Home Youth empowerment From climate change to COVID-19, we can win with hope: Jane Goodall

From climate change to COVID-19, we can win with hope: Jane Goodall


As the world continues to seek remedies for pressing global problems – from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change – it’s easy to feel a sense of déjà vu, if not hopelessness. What can be done to deal with the seemingly endless crises of humanity? And even though we know what to do, finding common ground between our divisions – which is essential for cooperation – can seem daunting.

Although hoping seems an increasingly impossible position, nevertheless, even today we see powerful scientific and spiritual reasons for hope. Hope is as essential to man as oxygen. It is a crucial survival trait that has supported our species in the face of danger since the Stone Age. Hope is powerful.

But what is hope really? Is it just a feeling? Where does it come from? Can it be measured? Can we develop it? Instill it? True hope is not a passive feeling: it is a positive force that motivates action. Hope and action are mutually reinforcing – you won’t be active unless you hope your action will make a difference. You need hope to get started, but by taking action it helps you generate more hope. It’s a feedback loop.

Our experience – one as an ethologist and environmentalist, the other as the head of one of America’s largest private philanthropies supporting science – tells us that there are powerful reasons to remain hopeful despite gravity. of our crises.

Here are three: resilience of humanity, resilience of life and empowerment of young people.

Human resilience

The largest psychological study ever conducted in rural Appalachia, funded by the Templeton Foundation, came to a startling conclusion about human resilience. Despite worrying poverty rates, 77% of participants said “I am satisfied with my life”. In response to traumatic events, 84% said, “I found out that I am stronger than I thought I was. “

Jane goodall

A study of child soldiers and other young people in Sierra Leone exposed to extremely high trauma found that six years after the war, a large majority of young people (89%) either had weak internalized symptoms or recovered poorly. improving over time, even with very limited access. to the board.

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In addition to these examples, humans belong to a continuum of life that is able to survive even under the most threatening conditions.

The resilience of life

We are part of a web of life spanning over 3 billion years that has rebounded from massive changes in plate tectonics, ice ages, sea level changes, fluctuations atmospheres, volcanic eruptions and asteroid impacts. In recent history, not only has industrialization taken its toll on wildlife, modern warfare is wiping out huge swathes of land in the blink of an eye. Yet hope persists.

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a 155 mile long and 3.2 mile wide strip of land created as a buffer between North Korea and South Korea in 1953, suffered massive bombardment and is still marked by more than ‘a million landmines. Nevertheless, in the decades that followed, left untouched by man, nature quickly healed itself. There are thousands of plant and animal species and dozens of endangered species. It is an oasis for migrating birds and a wonderful example of regeneration.

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And if it is possible that a tree once crushed under the rubble of the Twin Towers, 20 years after the 9/11 attacks, will recover and bloom again, then we can hope for the resilience of life on Earth.

Empower young people

By investing in young people and empowering them to take the action they want in the world, we are achieving transformative results in their moral and civic character. Youth development programs can not only empower the individuals who participate, they can also equip them with the tools to make a measurable, long-term difference in the world. The Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots movement, which is now celebrating its 30th anniversary and is active in more than 50 countries, is based on these principles.

Jane Goodall in 2020

These are three good reasons why we hope to be able to emerge stronger from our current situation. True hope doesn’t exclude fear, anger, or frustration – it harnesses them. Hope does not deny all the difficulties and dangers that exist, but strengthens our determination to overcome them.

This is all different from optimism, an attitude that is deeply rooted in our genetic disposition.

When Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 2013 Templeton Prize, was once asked why he was optimistic, he replied that he was not optimistic but was a prisoner of hope. “The hope,” he said, “is to be able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

At a time when the future is clouded by coronavirus, conflict, climate change and loss of biodiversity, hope gives us the strength to move forward.

Jane Goodall is an ethologist, environmentalist, 2021 Templeton Prize winner and co-author of “Reason for Hope” (1999), “Seeds of Hope” (2013) and “The Book of Hope” (2021).

Heather Templeton-Dill is President of the John Templeton Foundation, a major funder of research on hope, optimism, resilience and character development.