By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Dr. Jane Goodall believes everyone can make a difference.

The world’s leading expert on chimpanzees and a proponent of conservation is in Minnesota this weekend. The 83-year-old spoke to a full house on the University of Minnesota campus Friday night as part of her spring lecture tour. She began with her iconic chimpanzee call. And, she shared with WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle threats facing our world, and why she has hope for the future.

Goodall’s journey began in the Gombe, researching chimpanzees in Tanzania in the ’60s.

“Chimps are our closest relatives,” she said. “They’re way more intelligent than anyone thought. They help us to understand human evolution a little better.”

Over decades of groundbreaking work in the country, she witnessed the surroundings outside the national park changing, and her passion for our world grew exponentially.

“That’s when it hit me: If didn’t do something to improve the lives of these people and suggest alternatives to making money or going by cutting down the trees, we can’t even try to save the chimps,” Goodall said.

That started her on a course to educate people and to encourage the next generation become better stewards of the environment. She sees a few interrelated issues as barriers. It starts with extreme poverty.

“Where you destroy the environment or buy the cheapest things made in an unethical way because you have to. Second is lifestyle of almost everybody else, we have more than we need. The third problem is human population and I would say the fourth problem is corruption,” Goodall said.

The UN Messenger of Peace believes there are many reasons for hope: the human mind, the resilience of nature when we give it a helping hand, uniting on social media to bring concerned voices together, the energy and commitment of young people, and what she calls the indomitable human spirit. It begins with people realizing that every individual can make a difference.

“Think about each day how you can live with the smallest environmental footprint you possibly can. If it’s 20 million people, if it’s a billion people, all making those wise choices each day, ethical choices, that moves us toward different kind of world,” Goodall said.

Goodall travels an average of 300 days a year speaking. Click here to learn more about the Jane Goodall Institute, programs she started and ways to get involved.

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