JANE GOODALL HOPECAST: PODCAST EP 3 – with Youth Activist Genesis Butler

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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jane Goodall 0:00
JANESPLASH: The people who inspired me when I was a child — as there was no TV, and as the world was very different — my heroes were in books. So my first real hero was Dr. Doolittle, who learned to speak to animals and became an animal doctor. And, oh my goodness, how I wanted to speak the language of animals. So Dr. Doolittle was a real hero, even though I knew he didn’t exist. And then, of course, there was Tarzan. When I was 10, I read my first Tarzan book and fell passionately in love with this glorious lord of the jungle. I didn’t realize at the time how much bloodshed there was in those books. I think it was because we had a different way of looking at the world back then. And all the early books I read about Africa were these early explorers, and they did kill animals. And I didn’t really take in the killing of animals. What they took in was the magic of the animals and being out there and being in nature. And that’s what I wanted to do. So my heroes were mostly people I read about in books.

Conservation Choir 1:14
CONSERVATION CHOIR INTRO: There are so many ways we can save our planet. What is there without a hope? I just want people to find empathy for all the species we share this planet with. I have so much hope! Can nature of bounce back? Earth is pretty special because– Jane Goodall made me believe in my own power– She devoted her life to this. Together we can! Together we will! What are your greatest reasons for hope? I’m Jane Goodall and this is the Hopecast

Jane Goodall 1:39
INTRO: Today, I’m talking to Genesis Butler, a truly inspiring teenager. She’s passionate about animal rights and the environment. But she’s been an activist on the front lines, speaking out about her beliefs, since she was just six years old. Genesis is now 13. And she’s done an amazing job of building support, awareness, and momentum for becoming a vegan, because she cares about animals and the planet. Genesis and I have had a wonderful time chatting about animal welfare and how we reach and teach young people about conservation through our program called Roots and Shoots, and hers, Youth Climate Save. I hope you enjoy this hopeful conversation with Genesis Butler.

INTERVIEW: Let me say, Genesis, that I’m really, really excited to have you on this Hopecast. What you’ve done, what you’re doing, is so important in the world today. The message that you’re giving to people about food and animals, it’s something I talk about in every single lecture. So my message is amplified by you and your messages amplified by me. So millions more people will get to hear and hopefully understand. Do you want to ask me a question? Would that be a good way to start this conversation?

Genesis Butler 3:23
Sure. When did you find out, like, your love for animals? Like, why are you so passionate about that?

Jane Goodall 3:30
Well, I was actually born loving animals with this amazing, supportive mother. So when I was one-and-a-half years old — and this is something she told me — she came into my room to say goodnight to me. And there I was staring very intently at something that I’ve taken to bed with me. And it was a whole handful of wriggly earthworms. You know, lots of mothers who get mad, because obviously there was a lot of earth and muck and everything. But she said to me later, when she told me the story, she said, “Jane, it looked as though you’re studying them so carefully and wondering, ‘How do they walk without legs?'” So instead of getting mad at me, she just said, “Well, Jane, I think they need to be out in the garden, in the earth. They might die if you leave them here.” So we took them back into the garden. You know, I’m sure you’ve heard the story of how I hid in a hen house to watch our hen laid an egg. We went to stay on a farm in the country, and I was four-and-a-half years old, which is about the time you began your career. You were four or three.

Genesis Butler 4:39
I was three, about to turn four.

Jane Goodall 4:41
I was just four and a bit. So about the same age. But anyway, we lived in London and not many animals in London. And so it was very exciting to be taken on to a farm and it was the old kind of farm where animals grazed in the fields. And my job was to help collect the eggs laid by the hens. So, anyway, I began asking everybody, “Where does the egg come out of the hand because I couldn’t see a hole like that.” So anyway, I went into a hen house and waited for more than four hours, and I did see the hen lay an egg. And it was really excited. But my mother had even called the police. Because I’d been gone four hours, and it was getting dark. And many mothers would have got angry — “How dare you go off without telling us? Don’t you dare do it again,” and all my excitement would have gone. But she sat down to hear this wonderful story. So that was my first real experience of observing animals. So all of that when I was just, just more than four years old. I know that you asked your mother where the chicken nuggets came from. And she told you the grocery store, which wasn’t the answer that was very helpful, was it?

