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Earth Day Jane Goodall
Dr. Jane Goodall and Prince Harry at Windsor Castle for the 2019 global leadership meeting of Roots & Shoots, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute. National Geographic's JANE GOODALL: THE HOPE picks up where JANE (2017) left off, following Jane Goodall through three generations of advocacy work as she meets with everyone from schoolchildren in Zanzibar to Prince Harry and spreads a message of hope in a time of immense environmental change. (National Geographic/Hitesh Makan)


COVID-19 & The “Virtual Jane:” Busier Than Ever On Earth Day — CleanTechnica Interview

Earth Day 2020 has collided with the COVID-19 lockdown, but that hasn’t slowed down conservationist, scientist, and author Jane Goodall.

One of the most influential and much-traveled figures in the conservation area is Dr. Jane Goodall. She has been grounded by COVID-19, but her voice is everywhere, and when CleanTechnica had a chance to speak with her on the phone, the topic of sustainable agriculture came up. Of course it did! Let’s see what she had to say on Earth Day #50.

Earth Day Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall and Prince Harry at Windsor Castle for the 2019 global leadership meeting of Roots & Shoots, via National Geographic/Hitesh Makan)

Busier Than Ever During Earth Day 2020 COVID-19 Lock-Down

Dr. Goodall is the subject of National Geographic’s new documentary The Hope (unspooling for Earth Day tonight at 9/8c on Nat Geo and Nat Geo Wild), which pivots on her endless race — literally, running at times — around the world in the service of habitat conservation. CleanTechnica asked how she is communicating under lock-down, especially with the young people in her multinational youth organization Roots and Shoots. Here’s what she had to say:

Well, at first I was afraid and angry to be grounded, and not being traveling around the world 300 days a year since 1986. Then I realized that wasn’t helping anybody and I don’t want to lose the momentum that had been growing because of all this traveling and communicating in person.

Of course, I was doing a lot through film and interviews as well. Now, I and my team are working on creating a virtual Jane and I’m actually busier than I have ever been in my whole life.

It’s doing video messages, it’s doing interviews like this over the phone since I’ve been zooming and doing book readings, first of all for children, but then I should do a couple of adult books for older people who are isolated* and frightened and lonely. Things like that, so I’m busy from morning to night. I’ve never been so busy.

From Habitat Conservation To Clean Tech

Dr. Goodall’s work in habitat conservation has sprawled out into many fields including youth development and sustainable agriculture, including a 2013 book Seeds of Hope. During the conversation she touched on the role of clean technology in habitat conservation, and CleanTechnica asked her to describe a recent clean tech innovation that has captured her imagination.

She zeroed in on California startup called Provivi, which she has endorsed:

Well, the thing is greater harmony with nature. Of course, the first thing one thinks about is renewable energy because it’s the climate crisis that now is hitting us the most severely, [with the] invention of fossil fuels and methane. The sooner we can get onto renewable energy, the sooner we can start clearing up some of the pollution.

There’s a lot of smaller innovations, scientific innovations that are helping us live in greater harmony.

For instance, and this is just one example, there is a company called Provivi, and it’s basically putting little tiny sachets of a substance that confuses the message of the female moth…This little bag of pheromones puts out a false scent so that the males can’t find the females. Nothing is killed, but there is very little reproduction.

The point of all this is it saves* the use of all of this pesticide which is destroying the soil. We depend on the soil for future health and we’re destroying it very fast with chemicals. Any innovation that reduces the need for pesticides or herbicides is really, really important.

About That Hope…

Hope is the constant theme running through Dr. Goodall’s life, and while the documentary The Hope portrays her as a giver of hope, she sees herself as a receiver of hope — from the energy of the students in the Roots and Shoots program to the clean tech innovators she encounters.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Provivi. The company has been moving with lightning speed since last August, when it scaled its downstream fermentation-based pheromone production process from 10L up to 15,000L as a step toward commercialization. The scale-up took place at the independent facility Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant in Belgium.

As of January the company has an agreement with the agtech firm Syngenta to develop its pheromone-based product for combating rice pests in Indonesia.

Pivoting to clean tech is a turnaoround for Syngenta, which has faced its share of controversy in recent years over the use of its chemical products. On the plus side, with Syngenta’s global reach new products like Provivi have an opportunity — hopefully — to replace less sustainable pesticides sooner rather than later.

That circles back around to another thread running through The Hope, which is Dr. Goodall’s insistence on reaching out to any allies who can help make change, even in unlikely places.

In that regard, perhaps other agtech companies will take a lesson (or two or three) from the situation that global fossil energy and petrochemical stakeholders now find themselves in, and take advantage of new clean tech to swim in a more sustainable future — or sink.

Follow me on Twitter.

Photo: via Nat Geo TV, (National Geographic/Hitesh Makan).

*CleanTechnica’s notes diverge from official transcript on this word.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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