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Humans' 'disrespect of nature' is partly to blame for COVID-19: Jane Goodall

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Jane Goodall, English primatologist and anthropologist, addresses the media during a press conference as part of the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF)
Jane Goodall, English primatologist and anthropologist, addresses the media during a press conference as part of the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF)   -   Copyright  AP Photos
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The world partly brought the COVID-19 pandemic on itself by disrespecting nature, conservation icon Jane Goodall told Euronews, urging people to make ethical choices to better protect the planet.

"My mission is to help people understand that we, in part, brought it (COVID-19) on ourselves by our disrespect of nature and our disrespect of animals," the world-renowned ethologist told Euronews in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.

"We push animals into closer contact with humans. We hunt them, eat them, traffic them, sell them as exotic pets around the world, we put them in factory farms in terrible close conditions and all these situations can lead to an environment where a pathogen, like a virus, can jump from an animal to a person, where it may cause a new disease like COVID-19," she added.

Goodall, 86, devoted her career to the protection of chimpanzees and her passion for primates remains undimmed. As does her drive to make a difference regarding how we all see and treat our environment.

Nowadays, she dedicates her time to encouraging others to learn about animal-human conservation and the effects of climate change.

Goodall launched her Roots and Shoots programme in 1991 which is now a global initiative aimed at empowering young people to take part in community, ecological and animal care schemes.

It is active in nearly 70 countries and campaigns on a variety of issues ranging from the ill-treatment of animals to plastic pollution in our seas and waterways.

"The main message of Roots and Shoots is that every day you live you make some impact and you can choose what sort of impact you make, at least if you come from a reasonably wealthy family," she explained.

"This does not apply to those living in poverty who just have to do whatever they can to stay alive but provided you can make a choice as to what you buy," she added, "and if billions and billions make the ethical choices in how they live then we move towards a better world."

She also emphasised the link between poverty and the destruction of the environment, stressing that the loss of habitat for chimpanzees was partly due to big logging and mining companies but also to "more people living in a certain area than the land could support."

"They were cutting down their last trees in their desperate efforts to grow food. This was when I realised, if we don't help people find ways of making a living without destroying their environment then we can't hope to save the environment," she said.

Goodall said that organisations like Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future were raising awareness about climate change, but she highlighted that her tactics differ from them.

"My own method has always been, if you want change, it has to come from within the person so I try to tell stories to reach the hearts," she explained. "So often, it does work."