Jane Goodall speaks at the Securing a Sustainable Future for the Amazon, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. File / AFP
Goodall, who is best known for trail-blazing research in Africa that revealed the true nature of chimpanzees, pleaded for the world to learn from past mistakes to prevent future disasters.
During a conference call ahead of the release of the new National Geographic documentary "Jane Goodall: The Hope," the 86-year-old also said everyone can make a difference.
How do you view this pandemic?
Goodall: It is our disregard for nature and our disrespect of the animals we should share the planet with that has caused this pandemic, that was predicted long ago.
Because as we destroy, let's say the forest, the different species of animals in the forest are forced into a proximity and therefore diseases are being passed from one animal to another, and that second animal is then most likely to infect humans as it is forced into closer contact with humans.
It's also the animals who are hunted for food, sold in markets in Africa or in the meat market for wild animals in Asia, especially China, and our intensive farms where we cruelly crowd together billions of animals around the world. These are the conditions that create an opportunity for the viruses to jump from animals across the species barrier to humans.
What can we do about these animal markets?
It's really good that China closed down the live wild animal markets, in a temporary ban which we hope will be made permanent, and other Asian countries will follow suit.
But in Africa it will be very difficult to stop the selling of bush meat because so many people rely on that for their livelihoods.
It will need a lot of careful thought on how it should be done, you can't just stop somebody doing something when they have absolutely no money to support themselves or their families, but at least this pandemic should have taught us the kind of things to do to prevent another one.
What can we hope for?
We have to realise we are part of the natural world, we depend on it, and as we destroy it we are actually stealing the future from our children.
Hopefully, because of this unprecedented response, the lockdowns that are going on around the world, more people will wake up and eventually they can start thinking about ways they can live their lives differently.
Everyone can make an impact every single day.
If you think about the consequences of the little choices you make: what you eat, where it came from, did it cause cruelty to animals, is it made from intensive farming — which mostly it is — is it cheap because of child slave labour, did it harm the environment in its production, where did it come from, how many miles did it travel, did you think that perhaps you could walk and not take your car.
(Also consider) ways that you could perhaps help alleviate poverty because when people are poor they can't make these ethical choices. They just have to do whatever they can to survive — they can't question what they buy, they must buy the cheapest, and they are going to cut down the last tree because they are desperate to find land on which they can grow more food.
So what we can do in our individual lives does depend a little bit on who we are, but we all can make a difference, everybody can.
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