Good afternoon, good evening, whatever. We can go, jambo, guten Abend, bonsoir, but we can also ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh. That is the call that chimpanzees make before they go to sleep in the evening. You hear it going from one side of the valley to the other, from one group of nests to the next.
And I want to pick up with my talk this evening from where Zeray left off yesterday. He was talking about this amazing, three-year-old Australopithecine child, Selam. And we've also been hearing about the history, the family tree, of mankind through DNA genetic profiling. And it was a paleontologist, the late Louis Leakey, who actually set me on the path for studying chimpanzees. And it was pretty extraordinary, way back then. It's kind of commonplace now, but his argument was—because he'd been searching for the fossilized remains of early humans in Africa. And you can tell an awful lot about what those beings looked like from the fossils, from the shape of the muscle attachments, something about the way they lived from the various artifacts found with them. But what about how they behaved? That's what he wanted to know. And of course, behavior doesn't fossilize. He argued—and it's now a fairly common theory—that if we found behavior patterns similar or the same in our closest living relatives, the great apes, and humans today, then maybe those behaviors were present in the ape-like, human-like ancestor some seven million years ago. And therefore, perhaps we had brought those characteristics with us from that ancient, ancient past.
Well, if you look in textbooks today that deal with human evolution, you very often find people speculating about how early humans may have behaved, based on the behavior of chimpanzees. They are more like us than any other living creature, and we've heard about that during this TED Conference. So it remains for me to comment on the ways in which chimpanzees are so like us, in certain aspects of their behavior.
Every chimpanzee has his or her own personality. Of course, I gave them names. They can live to be 60 years or more, although we think most of them probably don't make it to 60 in the wild. Mr. Wurzel. The female has her first baby when she's 11 or 12. Thereafter, she has one baby only every five or six years, a long period of childhood dependency when the child is nursing, sleeping with the mother at night, and riding on her back. And we believe that this long period of childhood is important for chimpanzees, just as it is for us, in relation to learning. As the brain becomes ever more complex during evolution in different forms of animals, so we find that learning plays an ever more important role in an individual's life history. And young chimpanzees spend a lot of time watching what their elders do. We know now that they're capable of imitating behaviors that they see. And we believe that it's in this way that the different tool-using behaviors that have now been seen in all the different chimpanzee populations studied in Africa—how these are passed from one generation to the next, through observation, imitation and practice, so that we can describe these tool-using behaviors as primitive culture.
Chimpanzees don't have a spoken language. We've talked about that. They do have a very rich repertoire of postures and gestures, many of which are similar, or even identical, to ours and formed in the same context. Greeting chimpanzees embracing. They also kiss, hold hands, pat one another on the back. And they swagger and they throw rocks. In chimpanzee society, we find many, many examples of compassion, precursors to love and true altruism. Unfortunately, they, like us, have a dark side to their nature. They're capable of extreme brutality, even a kind of primitive war. And these really aggressive behaviors, for the most part, are directed against individuals of the neighboring social group. They are very territorially aggressive. Chimpanzees, I believe, more than any other living creature, have helped us to understand that, after all, there is no sharp line between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.
It's a very blurry line, and it's getting more blurry all the time as we make even more observations. The study that I began in 1960 is still continuing to this day. And these chimpanzees, living their complex social lives in the wild, have helped—more than anything else—to make us realize we are part of, and not separated from, the amazing animals with whom we share the planet. So it's pretty sad to find that chimpanzees, like so many other creatures around the world, are losing their habitats. This is just one photograph from the air, and it shows you the forested highlands of Gombe. And it was when I flew over the whole area, about 16 years ago, and realized that outside the park, this forest, which in 1960 had stretched almost unbroken along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, which is where the tiny, 30-square-mile Gombe National Park lies, that a question came to my mind. "How can we even try to save these famous chimpanzees, when the people living around the National Park are struggling to survive?" More people are living there than the land could possibly support. The numbers increased by refugees pouring in from Burundi and over the lake from Congo. And very poor people—they couldn't afford to buy food from elsewhere.
This led to a program, which we call TACARE. It's a very holistic way of improving the lives of the people living in the villages around the park. It started small with 12 villages. It's now in 24. There isn't time to go into it, but it's including things like tree nurseries, methods of farming most suitable to this now very degraded, almost desert-like land up in these mountains. Ways of controlling, preventing soil erosion. Ways of reclaiming overused farmland so that within two years, they can again be productive. Working to help the villagers obtain fresh water from wells. Perhaps build some schoolrooms. Most important of all, I believe, is working with small groups of women, providing them with opportunities for micro-credit loans. And we've got, as is the case around the world, about 95 percent of all loans returned. Empowering women, working with education, providing scholarships for girls so they can finish secondary school, in the clear understanding that, all around the world, as women's education improves, family size drops. We provide information about family planning and about HIV/AIDS.