Genesis Butler 5:52
Yeah, that’s what she told me, she — cuz I was a little at the time. So she didn’t really want to, like, say where we actually got it from. So she’s just like, “Oh, like, from, like, the grocery store.” But I felt like there had to have been somewhere else we were getting it from. So I asked her again. And that’s when she told me how we had to harm animals to get this. And I was devastated. Because, like, since I was so little, like I knew like “chicken nuggets.” But I didn’t really like things, like, that, like the chicken, like the bird. So then, when she told me, I wanted to go vegetarian, but my mom was kind of just like, like, “Hmm, like, how do we do this?” Because she she didn’t know, like, how do we go vegetarian. And then, um, she told me that I wouldn’t be able to eat any of my favorite foods. So I told her, “Well, let’s go to the grocery store.” And that’s we saw aisles and aisles of vegan food, so then we ended up going vegetarian. And then after that, I figured out where we got our milk from when she was nursing my little sisters. So then, once you told me it came from cows, I just never wanted to drink it again. Now, my whole family’s vegan

Jane Goodall 6:54
Well, that’s really good. It makes such a big difference. You know, for two reasons. And I know you know about all this, you know how it harms the environment. You also know how it harms animals. Of course, it’s bad for our health, too. And you know, one thing, which is newly come up into the news now, is because of this pandemic, you know, we brought this on ourselves by completely disrespecting animals. So, Genesis, in your campaign to educate people about factory farming, have you been talking about the pandemic and how factory farms might lead to new zoonotic diseases?

Genesis Butler 7:37
Yeah, over quarantine, I started Youth Climate Save. COVID, it really impacted my activism, because normally we go out to protests. So, like, we have to get out and get active, but we can’t do that. So, yeah, I think it was kind of hard. And we’ve been talking about this and how more viruses are just going to start coming if we do not switch to a plant-based diet. So we’ve been talking about the importance of veganism, because we want a thriving planet to live on so we have to make sure that we talk about this, and we do something about this, so that we can have a planet to live on.

Jane Goodall 8:09
Absolutely. In fact, an awful lot of diseases we do actually catch from animals in factory farms. They’re mostly bacteria that jump over, but there’s some viruses too. So it’s a useful argument because people do care about their own health. Do you talk about the use of antibiotics at all?

Genesis Butler 8:30
We talk a lot about like, how, like vitamins and stuff have to go to these animals because people are always saying like, um, you know, like protein deficiencies. You won’t be able to eat enough nutrients. So we talked about how you can eat it yourself instead of having to eat it through an animal because that’s basically all that that is. So we do talk about that.

Jane Goodall 8:50
You stopped eating meat and then became vegan, because you care about animals, right? When did you start loving animals?

Genesis Butler 8:57
I think everyone loves animals, like, from, like, a young age. Like, you’re just born to, like, love animals. I haven’t met anyone that’s like, “I don’t like animals.” Because that’s, that’s crazy. But, um, I think just, like, I would see them like on TV, like, on like the shows I would watch. Or in, like commercials. I would see, like, pigs and chickens. And I was like, “They’re so cute.” So I think knowing like, that was what I was eating, like, I wouldn’t want no one to do that to, like, my brothers and sisters. And you wouldn’t eat like your siblings and that’s the same thing for animals. So I just decided, like, I don’t want to eat it anymore.

Jane Goodall 9:32
And you wouldn’t eat your dog, would you?

Genesis Butler 9:34
No.

Jane Goodall 9:35
[laughs]Or your cat?

Genesis Butler 9:36
[laughs]No.

Jane Goodall 9:38
I mean, I’ve met a lot and they say but these animals in the factory farms they’re just raised for meat. So, you know, they don’t have feelings or anything. They’re just meat. What do you say to them?

Genesis Butler 9:50
When you meet animals, like, firsthand, you can see how they have personalities. They’re just like humans and they’re just like dogs, just bigger dogs. When you feel that like, it’s like, “Why do you harm these animals? Because they’re so trusting and they’re so caring.” I don’t think it’s correct at all. Because, like, that’s like if we all had, like, our whole family, and that it was just torn apart for people to eat them. Like, we’re doing this to these animals, because we think, like, they don’t have feelings. But when you get to be around them, you see how they do have feelings. And you can even like watch videos and see them. And you can see how, like, when mother cows, when they get their babies taken away, they cry, and they cry, because, like, they carry babies, and that’s really painful. So then, like, you give birth to this baby, hand then they’re just taken away. So I think you can just see from that, like, they do have feelings. If you’re in front of an animal, and you like see them firsthand, like, the pigs and the cows, and you see how sweet they are, and how they just want to be loved, then like you feel it, like, “Wow,” like, “I don’t know why I’ve been eating this.” So I think, like, taking people to, like, sanctuaries. That’s one thing that I do, because you feel it and you’re able to feel like the love from the animals, from being around them.

