In September’s Date with Diane, guest columnist Diane von Furstenberg sits down with animal-rights activist Dr. Jane Goodall.
“I want to be remembered as someone who inspired others to follow their dreams,” Dr. Jane Goodall tells me over lunch one day. Given that she’s been at the forefront of animal rights and climate change issues for more than 50 years, her wish doesn’t seem like an impossibility. She inspires me on a daily basis, which is why I presented her with a Lifetime Leadership accolade at my DVF Awards this past April.
Diane Von Furstenberg: What is your earliest memory of what inspired this path?
Jane Goodall: When I was 4 years old, my mother, Vanne, took me to a farm on vacation. It was my job to collect the hens’ eggs. Apparently I asked everyone where the egg came out of the hen. When no one gave me a good enough answer, I followed a hen into the henhouse and waited for four hours. The family was searching for me everywhere, but I came out only after I saw a hen lay an egg. I think the story reveals all the makings of a young scientist—curiosity, making a mistake, not giving up, learning patience.
DVF: What do you consider your biggest achievement?
JG: When I first went to Cambridge, science maintained that the difference between us and other animals was a difference of kind. Now we know it is a difference of degree. So I think that helping to reveal that humans are not the only beings with personalities and a mind capable of solving problems and experiencing emotions is significant. I’m also proud of starting Roots & Shoots at the Jane Goodall Institute, a free youth-based program that is now in 99 countries and encourages local leadership through service and compassion.
DVF: Where do you find your strength?
JG: I was given two special gifts: a strong constitution and the ability to communicate. I try to use these talents effectively in a world where so much is wrong. I get so sad thinking of the harm we are doing to the environment, animals, and one another. I can never give up.
DVF: At 83, you’re quite active on social media. How do you like it?
JG: Three years ago I took part in the global People’s Climate March in New York. We had hoped that maybe 80,000 people would participate, but in the end there were almost 400,000. Everyone used social media to help get the word out. It was so different from when we had to make individual phone calls or go from door to door with pamphlets. Of course, social media is also used for bad purposes, but that does not negate its potential power for change.
DVF: How can people make simple adjustments to help reduce the effects of climate change?
JG: Think of the consequences of the little choices we make each day: What do we buy? How was it made? Did its production harm the environment or cause animal suffering? Is it cheap because of slave labor? And, finally, do we really need it?