My first guest is Dr. Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the United Nations Messenger of Peace.
Dr. Goodall, welcome to Washington Post Live.
DR. GOODALL: Well, thank you, and thank you for inviting me.
MS. CASEY: I want to talk about the extinction crisis that's facing our planet, but first, let's discuss the even bigger picture. Last month, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their landmark report that showed "humans have altered the environment at such an unprecedented pace that catastrophic climate impacts lie ahead unless the greenhouse gas pollution dramatically falls."
So we're going to see the world leaders meet at the COP26 summit in November. What actions do they need to take on this?
DR. GOODALL: Well, I hope very much that they will agree to curb their emissions. I hope there will be some agreement about protecting forests and the environment, and I hope that the summit will be followed by action and it isn't just mere words.
MS. CASEY: What would that action look like to you?
DR. GOODALL: Well, at the Paris accord, governments made commitments as to how much emission they would curb, but they didn't stick to that. And there was nothing to require them to stick to it. So those that looked as though maybe they had managed were the companies that sent their really dirty industry overseas. Back then, it was to India and China. So that it looked as though from their country, much fewer emissions were going out into the atmosphere.
But, you know, you mentioned earlier that if we don't curb emissions, we'll have catastrophic results. We're having catastrophic results already everywhere. The effects of climate change and loss of biodiversity are seen in all parts of the world.
MS. CASEY: Another pledge that countries have made is that the rich countries would have at least a billion dollars a year by 2020 that would go to developing nations to help cut carbon emissions but the targets not being met. So how do they need to deliver on their promises?
DR. GOODALL: Well, you know, I can't really answer that because that isn't my field of expertise, but how do they do it? They make a commitment and stick to it, and they allocate the required amount in their budget to help the poorer countries to control their emissions. But, you know, more than that, I can't say.
MS. CASEY: You make it sound very doable: set the target, hit the target, meet the target.
Dr. Goodall, we are seeing how interconnected we all are globally. Climate change shows us that. The coronavirus pandemic shows us that. How do you think about the causes you're working towards on the global level and also on the local level?
DR. GOODALL: I think a lot of people lose hope, feel helpless and hopeless, because we have this saying, "Think globally. Act locally," but quite honestly, the news these days is so full of doom and gloom. You can't avoid it. It's in television. It's in print. It's everywhere, and so people feel, "What can I do? I'm one person." So they do nothing.
However, I always tell these people, you know, look around where you are, your own community, where you live. What do you care about? And then set to work. Roll up your sleeves, and start tackling that one thing which you can do something about. And what happens then is that if you make a difference--say, you're cleaning a little stream of litter with your friends, and the stream starts running clean. And that may mean that you have to go upstream and talk to the people who are doing the pollution, but if you succeed, then you feel full of hope, and you do more. And hope is contagious. So you inspire more people to do more, and this is a circular thing which ends up with more people doing more to help the environment.
And then you dare think globally when you realize that it's not just you. It's all around the globe. There are people who have woken up, and the media has woken us up. I mean, nobody can avoid--anybody who can read or listen can't avoid hearing about the doom and gloom.
But, you know, what I want to happen is the media gives more time to all the amazing and wonderful stories that are going on around the world of people who are protecting forests, which, of course, helps to protect the CO2 that the forest, the leaves, the trunks, and the soil have absorbed from the atmosphere, and if you protect forests, you prevent it spilling back into the environment, which, of course, happens with all these terrifying fires that are going on all over the world, terrible, terrible fires.
MS. CASEY: For decades, you've been on what the Jane Goodall Institute describes as a "perpetual world tour" to share your messages of hope and conservation, but the pandemic really stopped your travel, just like it stopped so much of our lives. But you found new ways to deliver that message of hope, including a podcast that you call a "Hopecast." What has this time at home meant for you? What have you been able to do?