Jane Goodall 11:04
That’s what I used to do, when I was fighting to get chimpanzees out of medical research when they were in these tiny, little cages. I knew I had to go and see it for myself so that I could talk about it. You began really being an activist, and you think that you’ll probably not go to university because you want to run a sanctuary, right?

Genesis Butler 11:27
Yeah, when I grew up, I want to have a sanctuary.

Jane Goodall 11:30
Well, you know, the first animals I raised money for — I was 10 years old, I think. So me and my sister and our two friends, we raised money for a farm that took in old horses. So rather than killing them, they were rescued to live out the end of their lives in their sanctuary. It was called Cherry Tree Farm. And we had a collection tin. And we used to do all kinds of things to raise money for the horses. I was very lucky when I was growing up, I had a terrific teacher. And that was my dog Rusty. So if you share your life with a dog, or a cat, or a pig or a bird, you know that we’re not the only beings have personalities, minds and emotions. But I was actually taught that there was a difference. And we were absolutely separate from all the other animals, including chimps. And you know now, that’s not true, but we have come on a little bit.

Genesis Butler 12:24
My dad, at first, he didn’t really know, like, animals have personalities and that, like, they care about their babies. So when we went to sanctuaries — the first one that we went to, he met a cow. And he saw how they just want to be loved, too! So he fell in love with cows, and he loves, like, pigs and goats. So, I think, cuz, like, you eat them, so you don’t really want to know, like, that they have feelings like us. Because once you know that, like, you don’t want to eat it anymore. So, um, once my dad found out that they had like personalities and feelings, he never wanted to eat it again, because, like, you know how they feel. So, it’s important for you not to eat it.

Jane Goodall 13:03
And then of course, all this feeding the animals is destroying the environment, right?

Genesis Butler 13:08
Yeah, because these animals have to eat a lot. I think it’s really sad, because there’s a lot of the world that are still, like, going hungry, because of all the food that you have to give to cows and pigs and chickens and all the water that they have to have just for them to be killed. So, it’s a huge process for them. And not only that, but they’re taking up a lot of our land. So I think it’s terrible, and it’s not good, because we have so many other foods we can eat, where we don’t need to eat it anymore.

Jane Goodall 13:37
So, Genesis, what do all your friends think about what you’re doing?

Genesis Butler 13:41
I think, now, a lot of youth have been more willing to try going vegan. Um, because we’re starting to realize, like, this is our planet, we can’t just expect someone else to wake up one day and be like, “I want to make the change,” like, “I want to become an activist,” so we have to be the ones to start making these changes. Because we want a planet to live on for not only our generation, but we want a thriving planet for future generations and all generations that live on this planet so that they don’t have to fight for it like we do. So, a lot of my friends, they all really support my activism, I think it’s super cool of what I’m doing. Because when you’re helping the planet, you can’t really be like, like, that’s a bad thing because you’re helping the planet not only for you, but for everyone. So my friends really support me. And some of them have also went vegan because they realized the importance of it. And a lot of them have became activists because I’ve taken them to protests and I’ve taken sanctuaries, and I think sanctuaries is one place where I always take my friends so that they can meet the animals. Like, if they really want to get into activism, because right now there’s a lot of youth that want to become activists but they just don’t know how to. I’ll take them to protest or, right now, there’s a lot of environmental groups you can join that are online, like, the group that I started over quarantine, which is each Youth Climate Save. So there’s a lot of groups that youth can join that they can get involved in the movement from their house.

Jane Goodall 15:12
Have you heard about our program called Roots and Shoots?

Genesis Butler 15:15
Yeah, I’ve heard about it.

Jane Goodall 15:17
I began it because so many young people, they’ve seemed to have lost hope. And they were angry, or they were depressed, or some of them just didn’t seem to care. And so I asked them, you know, “Why do you feel this way?” “Well, because you’ve harmed our future, and there’s nothing we can do about it.” It was at the beginning of young people caring about the environment. So I thought, “Yes, we have been stealing your future. Your future, we’ve been stealing it. Absolutely. But it’s not too late. We’ve got this window of time. And if we get together, we can start healing some of the harm that we’ve done, and slowing down climate change.” There was a little girl, she’s about the same age as you when you started, she was three and a half, I think. And she was part of Roots and Shoots. And she was asked, “What do you do? What do you do for your project?” “I work to save bees, plant things in our school garden for bees to eat.” So they said, “Why do you like bees?” And she said, “Well, they’re sweet and fuzzy, and if we don’t protect them, we’ll all die.” That’s a little tiny, three year old. And he’s so right! And I tell you, Genesis, these people all around the world, they are changing the world, just like you are. So wouldn’t it be fun if we work together? Because there’s so many problems, there’s so much harm being done, that we need to join together. So what we’re trying to do: bring together all the people who care and who are working to make the world better. The more we get, the bigger the difference we can make, right?

