For many decades I have thought of myself as an environmentalist. I’ve participated in protests against environmental destruction, I am a member of various groups and organisations that advocate protection of our environment and I engage in a lot of ‘armchair activism’. Last year I was humbled when I went to see a talk given by an amazing, seemingly indefatigable woman in her 80s, one of my favourite environmentalists, Dr Jane Goodall.
I first came across her name when studying psychology in the late 70s, and then again while doing my Masters some years later when I undertook a study of language in apes. I’d also lived for many years in Tanzania, her adopted country where she has spent many years of her life studying the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, although now she is travelling for almost 300 days a year in her advocacy work. She started her travels in a quest to save chimpanzees from extinction and this developed into a much broader conservation platform. As I listened that evening, it was not only the fact that she had given her whole life to conservation, often in the face of grim opposition, but it was her hope for the future that inspired.
So when I thought about my growth as a person over the last few years and how I hope I will grow in the future, it is my activism that I am most passionate about. Whether it be standing in the freezing cold of a North Yorkshire winter to stop fracking vehicles passing, speaking out against multinationals and their greed, stopping a pointless road going through important wetlands in Western Australia, or protesting about the abuse of human rights in Australia’s refugee policy, I know I will not sit quietly this year.
As Jane Goodall says, ‘It’s amazing what happens when people see the difference they can make.’