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Science & Tech

Humans & The Environment

Dr. Jane Goodall

Lesson time 12:24 min

Learn about the moment Dr. Jane turned from scientist to activist, and how she uncovered many problems facing chimps and humans.

Dr. Jane Goodall
Teaches Conservation
Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.
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People often ask me, why did you leave Gombe? Because after I got my PhD, after I built up the research station, they were the most amazing days of my life. I had time to be out in the forest. I had time to analyze my data, which I loved doing. I had time for writing popular books. I had a son by then, a little boy, who was with me in Gombe. --And still learning things about these amazing chimpanzees, with time to spend with them every day. It happened in 1986. I had just published this book, Chimpanzees of Gombe, Patterns of Behavior, which was meant to be the first in partner books. The second one was going to be infant development and family relations, but I'm afraid now that will never get written. But anyway, when I published that book, Dr. Paul helped me, who at that time was heading the Chicago Academy of Sciences. --Said, Jane, this warrants a conference. Let's find out what we do know about chimpanzees. Let's bring together the different people studying chimpanzees. I think about six study sites in Africa at that time. And some of the people studying chimps in noninvasive captive situations. He wanted to do all the apes. And I said, look, can't we just stick to chimpanzees? --And at that time, including bonobos, which were called pygmy chimpanzees. So he agreed. And it was in October 1986. It was mostly about people talking about different aspects of chimp behavior in different areas, and differences of different habitats and so forth. --Different cultures and so forth. But we had one session on conservation, and it was shocking. It was absolutely shocking, because everywhere people were showing slides or movies of the destruction of the forest habitat. Chimpanzee numbers that were dropping. That was the beginning of the bushmeat trade, that's the commercial hunting of wild animals for food. Chimpanzee being caught in the wire snares set by hunters for mostly Bush pigs and antelope. There was the live animal trade, in which chimpanzee mothers were shot so that their babies could be stolen to sell for entertainment, circuses, zoos, and at that time, medical research. At the same conference we had a session on conditions and some captive situations, and we learned about the very cruel training of chimps used in entertainment. And that was secretly filmed footage of chimpanzees, our closest relatives, in medical research laboratories. --Five foot by five foot bear cages, surrounded by bars on each side overhead and below. And I couldn't sleep for nights after that. So I went to that conference as a scientist. --This wonderful life, planning to continue to go on learning about chimpanzees in Gombe. And without making any conscious decision, I left us an activist, because I knew I had to try to do something for these chimpanzees who had already given me so much. [MUSIC PLAYING] I began to learn a lot ...

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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.

It was an inspiring life journey. I wanted to learn what Jane did in nature and with animals and also what they gave her back, how their relationship and dialogue was. I think I got great answers.

WOW what a lady she is, Shouldnt she be knighted? such an inspiration to listen to.

I have learned about Roots and Shoots, a non profit that shares and promotes conservation to youth.

This was an amazing class. I wish you would let people access it for free!


Karen N.

"Humans-the-environment" made me cry. We must change the mindset. Having been in the classroom observing brains for 25 years, I know the best place to start is with the young. That means we must change the broken education system based on Carnegie Units. I have been a computer science education activist for decades. But when Jane talks about why she became an activist, I knew I need to focus on conversation. I still have the T-shirt that my students made with the motto, "Taking Care of our Brains so We can take Care of the Earth" - - On the back of mine it says trees cry too. When Jane talked about the growing materialism focus that connected me with my current problem of cutting down trees to make room for a big house - - I felt the trees crying so took action.

Joan A.

Wow. Wow. Wow. So beautiful to see the images and hear her stories. What a gift!

Emily B.

