Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
I’ve stood with Inuit elders by a great ice cliff in Greenland as water cascaded down and icebergs calved. It never used to melt, the elders told me. I’ve witnessed the shrinking of a Mount Kilimanjaro glacier. I’ve watched wildfires rage in Africa and in California. And I’ve seen the carcasses of animals who have died in droughts.
As I travel around the globe, people tell me how the weather patterns have been disrupted and the worst kind of hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are getting more destructive and more frequent. It is because we are polluting and destroying the environment by using natural resources in an unsustainable way.
When I started my research in Gombe, Tanzania, in 1960, it was part of the forest belt that stretched across Africa. In 1990, I looked down from a small plane on an island of forest surrounded by completely bare hills. More people were living there than the land could support, so trees had been cleared to grow food or make charcoal.
In order to slow down climate change, we must solve four seemingly unsolvable problems. We must eliminate poverty. We must change the unsustainable lifestyles of so many of us. We must abolish corruption. And we must think about our growing human population. There are 7.7 billion of us today, and by 2050, the UN predicts there will be 9.7 billion. It is no wonder people have despaired. But I believe we have a window of time to have an impact. Here’s why I’m still optimistic.