“What is your greatest reason for hope?” asks the host, her voice resolute and clear, the weight of her 87 years barely discernable. Before answering, the guest, Christiana Figueres, former diplomat and climate policy advocate, asks to be greeted in the customary chimpanzee way which she proceeds to, in a single breath, ending with, “Me, Jane.”
Dame Jane Goodall, that is.
The Jane Goodall Hopecast is a pandemic-era podcast that Goodall started so that she could continue to interact with a world that seemed to be fast losing faith in its ability to save itself from environmental disaster. Forced to lock down in her childhood home, “Virtual Jane” began zooming everywhere, often giving multiple talks in a single day, advocating for the conservation of animal habitats and raising funds for a variety of projects. A few months into the pandemic, the podcast emerged as part of her ongoing advocacy, and an extension of her recent book Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey .
“I do believe in the indominable human spirit,” she says, opening the first episode. “I think hope has been a part of our human evolution, a force that has pushed us to where we are today... but because there’s so much darkness in the world today, there is even more need for hope.”
The podcast turns its ear to people who offer reason for hope, whose ideas and actions are making a difference to planetary health, through individual, community, corporate or policy action. Their conviction and energy match Goodall’s, making for a lively exchange between almost-equals — obviously, it is hard to match her six decades in the field! We meet musicians, royalty, community activists and policy wonks. Figueres, a former diplomat and climate policy advocate (one of the key organisers of the Paris Agreement), runs her own podcast, Outrage and Optimism .
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a guest on Episode 15 of Season 1, is a marine biologist and policy expert and — you guessed it — host of a podcast, How to Save the Planet .
Janet Hayes, CEO of Crate & Barrel Holdings, who speaks about how global corporations can take more responsibility for climate action and conservation.
Each of the episodes introduces an initiative, a movement, a set of ideas, that has shifted something in the way people interact with their environments, with plenty of lessons for those who would want to get into climate change or environmental activism. Goodall notes, “You can reach the heart by telling stories, not just by arguing with people’s intellects.” As she reminds us often through the series, hope is not just empty anticipation, but informed action.
Even as we learn about these good works, we are offered glimpses into bits and pieces of Goodall’s childhood and early years in the Gombe. There’s a delightful story about how as a 10-year-old, she made her grandmother will her the beech tree (Mr Beech) in her family home, and an account of offering the chimpanzee greeting — despite being terrified by the size of the crowd — at the Live Aid concert in New York.
Of course, Goodall does not lose the opportunity to talk about the work of the Jane Goodall Institute and particularly, about the Roots & Shoots programme that engages with young people, and as important as this work is, these segments can get just a wee bit didactic. But then Goodall is allowed that much, isn’t she?
The podcast is best listened to in spurts rather than binged, when you feel the need to be reminded that there is hope for our planet.
The Hyderabad-based writer and academic is a neatnik fighting a losing battle with the clutter in her head.