DR. GOODALL: Well, you know, first, I was really frustrated and angry, but fortunately, when the pandemic began closing things down, I was here. This is the house I grew up in. It's where I survived World War II, and I think going through World War II, when things seemed so hopeless, when Britain alone had quite a long time stood against the might of Nazi Germany. And the rest of Europe was either defeated or they capitulated, and this was before Churchill persuaded Roosevelt to join in the war. And we did manage to defeat Nazi Germany, and Europe wasn't overrun forever and ever. So I think that that gave me this feeling of hope.
But, you know, today, stuck here in the house I grew up in, I felt, well, it's no good feeling frustrated and angry. So, with a little team from the Jane Goodall Institute--Mary Lewis and Dan DuPont in the U.S.--we created "Virtual Jane," and it's been tough. But the positive side is that I've reached millions more people in many more countries, but, you know, it's been every single day since the pandemic started that I've been sitting here behind this screen doing Zooms and Skypes and podcasts.
And you mentioned the Hopecast. Well, that's bringing people in as guests who have a positive outlook on life, because it's this positive outlook, the fact we know what to do, and if we only will get together, we can do it. So the Hopecast is really loved by so many people. It shot up into the top 10 percent of podcasts watched around the world, which is to me amazing. Anyway, it happened.
MS. CASEY: Let's talk about another one of your efforts. The Jane Goodall Institute has an educational program for young people called "Roots & Shoots," and we are seeing a new generation of young climate activists on the front lines. How do you see their work fitting into the conservation movement, and how are they bringing about change?
DR. GOODALL: Well, the Root & Shoots program began back in 1991 because then I was traveling all around the world, and everywhere, I was meeting young people who seemed to have lost hope. And a lot of them were really depressed. A lot of them were angry, some of them violent, and most of them were just epithetic. It didn't seem to matter, "We don't care what happens," and I began talking to them. They all said, more or less, the same: "We feel like this because you've compromised our future"--not me personally but older generations--"and there's nothing we can do about it." We've been compromising their future, stealing their future for years and years and years, probably ever since the Industrial Revolution or even before with the Agricultural Revolution.
But was it too late? Was it true that there was something they could do? No. I'm convinced there's a window of time when we can start to slow down climate change and start healing some of the harm that we've inflicted, but it's a "but." But we've got to get together and take action now.
These young people, they are choosing projects to make the world better. The main message is every single individual, every one of us, everybody listening, we make some impact on the planet every single day, and we get to choose what sort of impact we make, what we buy, what we wear, where did it come from, how was it made, did it harm the environment, was it cruel to animals, that sort of thing. And because everything is interconnected, which I learned in the rainforest, then every group chooses. And they choose three projects: one to help people, one to help animals, one to help the environment. And what began with 12 high school students is now in more than 65 countries because kindergarten, university, everything in between, beginning to get the staff of businesses and corporations or even in some prisons and retirement homes.
And it's taking action. So what are they doing? They're changing the world as we speak. They're planting trees. They're growing organic food. They're writing letters. They're cleaning streams. They're collecting litter there, raising money for the homeless or those who are displaced as climate refugees or political refugees. They're taking action everywhere.
MS. CASEY: Do you worry that this generation of both children and adults is losing touch with nature?
DR. GOODALL: That is one of the main problems, and people are forgetting. It's because so many people now live in the city, surrounded by concrete, and they're forgetting that wherever you live, you're part of the natural world. And we depend on it. Wherever we live, we depend on it for clean air, for oxygen, for clean water. We depend on the rainforest and the oceans to create rain, to absorb carbon dioxide, and we depend on the natural world for everything, food and shelter. And, you know, people really need to reconnect with nature, and that's one of the things we try to do with our Roots & Shoots program as well as taking nature into the city with urban greening and living green walls and giving children as much as possible the chance to be out in nature.
MS. CASEY: So, Dr. Goodall, you have lived on this planet for 87 years, and you've seen some of the best of humanity. You've seen some of the worst of humanity. You've seen ice melt in the Arctic. You've seen forests destroyed and sea levels rise and species even disappear and now this global pandemic. Have you seen a shift during the pandemic of people understanding or acting on the urgency of this moment?
