Science & Tech, Home & Lifestyle, Community & Government


Dr. Jane Goodall

Lesson time 11:39 min

The destruction of forests is especially painful to Dr. Jane because of the emotional connection she has with trees. Learn about these incredible plants and the far-reaching effects of destroying forests.

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Topics include: Forests • Palm Oil • Resilience of Trees: Gombe National Park • Marvels of the Plant Kingdom


I think it was my love of trees as a child, which was amplified when I got to Gombe National Park and spent time in the forest there and began to learn about this amazing interconnectedness of life forms in the forest. That's why, for me, knowing about the destruction of the rain forests in the woodlands around the world, it actually hurts. And I feel trees as living beings. When I used to go out every day at Gombe and I was on my own, I would put my hand on a trunk and feel the sap rising. And I feel this tree as a living being in its own right. So that the destruction of the forests is not only leading to the extinction of the great apes as they lose their habitats, so many other primates, and so many other life forms. But it's also the destruction of these living beings, these trees. And it's fascinating to me that more and more scientists are beginning to talk about countries be intelligent, talking about the communication between trees. And when this was first proposed and a paper was written, the two scientists were pooh-poohed. And they went very quiet for a while until they were able to prove that what they said was true. And a certain kind of tree is attacked by caterpillars. That tree can then put out pheromones. And this will warn other trees of the same species that there is a plague of caterpillars. As a result of that, they were able to put extra toxins into their leaves, which will help them to counteract the caterpillars when they arrive. And in a forest, there's another way of communication, which is through little microfungi on the roots. And this network can stretch right across the forest floor. And there is so much to learn about communication between trees. It's completely amazing. [MUSIC PLAYING] The forests that are being destroyed, it's shocking. It's terrifying. Right across Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, and now creeping into Latin America, creeping into Africa, forests are being destroyed to grow plantations of oil nut palms, oil nut palms that produce this palm oil that's now crept into so many, many of our food products. It's used in cooking. It's used in cooking oil. It's used in cosmetics. It's used to create biofuel. In fact, a huge amount of palm oil plantations go into biofuel, which is meant to be environmentally friendly. But it's the result of destroying vast areas of primary forests, old growth forests. And so a lot of people, what can they do? Well, they can try and avoid products containing palm oil. Most cookies have palm oil in them. But it's not labeled. And I've been talking to people about sustainable palm oil plantations. And they say, it's very, very difficult for a buyer to be absolutely sure that the palm oil he's buying does indeed come from a sustainable source. And it's not labeled. Some of it is. So it's difficult. But people need to try and learn...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Dr. Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.

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