Dr. Jane Goodall: "Buy less, waste less, savor it more"

Still searching for 2015 resolutions? How about living more sustainably?

World-renowned primatologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall has some ideas. Educating and empowering people the world over can lead to more environmentally sound actions, she said, “if people will begin thinking about the consequences of the little choices we make.”

Photo credit: John Amis for Captain Planet

Some specific suggestions: Walk or bicycle if you can. Eat less meat, as grazing cattle depletes natural resources. Conserve water, recycle, buy organic food or garden.

“It costs a little bit more to buy organic,” she said. “Buy less and waste less and savor it more. Everybody can play a part.”

Goodall, who at 80 still travels about 300 days a year, was in Atlanta earlier this month to receive the 2014 Exemplar Award from the Captain Planet Foundation. The organization was launched by CNN founder and environmentalist Ted Turner and now helmed by his daughter, eco-activist Laura Turner Seydel.

The gala was held at the InterContinenal Hotel in Buckhead, and celebrity attendees included longtime CNN personality Larry King and Turner’s former wife and good friend Jane Fonda.

Photo credit: John Amis for Captain Planet

Ahead of the festivities, we were granted a few minutes with Goodall.

“When I was young, we didn’t have all the environmental problems,” she said, sounding weary not only from her latest globe-trotting but at the state of forests, coastline and wildlife she sees when she visits points around the world. “Flying across Africa, it used to be solid forest. It’s not anymore. The first time I went to Panama, we went past lush forests. I went back four or five years later, and there were cattle everywhere and the forests were destroyed. In Greenland, the ice used to never melt.”

Goodall’s appreciation for the environment grew from her love of wildlife. In 1960, at 26, she made her first trip from England to what is today Tanzania to begin studying wild chimpanzees, then little understood. Today the Jane Goodall Institute works to protect the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, and educates young people through its Roots & Shoots program.

“When I arrived in Gombe, there were forests,” she said. “When I flew over in the early 1990s, I saw a tiny little forest surrounded by barren hills.”

Dr. Jane Goodall, Larry King and "Mr. H!" If you'd like one they're available at http://www.janegoodall.org/product/mr-h-jr. Photo credit: John Amis for Captain Planet

Worldwide, she has observed three trends that contribute to deforestation and other environmental ills: poverty, materialism and overpopulation.

“When you’re living in poverty, you’re going to cut down trees to grow food for your family,” she said. “You haven’t got much choice. You’re going to buy the cheapest goods and not care how they’re made. On the other hand is this extreme materialistic, wasteful culture. If you have a date, you must have a new dress. The environment is not considered.”

She's not without hope, though. Her Roots & Shoots program aligns with Captain Planet's youth initiatives.

"We’re still really exploring more ways we can do things together," she said. Despite the environmental ills she's witnessed, she reported progress, too. For example an initiative to replenish the forest in Gombe has gotten off the ground, literally: "We’ve started a program and the trees are coming back."

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