Letter to the youth of Planet Earth

During the 81 years of my life there has been great change – when I was a child there was no TV, no email, no cell phones. We read books and I spent much time out of doors with my best friend, my dog Rusty.
Development has made life much easier for millions of people, but has also wreaked terrible harm on the environment and caused millions more people to live in poverty. We have created a greedy materialistic society that has spread around the world. And our populations have hugely increased.
If we carry on with business as usual then the future for your children and all future generations is grim.
Perhaps you know about all this but feel helpless – the problems are so great, what can you possibly do to make a difference? So you feel apathetic. Or depressed. Or perhaps angry.
So let me share a secret. You actually can make a difference – every day. We all can. And we have a choice as to the kind of difference we make.
Think about the consequences of all the small choices you make: what to buy – food, clothes, everything. Where did it come from? How was it made? Did it harm animals, involve child slave labour? Do you actually need it? Will you bother to turn off lights or water faucets? How will you treat people and animals? When billions of people think this way and make ethical choices the world will be a better place.
And its very much about breaking down the barriers we build between people of different nations, cultures, religions – by doing things together. Whatever the colour of our skin, our blood is the same, we laugh when we are happy and cry when we are sad, we fall in love.
When I was 10 years old I read a little book called Tarzan of the Apes. And I determined that, when I grew up, I would go to Africa, live with wild animals,and write books about them. “Impossible!” I was told. World War II was raging across Europe, Africa was far away, we had very little money – and I was just a mere girl. But my mother said: “If you really want something you will have to work hard, take advantage of opportunities, and never give up”.
I followed her advice, and my dream eventually came true. I did get to Africa, and I did live with wild animals. With chimpanzees, the animals most like us. And I fell in love with the forest, the rich biodiversity, the beauty. I only left when I realized that chimpanzee numbers were decreasing fast, their forests were being destroyed, they were being hunted for food and their infants stolen for entertainment. And I learned that animals were being driven to extinction everywhere. And so I began traveling around the world raising awareness. And everywhere I repeat my mother’s advice to young people: you too can realize your dreams.
I think now we need a collective dream: that together we will work to make a better, a more sustainable world. We will realize that while we need some money to live, we should not live for money. That being happy is more important than getting rich. For the sake of the future of Planet Earth – your future – I hope you will work hard to make our dream come true. Before it is too late.

Dr. Jane Goodall