Dame Jane Goodall: 81 and Au Courant

Speaking to a few hundred people in Toronto recently, Jane Goodall wanted supporters, gathered for the Ten Shots, Ten Chefs fundraiser in support of the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, to know that Mother Earth had another foe: cows. The world-renowned primatologist-turned-conservationist took the climate change fight beyond fossil fuels – that’s old news after all.

“An awful lot of people don’t know, and I say this because tonight we’ve had this wonderful vegetarian [food] by these wonderful vegetarian cooks, but it’s the meat eating that is growing around the planet as countries get wealthier. Meat eating becomes a symbol of success. That is destroying the planet.”

The issue of meat eating’s impact on the environment, including deforestation and methane gas pollution, is only now gaining a mainstream audience, with documentaries like last year’s Cowspiracy helping bring it to the fore. When we sat down the next day, I asked Goodall if she’d seen the film. “Of course,” she said. It’s nothing new to Goodall who went vegetarian more than 40 years ago – then, in response to intensive animal farming conditions; nowadays, as an act of conservancy as well.

Goodall had to rely on the pages of National Geographic to get the word out about her ground-breaking primate research back in the ’60s. Today, she embraces technology to further a cause. As she wrapped up her rousing speech the night before, she spoke of how social media swelled attendance of last September’s People’s Climate March in New York to more than 300,000 from the 80,000 organizers had expected.

“Everybody was using their cellphones and tablets and iPads, and I was listening to them and talking to them and they were telling all their friends, ‘Come. This is exciting.’ It was a beautiful day, and a lot them were saying, ‘DiCaprio is here.’ I even heard one of them saying, ‘Jane Goodall is here.’”

Although attendance didn’t come close to those New York numbers, smartphones were everywhere and at the ready, and no doubt Goodall was “tagged” more than a few times in Toronto as well.

After the event, an organizer waited on the curb outside as a car pulled up. “Uber?” she asked. “She’s just taking a few more pictures,” she explained. A few minutes later, as I continued to wait for a cab, Goodall arrived and got into her “share economy” ride. Of course the Harvard Business Review says “sharing economy” is a misnomer and that it should be coined “access economy.” No doubt Goodall is already hip to that, too.