DR. GOODALL: I think it has really woken people up. I think climate change has woken many people up too, and so, you know, as far as during the pandemic, I think people living in some of the big megacities probably saw the stars shining brightly in the night sky for the very first time instead of through a haze of smog and breathe clean air. What a luxury for some people, and although, as soon as possible, it goes back to business as usual, people understand how it can be, how it should be.
MS. CASEY: Well, we saw in the video at the beginning of our program that wildlife populations have decreased by almost 70 percent in the last 40 years. What do we stand to lose as animal populations decrease and species could disappear?
DR. GOODALL: Well, as I've said earlier on, we depend on the natural world for everything, but what we depend on is healthy ecosystems. And it was when I was in the forest ecosystem of Gombe studying chimps that I came to understand how every plant and animal that was part of that ecosystem had a role to play, no matter how small it was, and I came to see this forest ecosystem as like a beautiful living tapestry of life. So imagine as one little species disappears, it doesn't seem very important, but maybe it was the major food of another species. And maybe that one will then disappear, and maybe that was the major food, and so it goes on. And I see as these species disappear, it's like pulling a thread on a tapestry, and when enough threads are pulled, then the tapestry will hang in tatters. The ecosystem will collapse, and it's happened. It's happened already in some places. So we have to--
MS. CASEY: Dr. Goodall, you know--I'm so sorry to cut you off. I wanted to follow up more on that about, you know, as you watch, look at this tapestry, it seems like as here in the United States, for example, people have been personally affected by climate change, flooding, fires. It brings it from the theoretical to the personal. How do we help us all understand the potential dangers, understand the danger of losing species without having to have it be a flood in your community or a fire that ravages your home?
DR. GOODALL: Well, unfortunately, it seems that something like that is necessary to wake some people up, and, you know, for so long, people in the wealthy North have sort of thought, well, climate change, it's not affecting me. It's affecting Bangladesh and places like that, but, well, that's not my problem.
But now it's come home to roost. It's the fires that are all around the world raging, and the weather patterns have changed everywhere. Think of the terrible hurricanes, Hurricane Ida last week, that terrible flooding, the wind that swept through, flooding unprecedented in New York. Europe was flooded, a lot of it, and the hurricanes and the typhoons have got worse. And so I think it probably was necessary for these fires and hurricanes and so on to affect the wealthy North so that people realize it's affecting us too, and that's what I hope will wake governments up, if enough people get out there and really force governments to change the way they do things, to protect the environment.
MS. CASEY: So there are close to 8 billion people living on this earth, and humans are constantly moving into spaces where animals live. What are the implications of those human-wildlife interactions, and what are the boundaries for an outsider to say to another community, you need to do this or you need to do that? How do you have those conversations in a way that isn't seeming sort of like you're telling them what to do, which perhaps could be very unfair?
DR. GOODALL: It could, indeed, but the way when it hit me was back in the late '80s. So, when I first got to Gombe in 1960, it was part of the Equatorial Forest Belt stretching right across Equatorial Africa. By the late 1980s, when I flew over Gombe, I was shocked to look down on a little island of trees surrounded by bare hills, and there were more people living on that land than it could support, too poor to buy food from elsewhere, cutting down the trees in their desperation to grow more food to feed their growing families and struggling to survive. And that's when it hit me, if we don't do something to help these people find ways of making a living without destroying the environment, we can't save chimpanzees, forests, or anything else.
And so we began our Jane Goodall Institute program, Take Care or TACARE, and it wasn't a group of arrogant White people going into a poor village saying you've got to change your ways. It was a local group of local Tanzanians, and they went into the villages, 12 around Gombe, sat and talked to them, asked them what they thought we could do for them, not talking about conservation at all to start with. And, gradually, we were able to gain their trust, improve the land, the overused farm land without chemicals. We were able to work with the Tanzanian government to improve health and education, introduce water management plans, get scholarships to keep girls in school, because that's being done all around the world. As women's education improves, family size tends to drop, and so we got family planning information given by the local people who came to workshops, and the people in these poor villages, they've understood that the way out of poverty for their families is good education. They can't afford anymore to educate the eight to ten children that used to be fairly normal back in 1960. So they welcome this information so they can plan out their families.
