise? Do you meditate? What food? What diet?” And on and on like that. “What supplements?”
And I say I just eat what’s around. I don’t want to eat very much. I don’t care about food. I don’t take any supplements. I don’t have a special diet except I’m vegetarian or when I’m at home now, vegan, and I don’t have time to do exercise. Usually it’s been just the airports. Walking with the dog now, yes, but he’s old and he’s the only dog I’ve ever met who doesn’t like walking. And even when he was younger he didn’t. He’s a whippet. He’s more like a cat. I mean this morning honestly, it was like taking a reluctant snail out for a walk.
It’s because — well, I mean if you think about things, and I’ve always loved writing, I think that’s very important. I didn’t want to be a scientist. I wanted to be a naturalist, live with animals, and write books about them. And so I’ve always loved writing. My mother loved writing too. In fact, I have a story somewhere, I can’t find it now, but I dictated it to her when I was five and it’s a charming little story, about a giraffe with a neck that was so long he could reach up to the moon. So it was always animals, you see.
So telling stories, thinking about stories. I used to write a lot of poetry and it’s just if I had known when I was younger, what going to study chimps would mean, that I’d be having this life and become, thanks to Geographic really, becoming a sort of icon. But when it first happened I was really, really disturbed because why were people thinking about me like that? I was just me. I was a lucky person. But then I realized, well, if people are going to recognize me because of Geographic and come up and want a signature or selfie now, then I must make use of it and be nice to them and smile at them and give them a brochure and tell them about Roots & Shoots. So there was a time when as I went around the US, you could see the Roots & Shoots groups springing up quite like a comet with a tail.
But obviously there was — I look back on my life honestly, Tim, and I see that there were stages and at the end of the stage, there was a crossroads and it never seemed that I consciously made a decision. It just was something that happened to change me. And I think I’ve made the right decisions and I’m meant to be here and I’m meant to be doing this. That gives me extra, I suppose, endurance to cope with it. And I care passionately about the future for the environment, animals, and children. And I suppose because I think a lot, I gained wisdom, I hope, and I want to share it.
Tim Ferriss: Well, I think you’re doing a fantastic, beyond fantastic job. And one thing I’ve also noticed and gathered from people who work with you on your team and seen certainly in videos, is that people, many fans of yours, many people you encounter become very emotional in your presence. They might break down in tears, for instance. That is not always the case with figures who are well known. How would you explain that or why do you think that’s the case that so many people get so emotional when they meet you?
Jane Goodall: I don’t know. I’ve thought about it a lot. And I’ve asked them, and they don’t seem to know and then they apologize and I say, “No, no, no, don’t apologize.” It’s something that for some odd reason, I inspire these tears. I ask them why they’re crying and they say, “Well, I never thought I’d see you. I can’t believe I’m seeing you. I’m so happy to be here and you’ve made my dream come true.” And I suppose, I don’t know. My grandmother used to cry every time she was happy.
Tim Ferriss: It seems like you make a lot of people happy and perhaps it is — I mean as a messenger of hope in many respects that you give people hope. I think that there’s in some respects a real shortage of hope in many people’s minds and —
Jane Goodall: The media spends so much time giving the gloom and doom and there is a hell of a lot of gloom and doom, I know. But there’s also such wonderful things happening and sharing the good stories, the successes, the nobility of so many people, the self-sacrifice, which we’re seeing with the coronavirus too, then people realize all is not lost. There’s still a lot that we can do to make this a better world. And after lectures, there’s always at least one and often more people who come up and say, “I had lost hope but I promise you I’m going to do my bit. Thank you for giving me some hope again.” So I think this job of mine of giving people hope is a really important one right now. Right now more than perhaps ever before.
Tim Ferriss: And it’s so compelling I think not just because you are good at giving people hope but also because you are in a way living proof and the poster child for what hope can enable you to do, if that makes any sense. You’re not just a passive commentator giving lip service to hope. I mean you are a case study in how much fuel and endurance in part hope can provide. I think that’s at least for me why it’s so compelling and convincing and inspiring. So thank you for that.
Jane Goodall: You said that your friend told you to teach your children to be optimistic. I think it’s really you can’t teach them that, but you can tell stories and tell stories about people and encourage them and support them. I mean so many parents have set views on what they want their child to be and the lesson I get from my mother is it was nobody was thinking about going to Africa and living with animals when I wanted to except a few explorers who wanted to shoot them and put them in museums.
But when everybody laughed at me and said I’d never get there. I was just a girl. It was a war. We didn’t have money. Mum said, “If you really want something like this, you’re going to have to work really, really hard, but take advantage of every opportunity and if you don’t give up, you’ll find a way to do that or something else that you really, really want to do.” And that story, that wisdom I take and share with young people everywhere, especially in disadvantaged communities and I wish Mum knew how many people have said, “Jane, thank you. You taught me that because you did it, I can do it too.”
Tim Ferriss: You have so many projects and opportunities ahead of you. Before I perhaps tie this to a close with a description of a few things that you have coming and then tell people where they can find out more about you and certainly follow along with your continued adventures, I’d be curious to ask if you had a billboard, metaphorically speaking, that could get a message out to billions of people. It could be a word, a phrase, a question, an image, really anything. What might you put on that billboard?
Jane Goodall: Remember that you make a difference every single day.
Tim Ferriss: Perfect. That could not be more perfect. Dr. Jane Goodall, you have a new documentary. This is certainly continuing to showcase the incredible work you do. This is Jane Goodall, subtitled The Hope, which is premiering on Earth Day. That’s this April 22nd, 9:00 Eastern, 8:00 central on Nat Geo, Nat Geo Wild, and Nat Geo Mundo. It is a two-hour documentary special that will take viewers through chapters of your journey in the 60 years since your groundbreaking discoveries in Gombe researching wild chimpanzees, including your activism, creation of your nonprofit organization, and also where people can find more about you. Janegoodall.org that is the Jane Goodall Institute, JGI, and Roots & Shoots, rootsandshoots.org. That is your youth program along with your current efforts to inspire the next generation. And I would go a step further and say not just efforts but successes. It’s tremendously inspiring, not just because of the ethos, but the actual effect that you are having.
It’s just remarkable. People can find you on social media. You’re also doing some very fun things like story time with Dr. Jane, but Instagram that is @JaneGoodallinst, like institute I-N-S-T, Twitter, @JaneGoodallinst, and same on Facebook, JaneGoodallinst. And then the Roots & Shoots is the same on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The handle is @rootsandshoots.
This has been such a tremendous honor and pleasure for me to spend so much time with you. I appreciate your generosity in granting the interview, providing time, and also really keeping up the good fight and being a purveyor and spreader of hope in a world where it is so easy to succumb to despair and hopelessness. It’s just tremendous. It’s really a gift that you are providing. So I hope that you were able to feel that and let that sink in at times. But I appreciate you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.
Jane Goodall: Well, I want to thank you too for giving me the chance to chat to you and I get interviewed by lots and lots of people and sometimes it’s a bit boring, but I haven’t been at all bored talking to you, so thank you, Tim.
Tim Ferriss: That really means so much and please keep it up. I will do my best to get your message, your work, this interview to many millions of people who hopefully will in turn share it and spread it, because I think that hope really is the foundation here upon which so much else depends. And for everyone listening, I will have everything in the show notes, links to everything we discussed at Tim.Blog/podcast. And Dr. Jane Goodall, thank you so much. And I hope we get to meet in person someday.
Jane Goodall: Oh, I’m sure we shall. Thank you, Tim Ferriss.
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