“Together we can. Together we will” – Interview with Anna Rathmann from the Jane Goodall Institute
Everything is connected – everyone can make a difference. Under this motto, the Jane Goodall Institute fights worldwide to conserve the natural world we all share. We are excited that Anna Rathmann, Executive Director of the Jane Goodall Institute, will be a keynote speaker at the CLIMATE TRANSFORMATION Summit 2023, sharing her vision and insights with the CLIMATE community.
For the Climate Magazine, she has already taken the time to answer our most pressing questions to her. The interview is about the three big global crises – climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental inequity –, how they intertwine and how the institute is partnering with companies to tackle them.
First off, thank you for the opportunity to share a little bit about the Jane Goodall Institute’s nearly 50 years of conservation. My name is Anna Rathmann, I am the executive director of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) USA in Washington, D.C. I have spent my career working in conservation and, like many others, have a profound respect for the holistic philosophies and approach of Dr. Jane Goodall. The Jane Goodall Institute’s mission evolved as Jane evolved as a scientist and activist.
The foundation of JGI was built on the groundbreaking research Jane began over 60 years ago in Gombe National Park in western Tanzania on chimpanzees and their ecosystem. While this ongoing research continues to be at the core of our work today, we combine this decades long commitment to science with community-led conservation, innovative advocacy around animal welfare and environmental issues, best-in-class rehabilitation and sanctuary care for a variety of wildlife exposed to trafficking, One Health initiatives, forest protection and restoration, applied conservation technology, and our global youth program: Roots & Shoots.
Jane often refers to our planet as a “tapestry of life”. This philosophy, of “when nature thrives, we all thrive,” has guided the work of her namesake Institute to view complex issues like biodiversity and habitat loss, human inequity, and apathy – as interconnected. In response, JGI’s solutions are interconnected. We see threats as opportunities to bring people together across industry, sector, and identity to pursue science-based solutions that integrate the needs of people, other animals, and the environment in their communities. Together we are adding to the “tapestry of life” and building a “tapestry of hope” towards positive change worldwide.
Climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental inequity are deeply intertwined. Human inequities have largely driven the over consumption of natural resources and environmental degradation. Global consumer industries both perpetuate inequities and overwhelmingly drive this damage. In turn these processes are the main drivers of greenhouse gas emissions, habitat loss, pollution, and harmful transformations that are causing the Sixth Great Extinction. We are each part of the grand tapestry of life and as species go extinct, the whole tapestry begins to fall apart.
We also know that as ecosystems lose their ability to absorb greenhouse gases, like global forests and oceans, all these factors of damage and threat increase. This cycle then deepens human inequities, disproportionately affecting low-income communities worldwide, leading to a cycle of habitat loss, destruction, and suffering.
This is why Jane and JGI have never seen threats as standalone problems. Every threat is integrated and requires integrated solutions – and everyone plays a role in these solutions. That is why people are at the center of the Jane Goodall Institute’s approach to conservation. We want to create involvement at every level for true community ownership of conservation and environmentalism. Local and indigenous people are the stewards of the majority of the world’s biodiversity, so JGI wants to ensure local communities and indigenous groups are leading their own natural resource management and sustainable development – an approach the Jane Goodall Institute calls “Tacare” (to “take care”). We also firmly believe in the power of young people. Our Roots & Shoots program empowers young people to identify problems facing people, other animals, and their environment – so that they see these interconnections and find ways to help locally.
Jane and JGI are part of global campaigns and advocacy to influence environmental policies at all levels of government and stewardship. Our #EATMEATLESS campaign is part of our efforts to shine light on the damaging effects of the animal agricultural industry. Our “Jane’s Green Hope” campaign focuses on nature-based solutions through partnering with companies such as Hewlett Packard for native forest restoration and protection.
Top down and bottom up, JGI believes everyone has a role in creating change and the responsibility to create a better world for us all. These threats facing our planet are complex, but when each of us takes part in transforming our systems, we change the way we view our relationship to one another and to the natural world.
We know that a small group of around 100 companies are responsible for the majority of emissions, but we also know those companies consist of people. Jane often uses the analogy of speaking to someone’s “heart and their head” by sharing a story about how a young woman in Roots & Shoots spoke to her father who was in the fossil fuel industry about climate change. When we have these intergenerational conversations – interpersonally or between entities like JGI and major companies – we can make important shifts towards the necessary sustainability this world needs before it is too late.
Jane and JGI work to have these conversations and keep the momentum going in the right direction. This means either directly scaling or deepening our work, increasing accessibility for end-users to participate in sustainable practices, and/or advancing efforts that will work with companies to identify ways to reduce negative impacts, carbon emissions, pollution, and more.
In any relationship, there is the need to make sure we are listening and creating a vision for the project that benefits everyone, one based in science, and which perpetuates movement towards tangible and real sustainability. Having companies see how robust our programs are, and how simple solutions can create big impact, has been less of a challenge and more of an emerging opportunity.
When finding partners, the Jane Goodall Institute wants to make sure that they have already invested in carbon divestment goals and green transformations. We then find ways to move further to the goal together. Jane has always found common ground through conversations, and conversations are where true understanding happens – where is there already a chance for overlap or expanding programs that work? How can we use our brand to increase the accountability of a corporation to walk the talk? How can we also provide resources, insights, and expertise to ensure that every aspect of the partnership and deliverables are sustainable? These are the questions to ask.
We know that there are so many innovative people in influential companies ready to turn the tide on the harms facing our planet through partnerships. Through the Jane Goodall Institute’s model, we have the programs, expertise, and investment in local and indigenous leadership, and we welcome thoughtful and meaningful partners to help take that work further. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team and when they see what is possible by working together, they are inspired to think more critically about the brands and organizations they support, and how they live their lives.
Jane has always followed a path of doing what was right for the sake of the common good with the knowledge that we are all dependent on one another, this planet, and its finite resources. But as Jane says, “How is it that the most intellectual species to ever exist is destroying our only home?” One of Jane’s most important reasons for hope is the human intellect – what has driven our incredible globalized industries is our human brains, and so these same brains can work together to solve even the greatest of complex challenges. When we combine our intellect with using our hearts to guide us in doing what is right, we change the world.
“Together we can. Together we will”
We thank Anna for the inspiring interview.
Don’t miss her keynote at the CLIMATE TRANSFORMATION Summit 2023. Here you can secure your ticket.
JGI does not endorse handling or close proximity to wildlife. This represents a sanctuary context with trained professionals.