And so we've even trained forest monitors to monitor the health of their forests. So all of these people have become our partners in conservation because they understand that it's not just to protect wildlife. It's to protect their own future. They need the forests.
MS. CASEY: We have an audience question. Our viewer, Julie Jorgenson from Texas, writes in to ask you this, Dr. Goodall. What do you view as the best international strategy for preserving wildlife habitats and reversing wildlife extinction?
DR. GOODALL: Well, I suppose I would immediately say one thing about our Roots & Shoots program because we try to bring young people together from all around the world and partner with others, and these young people, not only are they going out and actually working to save species but to change their parents and grandparents, and some of them already in government positions and there. So, globally, what can we do? Understand that we are connected around the globe, and you know the old saying that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil will affect people in America, whatever it was, and that's really true, so bringing governments together to make a plan and stick to a plan to protect wildlife.
But, you know, I'm not at all--I can't answer all questions. I can only do what I know I can do in my way, and it doesn't mean it's the right way, but it seems to have worked for us.
MS. CASEY: Many people do look to you for guidance, and I hear it, for example, in your Hopecast podcast. People ask you a lot of questions. Do you have a sense of what it is about your work that connects people and connects people to want to talk to you?
DR. GOODALL: I wish I could answer that question. I wish somebody could explain it to me. I was just a shy little girl growing up here dreaming of going to live with wild animals, and, you know, so I did. The best years of my life were out there with the chimpanzees in the forest, and then realizing they were vanishing, starting this crazy traveling around the world, and suddenly, it happened that people started listening to me. I mean, how did I become this icon? I don't know. I just feel like me. I'm just me talking to you as an ordinary--just I guess I've had a lucky life. I guess I've learned the right lessons. I guess the right part has been laid before me, and I just have to make the right choices. But why people want to listen to me and take comfort very often, I don't know. I don't know.
MS. CASEY: Well, I want to bring you back to the pandemic because it's something that we are all thinking about along with climate change. Dr. Goodall, can you talk about the connection between encroaching on wildlife and the spread of diseases, especially as we look at diseases that could jump from animals to humans? What warnings do you have?
DR. GOODALL: Well, the people studying these so-called "zoonotic diseases" have been warning us for years that a pandemic like this was inevitable, and it's partly, yes, moving into animal habitats, forcing some animals closer to people, which provides an opportunity for a pathogen like a virus to jump over. And when that happens, it might start a new disease.
But there's also the trafficking of animals, hunting them, capturing them, trafficking them, all their body parts around the world to sell in wildlife markets for food, for medicine, exotic pets. They take their pathogens with them, and very often, these wildlife markets are extremely unhygienic, and it's relatively easy for a virus to jump over like COVID-19.
But we mustn't forget our intensive animal farms too, the factory farms. There, again, we're providing conditions that have led to many diseases, not necessarily infectious, but disease jumping from animals to people, and these intensive animal farms not only are they terribly cruel--and we now know. Science has finally admitted that animals are sentient, that they feel appeal. They feel fear. They all feel pain. They're individuals with their own personality. We don't think of food animals like that, do we? But people are beginning, moving to a plant-based diet, which saves huge areas of the natural world that at the moment are used to grow grain to feed the animals. And, of course, all these animals produce methane gas in their digestion, which is one of the main greenhouse gases along with CO2 and nitrous oxide.
MS. CASEY: Well, connecting with that, we have another audience question, this from Jim Whitehead, who lives in Indiana, and asks, "What is the one thing that would make the most difference for climate and sustainability efforts?" Dr. Goodall, would you advise us to look at our own habits? Talk to us about what you see that could make a difference.
DR. GOODALL: As the Roots & Shoots motto is "Every one of us makes an impact every day," some of us can make a much bigger difference than others, depending on our state of wealth or position in life. But if we start thinking about what we buy and how it was made and did it harm the environment or animals, is it cheap because of forced labor, unfair wages, as these big corporations compete with each other to produce cheaper and cheaper goods so that they can get more and more custom? And it's a kind of terrible, vicious circle.
