December 11, 2011

Jane Goodall at 77: 'There is so much ... I have to do!'

The anthropologist focuses her latest campaign on young primates – the human variety.

By LAURA HAMBLETON Special to The Washington Post

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Q. Do you have aches and pains?

A. The first thing you notice is it's not so easy to get up from the floor.

My sister and I were complaining the other day and I remember my mother -- all my family lived to be over 90 -- watching her getting up from the floor, having to push herself up on a chair. I am thinking, "Oh, dear," and gradually it creeps up on you that you can't leap up off the floor. 

Q. How do you keep yourself so vital?

A. There is so much I know I have to do! And fortunately I get back to Gombe twice a year. I always insist that for one of the precious four days (I have in Gombe) I be left completely alone so I can recharge. It's my spiritual energy. When I'm in England, which is home, where I grew up, where my sister and her family live, there are always dogs. There I get my relaxation walking the dogs where I used to scramble as a child. 

Q. What are you still hoping to do?

A. Growing what is already there. Roots and Shoots (an environmental program for young people run by the Jane Goodall Institute) is in 100 countries.

I am encouraging people to think about the consequences of the choices they make: What did you buy? Where did it come from? What's it made of? Does it come from very far away? Was it involved in child slave labor in India or China? Did it involve horrible cruelty to animals, like all of the meat we buy from farm animals? They face torture.

I try to make use of my own ecological perspective. Did I turn lights off? Did I turn off my computer? All of these seemingly little things, when millions of people do them, that starts a mountain of change. 

Q. How long have you been a vegetarian?

A. Since about the late '50s. I read Peter Singer's book about animal liberation. After reading that book, my next meal came along, and I saw meat on the plate. I looked down and said this symbolizes fear, pain and death, and I don't want that in my body. I stopped just like that, boom.

I do a lot of things boom. 

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