Book Review – Hope for Animals and Their World, by Jane Goodall, Gail Hudson & Thane Maynard
Hope is the key. Two of Jane Goodall’s previous books include the word in the title; Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating (2005) and Reason For Hope; A Spiritual Journey (1999). Jane Goodall inspires hope. First through her work with chimpanzees in Gombe, and later simply through being who she is. Jane Goodall, Dame Commander of the British Empire, United Nations Messenger for Peace, recipient of countless awards – the French Legion of Honor, the Kyoto Prize, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, the Gandhi-King Award for Nonviolence. International environmental icon and the most famous female scientist on the planet. Following an academic career celebrated for revolutionary discoveries – chimpanzees use tools, hunt other apes for meat and engage in warfare – the last quarter century has seen Jane travel the world 300 days a year campaigning and giving lectures and interviews first for the plight of laboratory apes, today for a much broader range of environmental concerns. The message has reached millions. Just to be in the same room with Jane Goodall is to be inspired.
Jane Goodall is well aware of her inspirational impact – in less than 20 years 10,000 Roots & Shoots groups have sprung up involving young people in Goodall-inspired environmentalism. Equally Jane knows there are limitations to what she can do personally. She can only talk to so many people, give so many interviews. Do so much work. Even though she hardly stops. But a book can travel around the world as a proxy, spreading optimism and encouragement wherever it is read. This explicitly is the purpose of Hope For Animals and Their World.
The news is full of stories of environmental damage and disaster, from decimated forests to floods to endangered species. These reports are sometimes so overwhelming as to induce fatalistic apathy. In the face of such problems it seems impossible to make a difference. Hope for Animals…is the antidote. While not everyone can make Jane Goodall’s global impact, many people, millions of people, making the conscious decision to do something, even a very small positive thing to help the natural world can make a huge difference. To this end Goodall sets out to inspire. She does so by showing how people on every continent have done amazing things to rescue endangered species, sometimes bringing them back from the brink of extinction.
Hope for Animals…is divided into six main sections. Part One tells the stories of successful efforts made by environmentalists to return species to the wild when they were already officially extinct. These include the Black Foot Ferret of the American prairies, the Rufus Hare-Wallaby in Australia and China’s Père David’s Deer. ‘Saved at the 11th Hour’ tells is filled with stories about creatures returned to their natural habitat with very little time to spare. The Golden Lion Tamarin (Brazil), the Peregrine Falcon, the Ploughshare Tortoise and the Formosan Landlocked Salmon among them. In ‘Never Giving Up’ we meet the environmentalists and scientists vital to the survival of Spain’s Iberian Lynx, the Bactrian Camel in China and Mongolia and the Pygmy Hog in India. There are other stories – each self-contained chapter is only few pages long making this perhaps a better book to dip into than read all at once – demonstrating the fantastic dedication of those who work to return animals to their natural world while recounting some fascinating anecdotes and histories regarding the creatures themselves. All this is illustrated with around 100 b/w photos and 16 pages of glossy colour. There are ‘field notes’ sections by Thane Maynard and Jane sets each section in context with personal introductions filled with her sense of wonder at the natural world. Goodall convincingly argues that ‘Thanks to the resilience of nature, and the indomitable human spirit, there is still hope.’
Part Four focuses on ‘The Heroic Struggle to Save Our Island Birds’, which includes chapters on the Chatham Island Robin, the Bermuda Petrel, and Steller’s Albatross. Part Five, ‘The Thrill of Discovery’ is particularly absorbing, telling the stories of several creatures thought to be extinct, in one case for 65 million years (!), and of others newly discovered and fresh to science. Part Six explores ‘The Nature of Hope’ and offers strong arguments as to why it is not too late to heal the Earth and addresses the question as to why in a world with so many other problems we should save endangered species. Appendices provide comprehensive information – organisations to support, real world places and websites to visit – to enable people to make their contribution, however great or small. There is no judgement here. Not everyone can save the world. But we can all do something. Jane Goodall shows the way, both through her own life and work, and through the uplifting and sometimes moving stories in this book.
If you would like to sample some of Hope for Animals and Their World there is a website which includes extra chapters not included in the print edition and expanded versions of several chapters which had to be abridged to keep the book to a commercially viable size. Hope for Animals and Their World is highly recommended, whether for teenagers just getting interested in environmental issues, older readers wanting to expand their understanding of the great conservation work being done around the world, or anyone needing to be inspired in the face of the grim news we are faced with daily. To find out more visit the official Hope for Animals and Their World website.
Review by Gary Dalkin