But, you know, I was talking to the head of a big corporation in Singapore just last week, and he said, "You know, Jane, our company is totally changing and for three reasons. One, we see the writing on the wall. We see that we cannot go on exploiting the finite natural resources of the planet. They're not infinite. They're being used up. Secondly, there's consumer pressure. As people get more educated and more passionate, they're not buying things if we make them unethically, if we don't attend to our supply chain. But he said the real thing came when my daughter came home from school and said, "Daddy, is what you're doing hurting the environment? Because I'm going to have to live in it, aren't I, when I grow up?" and he said, "That hurt me." And it's what I have felt as I have traveled around the world. People need to change from within, so not arguing with them, pointing fingers at them, screaming at them. Stories. Tell them stories which reach into the heart.
MS. CASEY: Well, Dr. Jane Goodall, thank you so much, and thank you for talking to us about your message of hope as well. I'd like to note, you do have a book coming out next month called "The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times." Thank you for joining us. What a privilege to speak with you.
DR. GOODALL: Well, thank you so much for inviting onto your program. Thank you.
MS. CASEY: Please stay with us. I'll be back with WildlifeDirect CEO Dr. Paula Kahumbu after this short video.
MS. CASEY: Welcome back. I'm Libby Casey.
My next guest is Dr. Paula Kahumbu, Natural Geographic Explorer and CEO of Wildlife Direct.
Dr. Kahumbu, welcome to Washington Post Live.
DR. KAHUMBU: Thank you so much. I feel so privileged to be here.
MS. CASEY: You focused your career on protecting animal wildlife in Kenya, especially elephants. So, for our viewers who may not know, how did you first begin this work, and what made you realize there was a crisis that you could be part of solving?
DR. KAHUMBU: Well, I grew up in this phenomenal country full of wildlife, and all I ever wanted to do was, like Jane, go and life with the wild animals. And I started my Ph.D. working on elephants in a tiny little island forest in the south coast of Kenya, and in the middle of my work, I heard that the Southern African countries as well as Japan and China wanted to open up the trade in ivory. I knew from my previous work with Ian Douglas-Hamilton and Richard Leakey that the previous years, decades of ivory trade had decimated elephants across Africa and Asia, and I knew that it would be disastrous if we then reopened the ivory trade. And it would have catastrophic effect on already--you know, populations that are just struggling to recover.
So I wrote to Richard Leakey, and I said, "Are you aware that this is happening?" and he said, "You have to drop your pay sheet. Come and work for me for two years and help me." He made me the head of the CITES's--that is the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species--office in Kenya Wildlife Service, and he asked me to develop a national position on this.
And it was an incredibly important moment in my life. I was very young, but I had this very important job to communicate to the world that elephants are not worth only their teeth because ivory is really, literally their two incisors, that elephants are these extraordinary thinking, feeling, emotional, family-oriented animals that deserve to live just like human beings. And it worked. We made a huge impact as Kenya for countries all around the world.
MS. CASEY: And Jane Goodall talks about the importance of stories. So how have you balanced science with stories to help connect people to the wildlife that may be very far away or may be in their backyards?
DR. KAHUMBU: Well, Jane is absolutely right, and I'm so lucky to be associated with National Geographic and, of course, through the award that I got earlier this year with Rolex and National Geographic, the Explorer of the Year award, in recognition of the work I've been doing, making wildlife documentaries.
Libby, you'd be surprised to hear that although Africa has been the source of hundreds of documentaries made every year on our wildlife which is serving a global community of environmentalists and, of course, the environmental movement around the world, those films made in Africa about our iconic animals are not really seen here in Africa. And unable to get those films brought back to the level that we need them to really catalyze an environmental movement in this continent, I decided to just start making my own wildlife documentaries.
Today my organization, WildlifeDirect, is the only organization in Africa, Africans making wildlife documentaries for Africans, and our TV series is called "Wildlife Warriors," and we tell the stories of our heroes and heroines at the front line saving animals.