And as a result of this program, something's happening for conservation. What's happening for conservation is that the farmers living in these 24 villages, instead of looking on us as a bunch of white people coming to study a whole bunch of monkeys, and by the way, many of the staff are now Tanzanian, but when we began the TACARE program, it was a Tanzanian team going into the villages. It was a Tanzanian team talking to the villagers, asking what they were interested in. Were they interested in conservation? Absolutely not. They were interested in health; they were interested in education. And as time went on, and as their situation began to improve, they began to understand ever more about the need for conservation. They began to understand that as the upper levels of the hills were denuded of trees, so you've got this terrible soil erosion and mudslides.
Today, we are developing what we call the Greater Gombe Ecosystem. This is an area way outside the National Park, stretching out into all these very degraded lands. And as these villages have a better standard of life, they are actually agreeing to put between 10 percent and 20 percent of their land in the highlands aside, so that once again, as the trees grow back, the chimpanzees will have leafy corridors through which they can travel to interact—as they must for genetic viability—with other remnant groups outside the National Park. So TACARE is a success. We're replicating it in other parts of Africa, around other wilderness areas which are faced with extreme population pressure.
The problems in Africa, however, as we've been discussing for the whole of these first couple of days of TED, are major problems. There is a great deal of poverty. And when you get large numbers of people living in land that is not that fertile, particularly when you cut down trees, and you leave the soil open to the wind for erosion, as desperate populations cut down more and more trees, so that they can try and grow food for themselves and their families, what's going to happen? Something's got to give. And the other problems—in not only Africa, but the rest of the developing world and, indeed, everywhere—what are we doing to our planet? You know, the famous scientist, E. O. Wilson said that if every person on this planet attains the standard of living of the average European or American, we need three new planets. Today, they are saying four. But we don't have them. We've got one.
And what's happened? I mean, the question here is, here we are, arguably the most intelligent being that's ever walked planet Earth, with this extraordinary brain, capable of the kind of technology that is so well illustrated by these TED Conferences, and yet we're destroying the only home we have. The indigenous people around the world, before they made a major decision, used to sit around and ask themselves, "How does this decision affect our people seven generations ahead?" Today, major decisions—and I'm not particularly talking about Africa here, but the developed world—major decisions involving millions of dollars, and millions of people, are often based on, "How will this affect the next shareholders' meeting?" And these decisions affect Africa.
As I began traveling around Africa talking about the problems faced by chimpanzees and their vanishing forests, I realized more and more how so many of Africa's problems could be laid at the door of previous colonial exploitation. So I began traveling outside Africa, talking in Europe, talking in the United States, going to Asia. And everywhere there were these terrible problems. And you know the kind I'm talking about. I'm talking about pollution. The air that we breathe that often poisons us. The earth is poisoning our foods. The water—water is perhaps one of the most crucial issues that we're going to face in this century—and everywhere water is being polluted by agricultural, industrial and household chemicals that still are being sprayed around the world, seemingly with the inability to profit from past experience. The mangroves are being cut down; the effects of things like the tsunami get worse. We've talked about the soil erosion. We have the reckless burning of fossil fuels along with other greenhouse gasses, so called, leading to climate change. Finally, all around the world, people have begun to believe that there is something going on very wrong with our climate.
All around the world climates are mixed up. And it's the poor people who are affected worse. It's Africa that already is affected. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the droughts are so much worse. And when the rain does come, it so often leads to flooding and added distress, and the cycle of poverty and hunger and disease. And the numbers of people living in an area that the land cannot support, who are too poor to buy food, who can't move away because the whole land is degraded. And so you get desertification—creeping, creeping, creeping—as the last of the trees are cut down. And this kind of thing is not just in Africa. It's all over the world.
So it wasn't surprising to me that as I was traveling around the world, I met so many young people who seemed to have lost hope. We seem to have lost wisdom, the wisdom of the indigenous people. I asked a question. "Why?" Well, do you think there could be some kind of disconnect between this extraordinarily clever brain, the kind of brain that the TED technologies exemplify, and the human heart? Talking about it in the non-scientific term, in terms of love and compassion—is there some disconnect? And these young people, when I talk to them, basically they were either depressed or apathetic, or bitter and angry. And they said more or less the same thing, "We feel this way because we feel you've compromised our future and there's nothing we can do about it."
We have compromised their future. I've got three little grandchildren, and every time I look at them and I think how we've harmed this beautiful planet since I was their age, I feel this desperation. And that led to this program we call Roots and Shoots, which began right here in Tanzania and has now spread to 97 countries around the world. It's symbolic. Roots make a firm foundation. Shoots seem tiny; to reach the sun they can break through a brick wall. See the brick wall as all these problems we've inflicted on the planet, environmental and social. It's a message of hope. Hundreds and thousands of young people around the world can break through and can make this a better world for all living things. The most important message of Roots and Shoots: every single one of us makes a difference every single day. We have a choice. Every one of us in this room, we have a choice as to what kind of difference we want to make. The very poor have no choice. It's up to us to change things so that the poor have choice as well.
The Roots and Shoots groups all choose three projects. It depends on how old they are, and which country, whether they're in a city or rural, as to what kinds of projects. But basically, we have programs now from preschool right through university, with more and more adults starting their own Roots and Shoots groups. And every group chooses, between them, three different kinds of project to make this a better world, recognizing that all these different problems are interconnected and impinge on each other. So one of their projects will be to help their own human community, and then, if they're able, they may raise money to help communities in other parts of the world. One of their projects will be to help animals—not just wildlife, domestic animals as well. And one of their projects will be to help the environment that we all share. And woven throughout all of this is a message of learning to live in peace and harmony within ourselves, in our families, in our communities, between nations, between cultures, between religions and between us and the natural world. We need the natural world. We cannot go on destroying it at the rate we are. We not do have more than this one planet.
Just picking one or two of the projects right here in Africa that the Roots and Shoots groups are doing, one or two projects only—in Tanzania, in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Congo-Brazzaville, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and other groups. And as I say, it's in 97 countries around the world. Of course, they're planting trees. They're growing organic vegetables. They're working in the refugee camps, with chickens and selling the eggs for a little amount of money, or just using them to feed their families, and feeling a sense of pride and empowerment, because they're no longer helpless and depending on others with their vegetables and their chickens. It's being used in Uganda to give some psychological help to ex-child soldiers. Doing projects like this is bringing them out of themselves. Once again, they're useful members of society. We have this program in prisons as well. So, there's no time for more Roots and Shoots now. But—oh, they're also working on HIV/AIDS. That's a very important component of Roots and Shoots, with older kids talking to younger ones. And unwanted pregnancies and things like that, which young people listen to better from other youth, rather than adults.
Hope—that's the question I get asked as I'm going around the world. "Jane, you've seen so many terrible things, you've seen your chimpanzees decrease in number from about one million, at the turn of the century, to no more than 150,000 now, and the same with so many other animals. Forests disappearing, deserts where once there was forest. Do you really have hope?" Well, yes. You can't come to a conference like TED and not have hope, can you? And of course, there's hope. One is this amazing human brain.
And I mean, think of the technologies. And I've just been so thrilled, finally, to come to people talking about compost latrines. It's one of my hobbyhorses. We just flush all this water down the lavatory, it's terrible. And then talking about renewable energy—desperately important. Do we care about the planet for our children? How many of us have children or grandchildren, nieces, nephews? Do we care about their future? And if we care about their future, we, as the elite around the world, we can do something about it. We can make choices as to how we live each day—what we buy, what we wear, and choose to make these choices with the question, how will this affect the environment around me? How will it affect the life of my child when he or she grows up? Or my grandchild, or whatever it is. So the human brain, coupled with the human heart, and we join hands around the world, and that's what TED is helping so well with, and Google who help us, and Esri are helping us with mapping in Gombe National Park.
All of these technologies we can use, now let's link them, and it's beginning to happen, isn't it? You've heard about it this afternoon. It's beginning to happen. This change, this change, the sea change that we must have if we care about the future. And the next reason for hope—nature is amazingly resilient. You can take an area that's absolutely destroyed, with time and perhaps some help it can regenerate. And an example is the TACARE program I told you, where a seemingly dead tree stump—if you stop hacking them for firewood, which you don't need to because you have wood lots, then in five years you can have a 30-foot tree. And animals, almost on the brink of extinction, can be given a second chance. That's my next book. It's inspiring. And it brings me to my last category of hope, and we've heard about this so much in the last two days: this indomitable human spirit. This determination of people, the resilience of the human spirit, so that people who you would think would be battered by poverty, or disease, or whatever, can pull themselves up out of it, sometimes with a helping hand, and take their part in society, and take their part in changing the world.
And just to think of one or two people out of Africa who are just really inspiring. We could make a very long list, but obviously Nelson Mandela, emerging from 17 years of hard physical labor, 23 years of imprisonment, with this amazing ability to forgive, so that he could lead his nation out the evil regime of apartheid without a bloodbath. Ken Saro-Wiwa, in Nigeria, who took on the giant oil companies, and although people around the world tried their best, was executed. People like this are so inspirational. People like this are the role models we need for young Africans. And we need some environmental role models as well, and I've been hearing some of them today. So I'm really grateful for this opportunity to share this message again, with everyone at TED. And I hope that some of us can get together and talk about some of these things, especially the Roots and Shoots program.
And just a last word on that—the young woman who's running this entire conference center, I met her today. She came up so excited, with her certificate. She was Roots and Shoots. She was in the leadership in Dar es Salaam. She said it's helped her to do what she's doing. And it was very, very exciting for me to meet her and see just one example of how young people, when they are empowered, given the opportunity to take action, to make the world a better place, truly are our hope for tomorrow. Thank you.