On Sept. 13, Jane Goodall held a Reddit Ask Me Anything, or AMA, session.
The question-and-answer session gave the internet a chance to pick the famous anthropologist’s brain. Goodall is a world-famous primatologist and conservationist, and her work with chimpanzees in Tanzania — not to mention her activism and remarkable common sense — has earned her a ton of fans, including bigwigs like John Oliver and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Goodall hosted the Reddit event in part to promote her new online class about animal intelligence and environmental action.
The entire discussion is worth a read, but if you can’t set aside enough time to read all 3,684 (and counting!) comments, here are five big points from Goodall’s AMA that are worth checking out.
1. Hard work can defy even the most ardent critics.
Ever since she was young, Goodall says, she wanted to go to Africa and study animals. A lot of people laughed at her.
“They told me girl students cannot do that,” she said. “But I had a wonderful mother who had supported my love of animals ever since I was born, and she said to me if you really want to do this, then you’re going to have to work very hard and take advantage of opportunity.”
Today, Goodall — a world-renowned scholar, conservationist, and peacemaker — is an example to others of just how far hard work can take you.
2. Animals are more human than we give them credit for.
When asked how she wanted to world to see her work, Goodall said she’d like to be remembered as the person who encouraged humans to consider the animal mind — which we didn’t do much before the mid-1960s.
Goodall’s time with the chimps at Gombe National Park revealed their great intelligence and emotional range. From watching an older male adopt an orphaned baby to seeing chimps wage bloody war against each other, the scenes Goodall documented changed how we thought about the animal mind.
Goodall says she hopes we continue to explore the field of animal intelligence well into the future. After all, there’s still a lot to find out.
3. In case you didn’t know, Doctor Dolittle books are pretty awesome.
OK, so maybe this isn’t world-shattering, but anyone who’s read them knows it’s true. Doctor Doolittle was the main character in a series of children’s books in the 1920s about an English doctor and naturalist who can speak to animals and spends his days helping and studying them.
In other questions, Goodall shared other personal facts, like her favorite color (green, although she’s fond of blues as well), some of her favorite music (classical and Michael Jackson), and an appreciation for a certain Far Side cartoon.
4. There are plenty of actions we can take to help protect both animals and the planet.
Over the course of several questions, Goodall listed a variety of ways people can help, from spreading awareness and getting involved in local efforts, to raising funds, to even simple things like changing what we buy and what we eat (Goodall is a cheese-eating vegetarian, she says).
Goodall says she’s seen firsthand what happens when people change. One of the things she says she’s most proud of is helping empower local Africans to save their national park, transforming it from a green island barely holding on into a national treasure.
5. Finally, while the world might seem dark sometimes, she still thinks we’ll reach our true human potential together.
“As we look at what is happening in the world today, it is very, very grim,” said Goodall. So much seems to be going wrong all at once, people feel helpless. They give up.
But Goodall isn’t ready to give up. “I have reasons for hope,” she says.
Young people have been empowered and fired up to take action. Clean energy is on the rise. Social media, harnessed for good, can unite billions of people for a cause and change politics. And, finally, there’s always the human spirit.
“Only when the head and heart work in harmony can we reach our true human potential,” said Goodall. “And this, I believe, is to come.”
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