Business, Politics & Society

Food As Activism

Dr. Jane Goodall

Lesson time 8:47 min

You can become an activist today by choosing what you buy and what you eat. Learn how changing some small habits in your food consumption can have far-reaching effects on our environment.

Dr. Jane Goodall
Teaches Conservation
In 29 lessons, Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.
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When I was growing up, we lived from season to season. And at certain seasons, you looked forward to them, because this would be the time for ripe peaches. This would be when you could get strawberries. This would be the time when certain vegetables came in the season. And you lived that way, and sometimes like apples, you can pick them in season and we used to dry them and they get a little bit shriveled, but they taste delicious. So these were stored up for the winter. But today people can buy food that's grown thousands of miles away. We don't get the seasons anymore. We can buy exotic tropical fruit, but at what cost? What about the thousands of miles and the waste of fossil fuels? And do we really need always to be able to get just anything we want at any time just because we pay money for it? And do we ever think about the often forced child labor that's being used to grow some of these foods so that we can get them cheaply because the labor is cheap? Or even not paid for at all. It's certainly true, but one of the ways that we can help the environment is by what we buy by choosing what to buy, by thinking about where it came from. And one of the really hopeful trends is growing food locally and the farmer's markets where all the small family farms can come and sell their organic produce. And it's an opportunity for these farmers and those buyers who care about what they eat and what their children eat to get together and talk. I mean, these farmers markets are wonderful places. And they're everywhere. Everywhere I go there are farmers' markets and it does your soul good to go from a busy city to a farmer's market and see the farmers there and see this beautiful organic produce. And yeah, maybe it cost a little bit more, but you feel so good because you're buying it. It's basically voting for a better future for your children. [MUSIC PLAYING] One very encouraging sign, and it's all around the world now, is urban farming. Because how can you be sure that the food you're eating is free from all contamination? By growing it yourself. And of course, many, many people don't have a garden where they can grow food. But I've been to many places in a city where there are window boxes. And at least some food is being grown. People are growing their own tomatoes. And somebody said to me just yesterday that if you grow your own tomato and you pick it straight off the plant, it tastes completely different from the tomato that you buy in a store. Although that may be cheaper. But this move towards urban farming, it's doing several things. It's providing good pesticide-free food. But it's also greening up an area. It's good for our spirit, our soul. And it's providing us with that contact with nature that so often is sadly missing. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I first went to Gombe, that was in 1960. I don't think that in...

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There is still a window of time. Nature can win if we give her a chance. In her first ever online class, Dr. Jane Goodall teaches how you can conserve the environment. She also shares her research on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees and what they taught her about conservation. You'll learn how to act locally and protect the planet.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Jane has taught me so much. I've always been a passionate animal advocate but now my commitment to the environment has been strengthened and I realize that offering my message through ways of the heart will be more effective than through anger or grief. I am also inspired to get involved in Roots and Shoots. Thank you so much for this incredibly meaningful Masterclass.

Such a deeply touching connection with David Greybeard which perfectly exemplifies our oneness with animals.

I have gone from someone wanting to learn what is unknown. I want to bring others along with me on the journey for that knowledge in making our world better.

Recommended for everyone! This is a great class to create awareness and also to learn about the opportunities that Jane Goodall has created for us to contribute to making the world a better place. Very inspirational.



I am enjoying this series a great deal. I can hardly stop watching. I do take issue with some of what Jane says about agriculture. My background is in agriculture, my family raised cattle (5 generations), and I work with agricultural producers. I have a Ph.D. in Rangeland Ecosystem Science. I also managed a small livestock feedlot when I graduated from college. My understanding of the Methane production from livestock is that it is a small percentage of the total global methane production. I have long been conflicted about eating farm animals. Having worked in feedlots where we weighed animals monthly I noticed that there were often pairs that came through the chute together every time. I also, having worked with cattle, pigs, sheep, and horses extensively know that they are thinking creatures, and very intelligent. So I agree with Jane how we treat those animals is very important. I think the work of Temple Grandin helps me with my internal confliction with eating animals, as well as in nature meat eating is part of the cycle of life. I don't think industrial agriculture is as evil as Jane portrays it. I think of people like Norman Borlaug and his views, that technology is part of the solution to world hunger, need to be part of the conversation. I love the farmers market movement, but I don't see how the world can feed itself with the current and growing population that way or by going back to small farms. There simply isn't enough land available to produce enough food with total organic farming. Industrial agriculture is changing, farmers are incorporating many methods to reduce herbicide, pesticide, and fossil fuel use. It isn't and issue of all or nothing, ie all industrial ag or all orgianic. There can be a balance, each of those methods have good things to offer. I love this course a great deal. Jane is such a wonderful resource.

Leo D.

