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Jane Goodall talks coronavirus impact, Nat Geo documentary

LOS ANGELES – Even though the planet has reaped the benefits of a cleaner environment from society shutting down during the coronavirus outbreak, Jane Goodall worries about human behavior resorting back to a “business as usual” mindset after the pandemic is over.

The famed primatologist wants people to grow wiser and live an enjoyable life without harming the environment and animals that live within it.

“We have to learn how to deal with less,” said Goodall, who began her lauded career as a pioneering researcher of chimpanzees in Africa more than 50 years ago. She’s worked for decades on conservation, animal welfare and environmental issues.

Goodall has encouraged young people since 1991 to become stewards in their communities through her Roots & Shoots program, which operates in 60 countries. She normally travels 300 days per year to advocate her endeavors, but these days she’s been staying busy inside her family home in Bournemouth, England, to practice social distancing. She calls it more “exhausting than traveling.”

In a recent interview, the 86-year-old Goodall shared her thoughts on the coronavirus, wild animal poaching and her new documentary “Jane Goodall: The Hope,” which premieres April 22 on National Geographic and Nat Geo WILD, while streamed on Disney Plus and Hulu. The two-hour documentary focuses on her lauded career of transforming the scope of environmentalism.

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AP: How would you like for the world to react when the pandemic is over?

GOODALL: Hopefully we should emerge wiser. I think there will be greater awareness of how we brought this pandemic on ourselves and that people will change. I hope there’s a groundswell of enough millions of people who’ve never before breathed clean air in cities, who’ve never been able to look up at night and see a clear sky with twinkling stars. I hope that they’ll be enough of them to eventually force big business and politicians to. ... stop carrying on with business as usual. But the fear is that so many leaders now around the world don’t seem to care about future generations, don’t seem to care about the health of the planet.

AP: What’s the solution?

GOODALL: We need a different way of thinking about things. We need to realize that unlimited economic development on a world with finite natural resources and growing human populations can’t work. Already, in some cases, we’re using up natural resources before nature can replenish them. So we cannot expect to survive very far into the future unless we make some change. ... We have to learn to do with less in the wealthier sections of society. Most of us have far more than we actually need.

AP: How has animal poaching still been an issue during this pandemic?

GOODALL: It’s the animal trafficking that’s so bad. Shooting the mother to take the infant and be sold to be pets and trained for entertainment. Some go to bad zoos. It’s animal trafficking that’s worth so many billions of dollars a year. This is one of the biggest problems we are going through with this pandemic. As tourism stops in different parts of Africa and other countries, poaching goes up partly because people have lost their jobs and they rely on wildlife for food. The tours give them added protection. It’s a huge worry.

AP: Did you expect this career path?

GOODALL: When I began, my dream since the age of 10 was to go to Africa, live with wild animals and write books about them. I had no thought of being a scientist. Nobody was out there in the fields watching animals. I wanted to be a naturalist. From the start, it wasn't my aim to go and study chimpanzees and get a Ph.D. I always wanted to help animals all my life. And then naturally that led to ‘If you want to save wild animals, you have to work with local people, find ways for them to live without harming the environment and then getting worried about children and what future they could have if we go on as business as usual.’

AP: What do you want people to take away from your documentary?

GOODALL: I hope that they take away a feeling that their lives are important. That it’s very, very crucial to think about the health of the planet as it relates to future generations. Above all, to understand that each day they live, they can make an impact and think about the consequences of her little choices they make like ’What did we buy? Where did it come from? How was it made? Did it harm the environment? Was it cruel to animals? Is it cheap because of child slave labor? We have to make ethical choices, and how we interact with people and nature.

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31