Interview: Jane Goodall

  • Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. (Photo courtesy of The Jane Goodall Institute)

It’s been 50 years since Jane Goodall first began her research of the behaviors of chimpanzees at Gombe National Park in Tanzania. These days, Goodall spends most of her time traveling, meeting with young people to encourage them to think about how their actions affect the people, animals and the environment of this planet. We caught up with her in Chicago this past weekend. She says people see the problems of the world as just too big to tackle.


Jane Goodall: You know people are always asking me ‘what can I do?’, and I think one of the main problems is that people just feel so helpless when they look at what’s happening. And so I always say to people, if we could just spend a few minutes each day thinking about the consequences of the that choices we make… they can be small choices like What do we buy? What do we eat? What do we wear? And we ask questions like where did it come from? How was it made? Did it damage the environment? Did it involve child labor in some distant place? Did it involve cruelty to animals? If we start thinking in those terms, we do start making behavior changes, and they may seem small, but multiplied by a couple of billion, you start to see the major kind of change that we desperately need if we’re going to see a planet that’s reasonably hospitable to our great-grandchildren.

Graham: You’ve been working with young people, tell me a little bit about your project ‘Root’s and Shoots’…what’s the goal there?

Goodall: Roots and Shoots began with twelve high school students in 1991, and it’s now in 120 countries and growing, and we’ve got about 15,000 active groups. The main message: every single one of us makes a difference every single day. and every group is choosing three different kinds of projects to make the world a better place for people, for animals, for the environment. And now we span all ages from pre-school and kindergarten right the way through college and university, and actually more and more adults are forming groups because they, too, want to help to make this a better world.

Graham: I know you have a home in London, but I also assume that Tanzania is much your home. How often do you get to go back there?

Goodall: I get to Gombe itself in Tanzania, where the Chimpanzees are, twice a year, but only briefly. Just time to immerse myself in the forest and sort of get a recharge of my spiritual batteries, so to speak.

Graham: I’m wondering if any of the chimpanzee community still recognizes you when you visit Gombe?

Goodall:The older ones do, the offspring of those whom I knew so, so well in the early days.

Graham: And they recognize you when you go back?

Goodall: Yes, absolutely, they certainly do, I’m appearing twice a year.

Graham: How does that make you feel?

Goodall: Well I have that emotional feeling with Fifi, and to some extent with Goblin, Frodo is just such a horrible, and objectionable bully that I can’t really feel anything but a slight dislike for Frodo. His older brother Freud, I always enjoy meeting him out in the forest, and it takes me back a bit to those early days when I lived among them, more or less, and you know, that was the time when I had these close relationships, and it was just such a very special time in my life.

Graham: Thank you very much, I’m sure you are aware of how much people appreciate the work you’ve done, and what you’ve done to raise awareness among us in the West and around the world about the plight of great apes and chimpanzees. I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

Goodall: thanks very much, Lester, and it was nice talking to you.

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Banned Firewood for Sale

  • Logs from ash trees that had to be cut down after they were infested with emerald ash borer beetles. (Photo by Rebecca Williams)

In more and more places, you can’t bring firewood with you when you go
camping. That’s because officials are worried about a destructive
beetle that people are spreading by moving firewood all over the
nation. Scientists say the best thing you can do is buy firewood where
you camp. But as Rebecca Williams reports, even then… you can’t
always know if the wood you’re buying is safe:


In more and more places, you can’t bring firewood with you when you go
camping. That’s because officials are worried about a destructive
beetle that people are spreading by moving firewood all over the
nation. Scientists say the best thing you can do is buy firewood where
you camp. But as Rebecca Williams reports, even then… you can’t
always know if the wood you’re buying is safe:

(Sound of crackling fire)

There’s something sort of magical about a fire. Without it, there’d be
no roasted marshmallows, no ghost stories. And it would get pretty cold at
night. That’s why a lot of people toss some firewood in their car on
the way to camp out. It’s just habit.

But lately it’s gotten risky to move firewood. That wood could be
carrying tiny stowaways with big appetites. Especially a metallic
green beetle called the emerald ash borer.

The ash borer eats through the living layer of ash trees, so the trees
starve to death. It’s thought to have gotten into the States in wood
packing material from China. So far, it’s killed more than 20 million
ash trees in the upper Midwest and Ontario. That’s costing
millions of dollars in lost trees and wood.

People can move the beetle long distances unknowingly by moving
firewood, because the bug hides underneath the bark.

Elizabeth Pentico is trying to stop people from moving that infested
wood. She’s with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She supervises
USDA inspectors looking for people moving firewood out of quarantined

“If someone has a shipment of logs that’s fairly easy to see, but 25
pieces of firewood in the back of a pickup truck with a camper is a
whole different issue. The firewood pathway is very difficult because
it is so low profile and because everyone moves firewood.”

Pentico says the best thing to do is buy firewood locally… and burn it
all up. But she says a lot of times, if you buy it from a gas station,
supermarket, or home improvement store, there won’t be any way to know
for sure if the firewood is safe.

Recently, that’s been a problem. Firewood from a company in Illinois
was shipped to Menard’s home improvement stores in 10 states. Illinois
is under a federal quarantine for emerald ash borer. So no hardwood
firewood can cross state lines, unless it’s been treated to kill
emerald ash borer larvae.

But somebody messed up.

Jane Larson is a spokesperson with the Wisconsin Department of
Agriculture. She says in this case, the firewood company had an
agreement with the federal government to ship firewood across state

“Part of that agreement is they’d sell wood that had the bark removed,
or it would be ‘debarked.’ And we were finding here that the wood was not

Larson says a nationwide recall was put in place. But she says a few
Menard’s stores were still selling the firewood a week after the recall
notice was issued.

In a written statement to The Environment Report, a Menard’s
spokesperson says quote – “Menard’s was in complete cooperation with
the USDA firewood recall and has obtained a new vendor.”

But officials say this incident shows how easily the ash borer can

USDA’s Elizabeth Pentico says even if you buy a firewood
bundle that says it’s from Texas, that doesn’t mean that’s where the
firewood came from:

“We had a distribution center here in Michigan. The broker for the
firewood was in Texas. The wood itself came out of Missouri and the
wood was distributed to Ohio and Indiana.”

So you can see, firewood can travel around a lot.

You can even buy firewood on eBay, by the semi-load. Pentico says her
inspectors have to watch the Net closely:

“They’ve even come across some firewood chatrooms that have firewood sales.
You can indicate that firewood is illegal. The officers stopped a sale
of Michigan firewood going to California by just typing in and saying
you know, that’s an illegal movement.”

But Pentico says officers do have to catch the wood actually crossing
state lines before the laws can be enforced.

Some people in the firewood industry agree it’s like hide and seek for

Jim Albring is a firewood dealer who’s been in the business for more
than 25 years:

“A lot of firewood business is done by little individuals, guys that
cut on the weekends and so forth, and you try to change the mindset of those people
and say you can’t cut ash, you can’t sell ash, well they’re going to
cut what they want to cut. They’re individuals… and if there’s ash in
it, so there’s ash in it.”

The inspectors say it’s very hard even for a trained eye to tell the
difference between ash wood that might be infested and any other kind
of wood that’s safe. So they say the best thing to do is to not move
firewood at all. Buy local and burn it up as soon as you can.

For the Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

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Keepers of the Water Festival

The first annual Keepers of the Water Festival will be held on June 21st at Algonac (AL-gun-ack) State Park near Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Its goal is to encourage better stewardship of the Great Lakes. It’s expected to draw participants from all over the region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports: