We had a chance to speak with Dr Jane Goodall, (DBE) about the role organic can play in building a sustainable future for all. Watch the video here, or find the transcript of the interview below.
Can you tell us what you see as the biggest threat to people and the planet?
Jane Goodall: The climate crisis is something that is affecting everybody, everywhere, but it’s the different threats that are leading to the climate crisis. We’re in this difficult situation where we need groups of people to tackle each of the underlying causes of climate change: the destruction of the forest, the pollution of the oceans, the destruction of soil and the growing human population. All these things contribute in different ways, and they all have to be tackled if we want to try to slow down climate change.
What impact has industrial agriculture had on soil, biodiversity, and the ability to sustainably nourish the world?
Jane Goodall: I don’t understand why the industrial agriculture is called “conventional”. Surely conventional is the small-scale family farming. That’s convention over thousands of years, but now we call it conventional to grow our food with chemical poisons and I see nothing conventional about that. It’s the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers that have so damaged the soil. As the soil becomes deader and deader, deeper and deeper, we lose all the biodiversity of the soil and that, in turn, is affecting our crops. Another example is the so-called industrial weeds, which are actually food for millions of different insects, which, in turn, are food for the birds. The insects are disappearing at a terrifying rate, including bees worldwide, and there, of course, we need them to fertilize our food crops. Birds are disappearing. The changes since I was born, 85 years ago, in the flora and fauna of the UK are shocking and that is all because of this so-called “conventional” farming.
How can organic deliver solutions for a better future?
Jane Goodall: If we grow organic and it takes, as I understand, three years to certify organic, as you must get rid of all the damage that’s being done with these terrible chemicals. Then, if we all start demanding organic food that means a reduction of all those chemicals used in conventional agriculture. That means that, once again, we should be providing environments that are okay for insects and birds, and we shall start to see a recurrence of biodiversity.
At the same time, it will mean much less illness and sickness for people, including children. It doesn’t make sense to eat food grown with poison. It’s not surprising there are all these childhood illnesses that nobody really understands and certainly, if you have been eating any of this poison that the food is grown with, you’re going to be more susceptible to the sicknesses that go around. The organic movement is really helping the environment but it’s also helping human health.
What can we all do to help build a sustainable future?
Jane Goodall: The most important message I have for everyone is to remember that each one of us makes a difference every single day we live on this planet. We get to choose what sort of difference we make. At least probably everybody listening to this can choose. Unfortunately, the billions still living in poverty have no choice. They just have to do whatever they can to get through the day. We can make a choice. It’s all very well to blame governments and industry, and indeed they should take a lot of blame, but the consumers should too. We make our choice by what we buy, what we wear, where did it come from, did it harm the environment, did it result in cruelty to animals? Is it cheap because of child slave labor? If we make these ethical choices, it may not seem much in my little life, but when you get the cumulative effect of millions and then billions of ethical choices made by consumers, that’s changing industry and in turn this will change governments.