Genesis Butler 16:58
Yeah, I totally agree. I think, um, it’s like the same thing for our group, because we have a whole bunch of members from all over the place. So now we have 60 chapters now from around the world. And it’s just a bunch of youth that want to make a difference, because we realize that our planet and how much is on the line. So, we want a fighting planet to live on, so we all want to fight for it. So there’s a bunch of youth that are basically just trying to fight to have like a thriving planet to live on. Um, you see how, like, we’re really inspired and how much that we want to make changes. So I think if our groups partnered up together that would be super cool, because that would make a huge change, because it’s one thing to have, like, a bunch of people. But when you have more people all together united, it can make a difference. That would be great.

Jane Goodall 17:47
Genesis, when I’m talking to a group of young people, I always say to them, “There’s one important thing to remember: every single day you live, you make an impact on the planet, and you can choose what sort of impact you make.” But how do you get young people engaged and wanting to be an activist and wanting to make a difference in their life? They can be a teacher and inspire kids. They can be in government and help push through legislation to protect animals. How do you get young people interested? Is it just by taking them to sanctuaries, or do you have any other ideas?

Genesis Butler 18:26
I think the way that, like, you empower them and you inspire them is just by telling them, like, your story or telling them stories, because stories can really, like, plant seeds in a person’s head. So it’s, like — like what happened to you, it could happen to someone else. Or they could be thinking about that, too. So I think that’s what I really do is just, like, tell my story and say why it’s so important for people to switch to a plant-based diet. But I think, right now, a lot of youth are just inspired on their own to become activists because we realize how much is on the line, and why it’s so important for us to use our voices.

Jane Goodall 19:03
Hmm. You know, when I was 10 years old, I read the Tarzan books, not the movies, but the books. And of course, I fell in love with Tarzan, this wonderful lord of the jungle. And I decided I’m going to grow up, go to Africa, live with wild animals, and write books about them. So everybody laughed at me. Now remember, we’re going back almost 80 years in a world that you can’t imagine because it changed so much. You know, no cell phones, no social media, not even any TV. So it was just books. And everybody laughed at me and they said, “Well, how will you, how will you get to Africa it’s far away? You don’t have money.” We had so little money when I was growing up. Whereas everybody laughed at me and said, “Oh, Jane dream about something you can achieve.” Not the same wonderful mother. She just said, “If you really want to do something like this, you’ll have to work really hard, take advantage of opportunity, then, if you don’t give up, maybe you find a way.” And that’s a great message that you can share with, with your young people when you’re talking to them. I wish Mom was alive to know how many people have written to me or said to me, “Jane, I want to thank you, because you’ve taught me because you did it. I can do it, too.” And you’ve got the same message, haven’t you?

Genesis Butler 20:26
Yeah, there’s a lot of people that always reach out to me and just tell me how, when, like, they swtiched to a plant-based diet, and they realized how important it is, how much it helps them. It helps me connections with a bunch of other things. So I totally agree with you.

Jane Goodall 20:40
And you’re making a huge difference, first of all, by what you do, but even more when you multiply it and share it with others. You need voices like yours to inspire them.

Genesis Butler 20:51
Thank you.

Jane Goodall 20:53
So I think working together can make an even bigger difference.

Genesis Butler 20:59
Yeah, I think that would be really cool.

Jane Goodall 21:01
So let me ask you, Genesis. If you meet somebody who really doesn’t seem to understand, or doesn’t want to understand about climate change, and the effect that we have on it, they don’t want to understand that eating lots of animals is destroying the planet, they don’t want to understand these things. What do you say to them?