I would like to comment on the link that is included on raising vegetarian or vegan children. The NPR article is outdated science and just plain wrong. It was proven long ago that our bodies are smart enough to combine amino acids to make “complete” protein without needing to eat, for example, beans and rice at the same time. Despite the old book, Diet for a Small Planet, the science is outdated. Go to and Dr. Michael Greger will show you the studies that disproved this old belief about plant proteins and many studies demonstrating the facts about protein and why we DO NOT need animal products to get protein. Dairy products and eggs are not healthy foods. Neither is fish. Algae oil will give you DHA and EPA and vitamin b12 pills are extremely cheap. show all the science. There are a huge number of links that could be included to take the place of the NPR link.

Svanfridur M.

In a few days, I will have been vegetarian for a year now, and honestly despite how many whine about it being too difficult it has been surprisingly easy and made me feel better not only morally but physically as well. I stopped eating meat because of climate change, and am on my way turning vegan (though cheese is still a great love of mine). If only more people would turn this direction - whether it be for moral, environmental, or health reasons - we would have much greater chances of reducing our emissions in time to stop this horrid thing that is happening to our planet. I'm still a child, and so personally this issue takes front and center. Global warming erases any hope for a future in which my generation and those after us will be able to do anything but survive, and stopping meat consumption is one of many big steps to stopping it and giving us all our lives back.

Iris K.

I never ate much meat, but now since a couple of month's I went vegetarian, and by doing so I am taking take the whole family on this route. And though I liked eating meat now and then, I really like trying all kinds of vegetarian or vegan products. It is said it takes 21 days to get accustomed to new habits. So within 3 weeks people really can change their habits. It saves a lot of effort walking through a supermarket as well ;-) I also have cut down my dairy products a lot! If I should go vegan, of wich I am thinking about, I only need to get my fruits and vegetables, it makes doing groceries quite simple!


"buying local is basically voting for a better future (for your children)." I really do think this masterclass should be broadcasted worldwide and used as an awareness and educative tool on behalf of our planet. Will share Jane wisdom as much as I can. Thank you Jane.

Candy R.

It is an adjustment but, plant-based, vegan diets with no packaging seems to help with all of the issues. That is what we have done. I buy loose fruits and vegetables, bulk foods in paper or canvas bags. Trash is a huge problem as well as the other issues. It does seem hopeless and daunting, but we can make a difference.

Brandon B.

We just need to industrialize organic urban farming. The technology is there, the engineering is there, the knowledge is there, we just need competent good-hearted people to implement it.

Gretchin D.

I dream of a day when factory farming is illegal! What a different world that would be!

Kalia D.

The issue is far more complex I suppose. The world isn't just divided into people who care and those who don't. I gather the majority of humans exercises their ability to feel and care quite aptly. Only, their feelings are divided, reserved, prioritized, selective. There are many new interesting books on the phenomenon of 'carnism' for example, the fact that we pet and love our dogs and cats, but let pigs and cattle have an existence of horror, torture and indignity. We act out of sympathy, not empathy, and sympathy is almost always unjust and divisive. Like the woman Jane quoted whose feelings translate as 'I don't care how many pigs or dogs suffer in medical research as long as it saves my daughter! Don't you understand? My daughter!' Most of the atrocities around the planet are caused by people caring intensely, almost excessively. Veganism is a wonderful movement, but their lobbyists have already given up on those people they consider few that can actually feel the animal's suffering as their own. In desperation, they throw everything together, do it for the climate, do it to control population growth, do it for better taste, do it for your own health, do it for future generations,..., do it for your children. And we are back at where we began. Isn't this extremely sad? Imagine someone told you kiss that woman, it's good for the environment? If you can do it, what kind of lover does that make you? All these extra reasons only make the underlying problem far worse. They again play to our selfishness, to our 'sympathy' to our 'in-group'. You have to be able to FEEL when you look the animal in the eye, when you bite into that piece of meat. We have to sit down with the people working at these horrible meat factories and ask: don't you feel anything? I do not think we are prepared for their answers. If we have people feign empathy by CO2 statistics, health benefits and what not, it might look like a success in the short term. But the underlying problem will have worsened. Information on what's healthy, on the fate of our planet, on the possibilities of science and technology will change. Maybe think tanks get together and change them deliberately, which you know is not uncommon around the world. The mass murder and torture will continue, only in a different form, because people just follow the guidelines, not their own compass of emotions, of morals. I remember an old lady in a store saying: 'I buy this coke now regularly, because it's says it's organic and vegan, but I looked it up, it has just the same amount of sugar as the other ones!' I love Jane's response to the former lady: 'aren't you at all thankful to the dog or pig that saved your daughters life? Aren't you interested in what conditions it was raised, what kind of life it had?' The Banality of Evil - for those who are familiar with the term - can only be broken once we stretch out our empathy to our fellow animals and nature, but most importantly to our fellow humans. Go out, ask the butcher and the CEO how he feels. I want to see activist documentaries not about the animals, but about the humans behind it. We are just afraid. There is so much more we can do than just 'vote by buying the more expensive apple'...

Mia S.

"Being a vegetarian can be a huge help to improve the environment of our planet. I became a vegetarian because I cared about animals, but many people today understand the horrible impact that this heavy meat-eating is causing to the environment, and our own health." I went vegetarian at 11 years old for the reasons Jane listed, and went vegan at 18! Plant-based diets are the future!