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Positive Reading: Jane Goodall’s ‘The Power of Hope’

A relationship with nature underpins the primatologist’s optimism in challenging times.

Jane Goodall, author of "The Power of Hope"

“Hope is what enables us to keep going in the face of adversity. It is what we desire to happen, but we must be prepared to work hard to make it so.”

This is how the 86-year-old primatologist and environmentalist Jane Goodall defines hope in her inspiring new book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times.  The book is the second in the Global Icons series—following The Book of Joy, in which coauthor Douglas Abrams was in conversation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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Goodall is well-acquainted with the challenges and fears that face today’s world. Her famous work in understanding chimpanzee behavior has expanded in recent decades to illuminate threats to biodiversity, the dangers of climate change and the impact of environmental degradation on human beings living in poverty.

In The Book of Hope, Abrams and Goodall share deep conversations about something that resonates so profoundly in 2022—the possibility of hope, even and maybe especially in the face of massive challenge.

The conversations took place in person and over Zoom, as the global pandemic rose and kept its hold on our world. Reflecting on her heroes, her research and a lifetime of curiosity and learning about the planet we inhabit and share with other beings, Goodall offers an articulation of hope, making the book required reading, especially in the dark days of another COVID winter.

Her relationship with nature underpins her view of what it means to hope.

“Not only are we part of the natural world, not only do we depend on it—we actually need it,” she said. “In protecting these ecosystems, in rewinding more and more parts of the world, we are protecting our own well-being…. I need time in nature—even if it’s just sitting under a tree or walking in these woods or hearing a bird’s song—to give me peace of mind in a crazy world.”

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Goodall also reflects on the responsibility she carries as a champion and an advocate for people who turn to her for support and hope.

“It’s a huge responsibility, and to be honest, it’s sometimes draining,” she said. “At the same time, it is a privilege…. I have come to accept it as a gift I have been given. And I feel compelled to use this gift. It has given me a real understanding of the kinds of hardships and traumas that people have to face, and a real admiration for the way that people cope with what has happened with determination and courage.”

Ultimately, The Book of Hope is a glimpse into the mind of someone whose refrain—“Together we can, together we will!”— can support each of us in our own quests for hope and meaning in these urgent times.

 

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