best Jane Goodall quotes

In this post, we’ve put together the best Jane Goodall quotes.

Jane has been a tireless ambassador for the natural world for many decades. She’s had some important things to say about how we are all connected to nature and what we need to do to protect it. We’ve compiled her classic words of wisdom.  


On her purpose:

“My mission is to create a world where we can live in harmony with nature.”
“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
“Let us develop respect for all living things. Let us try to replace violence and intolerance with understanding and compassion. And love.” 


On young people:

“My mission is to create a world where we can live in harmony with nature. And can I do that alone? No. So there is a whole army of youth that can do it. So I suppose my mission is to reach as many of those young people as I can through my own efforts.”
“So this is my effort to bring back the hope that we must have if we are to change direction. I think to be fully human, we need to have meaning in our lives, and that’s what I am trying to help these young people to find.”
“There is a powerful force unleashed when young people resolve to make a change.”


On our connection with animals:

“When you meet chimps you meet individual personalities. When a baby chimp looks at you it’s just like a human baby. We have a responsibility to them.”
“The more I learned (about the chimps), the more I realised how like us they were.”
“I learned from my dog long before I went to Gombe that we weren’t the only beings with personalities. What the chimps did was help me to persuade others.” 


On the treatment of animals:

“To me, cruelty is the worst of human sins. Once we accept that a living creature has feelings and suffers pain, then by knowingly and deliberately inflicting suffering on that creature, we are guilty, whether it be human or animal.”
“The more we learn of the true nature of non-human animals, especially those with complex brains and corresponding complex social behavior, the more ethical concerns are raised regarding their use in the service of man — whether this be in entertainment, as “pets,” for food, in research laboratories, or any of the other uses to which we subject them.”
“Thousands of people who say they “love” animals sit down once or twice a day to enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been utterly deprived of everything that could make their lives worth living and who endured the awful suffering and the terror of the abattoirs— and the journey to get there— before finally leaving their miserable world, only too often after a painful death.”
“Farm animals are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined and, despite having been bred as domestic slaves, they are individual beings in their own right. As such, they deserve our respect. And our help. Who will plead for them if we are silent?”
“I have for decades been concerned about factory farming, in part because of the tremendous harm inflicted on the environment, but also because of the shocking ongoing cruelty perpetrated on millions of sentient beings.”
“Today it is generally accepted that although the earliest humans probably ate some meat, it was unlikely to have played a major role in their diet. Plants would have been a much more important source of food.”
“If we kill off the wild, then we are killing a part of our souls.” 


On the impact of humans on the planet:

“There’s too many of us. It’s a planet of finite resources – and we’re using them up. And that’s going to mean so much suffering in the future.”
“We’re poisoning the land, we’re poisoning animals, and I truly believe we’re poisoning ourselves.”
“Here we are, arguably the most intelligent being that’s ever walked planet Earth, with this extraordinary brain, yet we’re destroying the only home we have.” 


On living in harmony with nature:

“The indigenous people around the world before they made a major decision used to ask themselves: how does this decision affect our people seven generations ahead?”
“Chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say that they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment.”
“The chimpanzee study taught us perhaps more than anything else to be a little humble; that we are, indeed, unique primates, we humans, but we’re simply not as different from the rest of the animal kingdom as we used to think.”
“It’s been proven by quite a few studies that plants are good for our psychological development. If you green an area, the rate of crime goes down. Torture victims begin to recover when they spend time outside in a garden with flowers. So we need them, in some deep psychological sense, which I don’t suppose anybody really understands yet.”
“To reconnect with nature is key if we want to save the planet.” 


On human qualities:

“It is the undeniable qualities of human love and compassion and self-sacrifice that give me hope for the future. We are, indeed, often cruel and evil. Nobody can deny this. We gang up on one another, we torture each other with words as well as deeds, we fight, we kill, but we are also capable of the most noble, generous, and heroic behaviour.”
“I think empathy is really important, and I think only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our full potential.”
“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” 


On the need for change:

“Whatever we believe about how we got to be the extraordinary creatures we are today is far less important than bringing our intellect to bear on how do we get together now around the world and get out of the mess that we’ve made. That’s the key thing now. Never mind how we got to be who we are.” 


On bringing about change:

“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.”
“Lasting change is a series of compromises. And compromise is alright, as long your values don’t change.”
“It’s knowing what can be done that gives people the courage to fight.”
“I think my message to the politicians who have within their power the ability to make change is, ‘Do you really, really not care about the future of your great-grandchildren? Because if we let the world continue to be destroyed the way we are now, what’s the world going to be like for your great-grandchildren?” 


On the obstacles for change:

“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.”
“The biggest problem we have as environmental activists is to fight the power of money.”


On the power of people to make a difference:

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”
“We could change the world tomorrow if all the millions of people around the world acted the way they believe.”
“What you do makes a difference. And you have to decide what difference you want to make.”
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”


On criticism of her work:

“Anyone who tries to improve the lives of animals invariably comes in for criticism from those who believe such efforts are misplaced in a world of suffering humanity.”


On God:

“I don’t have any idea of who or what God is. But I do believe in some great spiritual power. I feel it particularly when I’m out in nature. It’s just something that’s bigger and stronger than what I am or what anybody is. I feel it. And it’s enough for me.” 


On the future:

“I do have reasons for hope: our clever brains, the resilience of nature, the indomitable human spirit, and above all, the commitment of young people when they’re empowered to take action.” 


Thanks for reading our ‘best of’ Jane Goodall quotes. To really understand where she’s coming from, check out our profile of Jane Goodall. (It includes our 15-minute interview with her.) 
This post is part of our best quotes series – ‘Words of Wisdom’ from the world’s environmental leaders.


Phil Stubbs

Blogger, Podcaster, Producer at The Environment Show

Environmental Podcaster, Blogger and Producer at The Environment Show. I'm based in Sydney, Australia.

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