Don't know why I'm sharing this but Jane just triggered a flood of dialogue and questions in my head. So why not? It hit me when she started talking about money and materialism. Humans are so caught up in things. But how do we take the greed out of the equation or change mindsets? I can admit that I experience greed. My thought process is that the more money I have the more I can spend on animal welfare and most importantly their environment/habitats. I wouldn't care about the environment if it wasn't for them. It's sad, we live in a world where people seem to purposely make things complicated and the majority of people can't agree or see eye to eye . Our species is so complex in how we each individually think to thoughts and opinions or ideas. So much good would come out of everyone being on the same page. We don't need the same brains just goals I guess. Every word Jane speaks is gospel. Not just her message but just her presence is powerful. I agree with Jane when she starts talking about a non-materialistic world and how to fix the one we live in now with young people. The minds of older people can be changed but I think it's more important to focus on younger generations because they're more influential. They have a greater platform to influence others and will be able to plant seeds for generations to come. OK just read some comments in this lesson discussion and I'm just wondering cuz I saw it pop up a couple of times now, what does being vegetarian have to do with fixing the issues Jane is talking about? I'm not vegetarian.

Bernardo F.

Such a powerful message, and it's so true, most problems in the environment come from human problems: no access to education, poor people, hunger, overpopulation... all that makes the people act to survive, sometimes it can be to take more of a resource, take it from another one, harming the environment to have enough, etc. If we add to that greedy people, well it just makes it worse. Now, about chimps being greedy, I don't doubt it, Richard Dawkins mentions that we are survival machines, lead by our selfish genes. The difference is that if a group of animals take more from a resource, the consequences are generaly death, those organisms don't live enough to inherit those genes. But humans... we have passed that point, we fight to get that resource, even if it means to hurt the environment, other organisms or even our own species.

Sarah C.

Jane mentions that the only way to change the mindset of this materialistic world is by working with young people, but what do you all think? Can't the minds of older people be changed too?

Ysabel O.

This class is amazing! Listening to Jane speak from her heart is so touching!

Scott W.

'm majoring in television production at a community college in Nova Scotia, Canada. I've got a lot of life experience for a 42 year young man. My nine year old daughter seeks to pursue life as a veterinarian on account of my including her in my volunteer work at Hope For Wildlife a few years ago. Hope for Wildlife is a wildlife rehabilitation center that caters to an extremely wide array of raptors, birds of prey, small mammals, waterfowl, local felidae and canidae (bobcats, coyotes), reptiles and amphibians, several native species or even non native species blown in with storms. Occasionally, a member or two from the order chiroptera would come in needing assistance. My duties there included: assist in the animal's capture, safely contain (for human and creature sake), assist with treatment (while following instruction of those who know) as well as their maintenance and release. I suspect I know the latin names for around 60 species. Most of them reptilia from the boidae and pythonidae families. Not bragging, establishing my knowledge base. I can identify several species of snake by eye, and have survivals skills of a soldier (as I was once one). I've volunteered with Little Ray's Reptile Zoo, and also have experience in wildfire firefighting. I didn't put these experiences on my resume because I don't want anyone to be able to say I was doing it (volunteering at a wildlife rescue with a tv show), for attention. I was doing some background acting at the time, and didn't want anyone claiming I was anything less than authentic. Steve Irwin was and still is an inspiration to me, as is Dr. Goodall. I see this Masterclass lesson discussion, as opportunity to offer my skills to stop poaching. I have a valid passport and desperately seek to make some kind of significant difference in the world before my time expires on Earth. I want my children to bear witness to wild fauna in it's natural habitat. My resume as well as a list of skills learned, is at the bottom the main page of my website at Please let me know if/how I can be of benefit, service or assistance to stop illegal poaching.

Diana H.

I enjoy hearing her point of view as a scientist on the division of the clever mind and love and compassion of the heart. As we use up our own resources we want to take them from the developing world. Materialism and greed that divides us from the natural world our home on planet earth. Studies on the human brain show that one of the differences between humans and primates is our empathy. Hopefully we can master our greed with our compassion and our intelligence. Great class!

Gabriela L.

Those medical research that torture and kill chimps are just criminal. They should be legally prosecuted.

Gabriela L.

Those medical research that torture and kill chimps are just criminal. They should be legally prosecuted.