I have spent many years learning about chimpanzees and been amazed at the many similarities between them and us (biologically we differ in the composition of our DNA by only just over one percent). But in one way there is a profound difference because, although chimpanzees are remarkably intelligent, we can hardly compare even the brightest with the human who can design a rocket that can reach the planet Mars, or with an Einstein or a Shakespeare.
So how shocking that we, the most intellectual creature that has ever walked the planet, is destroying that planet. It is the only home we have and yet, with no thought for future generations, we are destroying the environment all around the globe. Clear cutting forests, draining wetlands, creating vast areas of monoculture crops were once the grasslands and meadows held sway. We are mining for fossil fuels or minerals even in the most fragile ecosystems. We are contaminating the land and the water and the very air we breathe with agricultural, industrial and household chemical poisons as well as plastics that never break down.
Our human waste and that from factory farmed animals is washed into rivers by the rains and ends up in the increasingly polluted oceans, adding to the devastation caused by over fishing. Greenhouse gases (CO2, methane and oxygen nitrate), mostly the byproducts of destroying the forests, and of the reckless burning of fossil fuels and industrial agriculture, are trapping the heat of the sun. Climate change is wreaking havoc on plant and animal life as a result of warmer climates and more extreme weather patterns. Ice is melting and ocean levels rising, and as permafrost melts vast quantities of stored CO2 are released into the atmosphere.
We are doing all this, and much more. No wonder we are losing biodiversity. No wonder we are in the midst of the 6th great extinction of plant and animal life. Everywhere Mother Earth is crying out for mercy, for help. Praying that we show compassion for the suffering of so many living beings in the plant and animal worlds, for the humans living in poverty, enslaved, abused, forced from their homes by war or poverty or climate change, and for generations of beings as yet unborn. For we are using up the finite natural resources of our planet faster than they can be replenished – and our population is still growing.
Today, let us join a growing number of those who are working to save the wonders of the world. Let us pray for a growing awareness of the fact that each one of us must do our part in creating a better world, for though the small choices we make each day – what we buy, what we eat, what we wear – may seem insignificant, the cumulative effect of billions of people making ethical choices, will start to heal the natural world. And let us pray that those of us who have, do something each day to help those who have so little, that they too are able to make ethical choices rather than choices based on the need to survive another day.
I believe in the power of prayer. It serves to strengthen my resolve, it helps me to keep on fighting for the environment even when at times it seems that nothing can prevail against the greed and corruption of many of those in positions of power. And then I pray that we may find a way to reach their hearts. For, whatever the odds against us, we must go on with the struggle to save as much as we can of that which we love – the beauty of the forests and woodlands, the grasslands and moors, the mountains and the oceans, the parks and gardens and roadside verges where wild flowers are allowed to grow to provide nectar for the bees and butterflies.
So on this day, I am praying to the great spiritual power that I feel so strongly in the wild places, to give me the strength to play my part, to continue spreading awareness that each one of us has a role to play, that each action is important no matter how small it may seem. This is my prayer.
The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.