Genesis Butler 21:25
Yeah, I think, um, right now, there’s a lot of scientists that have came out with studies and articles on animal agriculture. So um, there’s so much science behind this, that is supporting this. And there’s a lot of climate activists that are saying, “Believe in the science.” But it’s super-important to believe in this science, too, because a lot of people don’t really believe in it, because it’s really making you have to change yourself, because that’s like what you eat, you are what you eat. So, um, there’s like, so much like facts and stuff on this. And there’s a man named Joseph Poore, and I met with him when I was in London. He’s at Oxford University. And he came up with a study where he talks about how impactful that the animal agriculture is having on our planet, and how they’re cutting down our rain forests to put these animals here. So, that’s our oxygen, because that’s where our trees are. So we’re losing oxygen. It’s like we’re at war with ourselves, because we’re doing this to ourselves. So we’re putting these cattle there, and they have to graze this land, then they have to get killed for the meat. So it’s just ruining our planet. And then there’s also another person that I know and his name’s Dr. Solis Rao [?], and he came up with the study, also saying, “If we were stored half of our native forests would be able to reverse climate change.” And that’s only half of them. So I think it’s really important for people to switch to a plant-based diet, because you’re really helping lower your footprint on this planet, also. And not only that, you’re helping the animals, you’re helping your health, and you’re also helping the planet. You can simply just look it up, and you’ll see how there’s so many articles on this, where it’s talking about the importance of switching to plant-based diet,

Jane Goodall 23:08
I watched Donald Trump being told by his own team of scientists in the White House. And they were telling him the probable economic effect of climate change as sea levels rose and the harm that this will do to American cities around the coast. And they spent 10 minutes telling him this. And he looked directly at this man, his head scientist, and he said, “I don’t believe you.” But what do you do?

Genesis Butler 23:37
Yeah, not everyone is going to believe it. But I believe that we are going to be able to reverse climate change, and we are going to be able to restore these native forests. So but once this does happen, then you’re going to realize like, oh, like it was true.

Jane Goodall 23:52
Genesis, you must meet many, many young people who don’t feel very hopeful about the future. What do you think, is the most hopeful thing that’s happening right now? What do you what do you think the world will be like, in when you’re grown up?

Genesis Butler 24:10
There is some youth that aren’t feeling very hopeful, because we’re like, on a planet that’s dying right now. So I think it’s just really important to stay optimistic. Because if you’re always looking for the good in things, I believe it can truly happen. But you can you can speak it into existence. You can be like, “I believe that climate change will be reversed, and it will happen.” So I think, um, there is so many youth using their voice and so many people are starting to realize about this and starting to get active in using their voice also.

Jane Goodall 24:44
You know, my greatest hope for the future is all of you young people, because everywhere I go in the world, when I used to be traveling around the world, there were young people telling me what they were doing to make this a better world. Not just the climate, but everything. Helping animals, helping people, and helping refugees. Nature will come back. So those are my reasons for hope. Genesis, can you pick one or two really important things that need to change?

Genesis Butler 25:14
First the way that people think of animals, because I think that there is still a lot of people that think that animals do not have feelings or emotions, and that they’re just here for us. And the second thing that I think that I hope will change, I hope there’s more people that talk about how animal agriculture is harming our planet, because there still isn’t as many people that should be talking about this issue, because it’s a huge issue right now. And there’s ways we can reverse climate change within this issue. So like, we have ways to do this, we just need to come all together in making the change and being the change.

Jane Goodall 25:53
Well, Genesis. I’m really happy that you came onto this Hopecast. Did you have fun? Was it nice to have this conversation?

Genesis Butler 26:01
Yes, it was. Thank you.

Jane Goodall 26:03
Well, thank you very much, and good luck to you. And, you know, let’s make some more links between us so we can do even more together. And good luck.

Genesis Butler 26:12
Thank you.

Margaret Myfanwe Joseph 26:13
FROM THE ARCHIVES: She would get up at six, rushed down to the garden, sit there for hours. So she always liked observing creatures. She always had patience. And nothing except having to go to school would stop her. She disappeared one afternoon. And after five hours, we thought, “Well, we must get the police.” It was beginning to get dark. And suddenly somebody said, “Blimey, look,” and we looked across a field came some be bedraggled figure, bits of hay and straw, eyes shining. I said, “Where have you been?” “Well, I’ve been in the hen house,” she said, “waiting can see how a hen laid an egg. Nobody’d tell me so I just sat there. And now I know.”


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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.

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About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Communications & Policy Officer at the Jane Goodall Institute, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in Biology, and is currently pursuing a MS in Environmental Science & Policy at Johns Hopkins University. She has a varied background including conservation, art, communications, digital media, design, photography, and documentary filmmaking. Ashley believes in sharing information to empower and in magic of storytelling to change hearts and minds. Through growing understanding and empathy, she believes it is possible to ignite positive change, every day.