Children. We have a little boy--his name was Richard Turere--who invented a device to stop lions from killing his father's livestock or a young man saving turtles, people at the front line of elephant conservation. These stories resonate with Africans because they involve us, and that is how we are changing mindsets and moving people to action. It's really quite phenomenal.
MS. CASEY: And, as you point out, the viewers are Africans, but the creators are Africans too. What are you learning from these local conservationists? You shared a couple of small stories there, but how do they affect your work, and how are you hearing it resonate in Kenya?
DR. KAHUMBU: Well, it's amazing. The impact of my series is incredible. Fifty-one percent of Kenyans have been watching it, and I get stopped on the streets by children who call their mothers over and say, "Please ask her. Is that Paula?" They want to know who I am. That's phenomenal. It's affecting those people.
But the more stories I look for, the more interesting and amazing opportunities arise, I was just watching one of my episodes for Season 2, which is about to come out. I went to the top of a mountain called the Loita Hills. The forest is called the Forest of the Lost Child. It already sounds mysterious, and this forest, 2,000 square kilometers, is probably the last remaining ancient foreign, tropical forest, rainforest in Africa that is really managed by local people, by these elders who use the forest for their medicine. And what I learned from them after spending two weeks in the forest with them was that without the forest, their culture is dead. They are so intimately intertwined with this forest, with the stories of the trees, with the medicines, with their tradition and their religion.
It really made me understand that as scientists, sometimes we've got it wrong. We think that numbers and statistics will tell us everything, but it's what's in our heart, as Jane said. It's what in our heart that really pulls us and causes us to take action. So that, I think, was the most powerful lesson that I learned during the last season of filming.
MS. CASEY: What is now the biggest threat to Kenya's wildlife?
DR. KAHUMBU: Wow, I would say climate change, absolutely climate change. Kenya is one of the least emitters of greenhouse gases, but we are affected by climate change in a very serious way. And it is exacerbated by unsustainable land-use patterns.
If you go into the north of Kenya, you'll find people killing each other. I'm not kidding. We have an all-out, you know, firefight between different tribes. They're fighting over water. They're fighting over grass for their livestock because it's gone, and it's gone because of climate change. So we're seeing desertification.
And, as this happens, we see increasing poverty, and poverty comes with greater dependency on the natural environment for your fuel, for your food, for your medicines, and so it's a very vicious cycle. So I would say climate change is by far the most important threat, but I do think that there are ways to reverse this.
MS. CASEY: And who do you look to, to take responsibility to reverse that? I mean, you talked about countries that may not be big emitters but are bearing the brunt of that destruction. Who do you look to, to really take care of this?
DR. KAHUMBU: Well, our own leaders have to take a stand, and they have to implement what they said, just as Jane mentioned earlier. Our president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has been at the forefront of African nations speaking about the unsustainability of development, whether it's agricultural development, water exploitation, or industrial development, which is happening across the continent as our countries to become more modernized. So our leadership needs to walk the talk. There's no question.
But we also need to go and speak to the global leaders in the world. I think that the COP26 is going to be a very, very important moment, and I hope that I can be there to speak to the world leaders about this issue. You know, Kenya alone cannot do much when the cause of the climate change is coming from far outside of our nation. We need help, as do all African countries, and if we don't take the actions, if we don't get the support we need, we stand to lose. It's not just iconic species. We stand to lose entire ecosystems and habitats, and we will have a level of impoverishment and suffering that will--have never been seen before. We will see economic refugees flooding out of the African continent. It's in the interest of everyone to really ensure that we don't reach that planetary boundary. We all take the actions now, and that we work together, and we listen to each other.
Just as when I went to see the elders in the forest, I really understood their complaint, which was that, you know, "We've been saving this forest for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, and you top, big scientists, you come here and try to tell us things that we already know. We know far more than you. It's just that we don't know it in the same form of science." And I feel the same way. African countries need to have the confidence to stand up and speak out, and the rest of the world really has to start listening and has to start acting more responsibly because there's no country that doesn't depend on other countries. We are all affecting each other.
