Should we be more like animals and lead with our hearts to save the planet?

The legendary conservationist Jane Goodall said in a talk recently that humans need to learn to work with our hearts as well as our heads, like animals, when it comes to protecting the planet. We discuss her ideas and how to make them a reality.

Mel Young: I listened to a fabulous session recently involving young people from the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers community, and Jane Goodall, the well-known conservationist, who is now 82. Jane shared her wisdom as a person who has studied and worked with animals for generations. I knew about her but I hadn’t heard speak before. She had great wisdom, a calmness and an understanding, it seemed to me, about what the world needs to do right now.

She said that the world was at a critical point in terms of its survival: we have to do something now, there was no time to lose and that younger people had to lead this. She talked about how we, as humans, need to learn to work with our heads and our hearts, like animals, and not just with our heads.

Alex Matthews: Jane Goodall is really amazing – I’m very envious you got to see her speak! She is so ahead of her time, and has been talking about how we have to fix our relationship with the natural world for decades. It’s so interesting that she said that about how we need to behave more like animals, and work with our hearts as well as our heads. As humans we seem to think that we are better than animals – that, because we have created the Anthropocene, we are a more successful species and should be in charge. The fact is, we are animals too, and we should remember that other animals will do some things better than us, because they have a different way of responding. For example – we are the only animals that produce rubbish that is not reused. 

I’ve had some interesting conversations recently about how the fact that humans see ourselves as above other animals and separate to the ecosystems is behind so many of the world’s problems – including the pandemic. We have to learn that we are part of the ecosystems – if they collapse, so do we.

MY: One of the positive benefits of the pandemic lockdown is that people have a much greater appreciation of nature and the world around them; they have started to think about how the world is connected. We all had to stop travelling and so we went for local walks and started noticing things like birds and different sorts of wildlife. We stopped charging around, took our blinkers off and opened our eyes. Some of us began to realise that we are not separated from nature and that has to be a good thing. But is this something that will remain in our consciousness after the pandemic and we will change our behaviour accordingly? Jane Goodall would hope so, but will we?

AM: That’s the big question isn’t it, and one that we looked at in our last blog. We need to harness this surge of concern for the planet to create lasting change – hopefully, that’s what our leaders will try to do at COP26 later this year. Unfortunately, as humans, we are creatures of habit, and many of us yearn for a return to ‘normal’, with all our old habits, such as going abroad for holidays and being so busy that we don’t take the time to engage with nature. That’s where what Jane says about animals acting with their hearts as well as their heads is so resonant. If we were led more with our hearts, then perhaps our newfound – or renewed – appreciation for nature would drive us to action.

MY: My own personal observation after being on numerous calls and webinars over the past 12 months is that younger people get it. The media and most politicians are talking about returning to ‘normal’, but younger people are saying the opposite, that we have to listen to people like Jane Goodall and David Attenborough and change the way we all behave in order to save the planet. This isn’t just about recycling. It goes much deeper and requires system change at all levels, as well as transforming the way we live. Younger people are also talking about how change could come about practically. This is just anecdotal, but this is the sense I am getting and that has to be good news I think. We need to amplify those voices.

AM: I have to say I think younger people tend to ‘get it’ more than older people – you see many more young people on the streets for the climate strikes than older, for example. They are the generation who will have to deal with any fall out from climate change, so you can see why they’re angry. Perhaps they exemplify Jane Goodall’s wish that we behave more like animals and act from the heart. I can’t wait to get these passionate young people onto The New Ism to talk about their hopes for the future and what they want to do to make that future happen. They need a platform and that’s what we’ll give them! 

MY: Indeed. I think we need to build on one of things Jane Goodall said. It was something like: “You’ve got to get to people’s hearts – if you point fingers and tell them “you’re bad! you need to change!”, they won’t listen. Find their heart and what speaks to them, and see the magic.” At The New Ism we will hear from people who have a vision and who want to create real change which benefits everyone, and helps save the planet.

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