Dreamforce and sustainability - the inspirational Jane Goodall

Madeline Bennett Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett September 22, 2022
If you’re talking about sustainability, who better to turn to than Jane Goodall?


Sustainability is the major theme of Dreamforce 22, and who better to cement Salesforce’s eco-credentials than conservationist and chimp expert Dr Jane Goodall?

She joined Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff on stage Wednesday for the Net Zero Keynote. The pair discussed everything from Goodall’s love of animals and her ground-breaking research into chimpanzees, to the importance of tree planting and encouraging young people to protect our planet. 

Goodall, who is now 88, has always had an affinity with animals. At just 10, she had a dream: she would grow up, go to Africa, live with wild animals and write books about them. This was despite Goodall having no thought of being a scientist at the time, and everybody laughing at her - except her mother:

I'm saying this because it's so important to understand that a young child will grow and prosper if that child gets support. Where everybody else laughed at me, and we didn't have money and I was a girl, my mother said, if you want to do something like this, you'll have to work really hard, take advantage of opportunity, and if you don't give up, hopefully you’ll find a way. That support at that age means so much, somebody who believes in you so that you are encouraged to follow your dream.


In 1957, in pursuit of her dream, Goodall moved to Africa. There she met Dr Louis Leakey, who offered her a role studying chimpanzee behaviour in Tanzania. The turning point of her research came when she observed her favorite chimp, David Greybeard, picking grass stems and twigs and using them as tools to fish for termites: at that point, humans were supposedly the only tool-making creature on the planet. 

As Goodall began making important discoveries, Leakey felt she needed to get a degree so other scientists would take her seriously. She got a place at Cambridge University to do a PhD in ethology - the study of animal behaviour – and there she was told she had been doing everything wrong.

You shouldn't have given chimpanzees names, they should have been numbered; you can't talk about their personality or minds capable of solving problems or emotions because those are unique to us. But I knew from the very start that this was absolutely wrong because I had a wonderful teacher when I was a child who taught me that it was wrong, and that was my dog. You can't spend time in your life in a meaningful way with a dog, cat, horse, rabbit, I don't care what, and not know that we are not the only sentient sapiens beings on the planet.

As well as her chimp discoveries, Goodall’s experience in Africa led her to realise the importance of the eco-system around her. 

I really began not only to understand more and more about chimp behavior with their individual personalities, but also I could spend hours out in the rainforest and get to understand the interconnection of all the plant and animal species that made up this glorious forest ecosystem. It taught me so much about our relationship, how it should be with the natural world living in harmony, realizing we are part of the natural world, not separate from it. That we are nature.

This is not a universal view, sadly. Making money is often more important than protecting the environment for the future, and there is a sense that we can have unlimited economic development on a planet with finite natural resources: 

Already there are wars being fought in some countries over water and access to land. Unfortunately for most governments and so many big corporations, profit comes first. That's why I have this great hope in the young people, because if we cannot learn to live in harmony with nature, then we'll never live in peace.


With this aim in mind, Goodall launched Roots & Shoots, a program designed to get young people understanding the problems our planet faces and empowering them to take action. 

Beginning with 12 high school students in Tanzania in 1991, Roots & Shoots is now in 66 countries with hundreds of thousands of people from kindergarten to university and beyond forming groups. Each group chooses three projects, which relates to their own environment, age, socio-economicbackground and religion: one to help people, one to help animals and one to help the environment. 

The main message is every single one of us makes an impact on the planet every single day. We have a choice. What sort of impact will we make?

During the conversation, Benioff also revealed that Goodall was the inspiration for the 1t.org program to grow, restore and conserve one trillion trees. He explained:

I was mostly focused on working on the oceans when I met you. You were asking me questions about some of the things that I was working on. You found a gap in my action plan and my consciousness - you want to be much more focused on the forest, which is very much the catalyst of 1t.org.  Before we got that going, I called you and got your blessing for that program. In my own consciousness I did not understand the linkage between the oceans and the trees, and the importance of how the total ecosystem works.

Goodall reiterated her support for 1t.org, noting that protecting our existing, old-growth forests with their rich biodiversity is tremendously important, as is planting new trees. 

She is also a big proponent of urban tree planting, for providing shade in cities, bringing in insects and birds, and stabilizing the ground so it is less prone to flooding:

But what I'm finding with city councils all around the world, once the tree gets really big, they decide to chop it down and plant new ones. And it's this big tree that's sequestering all the CO2 and biodiversity.

My take

I agree with Goodall that the impact on the planet should be at the heart of the decisions we take every day – whether as an individual, company or government. Hopefully Salesforce will continue to use its annual San Francisco gathering to showcase sustainability, in the same way that it has used Dreamforce as a platform to push the importance of diversity, inclusion and equality for so many years. 

Placing sustainability firmly at the top of the agenda does make a difference and ensures the message is heard by thousands who may not have thought about the impact they make on the environment. 

And just a small request from me: Sir David Attenborough for Dreamforce 23 please. 

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