MS. CASEY: You know, you've talked, Dr. Kahumbu about growing up near so many animals and how not only are they just not as prevalent now, but some of them are on the Endangered Species List. It may seem obvious, but what do humans lose as wildlife dies out?
DR. KAHUMBU: Wow, what do we not lose? We lose so much. I think we lose our humanity. Human beings are a part of nature. We're not apart from nature. We are part and parcel of nature, and our relationship with nature is very important. And I think we see this a lot in terms of levels of stress, levels of depression around the world, as people become increasingly disconnected from nature.
And, as we lose our animals, we lose a part of ourselves, and I can say this because when people come to Kenya, we have over a million visitors come to our country every year to see the great wildebeest migration, come and see our elephants, our lions, giraffes, and they stand out there in the Savannah and they say, "I don't want to go home. I feel like I'm at home now." And it's not surprising.
As a species, we evolved. We co-evolved with all these other animals and plants and landscapes. So, when we let it all go, we actually lose an important part of ourselves.
On a very practical day-to-day level, we're also losing our life support systems. We cannot thrive without good quality air. We cannot thrive without water that's potable. We can't eat food that is contaminated and expect to thrive, and we've seen so much sickness around the world that is related to damaged ecosystems, the pollution and infections and poisons and chemicals, that the only way to reverse it is through having healthy and resilient ecosystems. And by that, I mean trees, soils, air, water. All of these things are interconnected, and when they work together, they can actually forestall so much of the damage. But, when we start damaging and removing the trees, for example, we don't have any resilience against climate change. For example, when we remove mangroves, we have no resilience against storms that are coming in and thrashing our coastline.
So I think, you know, there are so many different ways that we will suffer when we lose these species, and we've seen, apart from practical things, there is a real sorrow in the world right now. I sense it, that there's real heartbreak. We have two remaining northern white rhinos in Kenya. Their names are Najin and Fatu, and when I filmed them, I saw how it affected my entire crew. We are witnessing a species on the brink of extinction. These two animals will be gone within the next few years. It's heartbreaking, and it's not something that we even have the words or the language to articulate how it affects us. But it affects us very deeply.
MS. CASEY: In the face of these challenges, what can the average person watching do to help with wildlife protection? We've had a lot of viewers writing into ask that question: What can I do?
DR. KAHUMBU: Well, that's wonderful and amazing that so many people want to help.
I do a lot of work with children, schools, communities, and of course, with government and scientists and conservationists. Anybody anywhere in the world can support organizations in Africa or in any part of the world that are doing good work. So, definitely, do support where you can, and go out and volunteer, as Jane said. Getting yourself in the thick of it is a big part of our own transformation as people. We become so engaged in what we're doing, and we want to do more and more.
Here in Africa, what I really want to see in terms of a big change is the way that we tell our stories. We need to own these stories, and I mean own the good, the great, the wonderful, and the bad. We need to take responsibility for the damage that we are causing, and we need to turn that around. We need to be proud of what we have, and so I'm looking for global partnerships to help us catalyze the storytelling industry, film, digital, even press, journalisms, so that we can have our own narrative about our wildlife and our nature that is linked to our cultures.
You know, I talk about Africa like it's one country. It's not. It's hundreds of different languages and cultures and traditions, and none of those are really known by anybody else in the world. Imagine how rich the world would be when we understand these intricate relationships. I think that we can do a lot more when we understand each other better, and we would take a role in the stories that are being told. I think that will move people, will inspire people, and it will cause people to demand better action from our governments. We are all democratic nations across the continent. Our elections in Kenya are coming up next year, and we want to have an environmentally literate community and citizenry so that we choose well for our next level of leadership.
MS. CASEY: Well, unfortunately, we're out of time, so we'll have to leave things there. Dr. Paula Kahumbu, thank you so much for joining us today. This has just been fascinating to hear about your work.
DR. KAHUMBU: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
MS. CASEY: Thank you.
I'd also like to thank Dr. Jane Goodall for joining us today.
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I'm Libby Casey, thank you so much for watching.
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