Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Reason for Hope

I read the book, Reason for Hope: A spiritual journey, by Jane Goodall with Phillip Berman. I had picked this book out since the beginning of the semester because I have loved Jane Goodall and the work she does for a long time. This book is similar to an autobiography so I was given the chance to learn a lot about her life and her thoughts. While she did go into her studies in Africa part way through the book, it did not start out there. She reminisced about her childhood and how she grew up, living through the second world war and the fear that the Nazi’s instilled in her. However, the things that got her through that terrible time in the world were her family and the nature around her. As she goes on, she tells of her time spent with the chimpanzees in Gombe, the death of her second husband and the terror she felt when rebels swept through her camp and took students hostage. Through it all, she reflects on her spiritual beliefs. Just like all of us, there were times that that belief was sorely tried and for moments, when it left her. Throughout the whole book, Jane reflects on hope. How can we hope for a better future? How is that possible when human selfish greed-lust for power, land, and wealth-was concurring the wish for peace? I have thought this way for a long time. I could not see how we as humans could overcome our own carnal desires in order to create a better world. Yet Jane Goodall does not stop there, instead of filling our minds with pictures of doom and gloom, she speaks of how far we have come since the beginning of mankind. We have been on this earth only for a short while evolutionarily speaking. Just a couple hundred years ago conditions for the poor and feeble were atrocious. Women and children were required to work long shifts with no breaks for little food. Slavery was acceptable and religious persecution was worse than it is today. Today however, slavery has been abolished, welfare is more accessible, charities have been founded, and many social reforms have taken place all over the world. The United Nations has been established, and human dignity and rights are now topics of concern. When Ms. Goodall points out all of these instances in our world, I am able to see that while there are many things that still need to be worked out, we are moving in the right direction. I believe it is this that illustrates the human potential for good. We all have contributions to make, some of us may make large ones while others of us make smaller ones (they are all different). But all of us blending and mixing our influences in life, may in turn influence the life of one person or many that will be able to influence the lives of millions or billions of people. Each one of us has the ability to change history. Given time, the human race is probably very capable of creating a moral and environmentally aware society. The problem is, how much time do we have? At the rate things are going now, not much. But we could each simply try to be a little better, every one of us, we could do that. And that perhaps, might make all the difference. When I have children, I hope to instill that faith in them. Who knows, by then the world may be much worse off than it is now and the need for better people will be even more urgent. It is important for them to see the issues around them instead of ignoring them and to be an influence for good. I wish to teach my children that we are lucky to be living in this country, but not to take it for granted. It is not our birthright to have the luxuries that we do. In fact if we all lived a more humbly then there would be much more to go around for other less fortunate people.

I loved reading this book because I feel that at this point in my life I am feeling very negatively towards most people’s views of the environment. I have always seen the doom and gloom side of the argument, and while it is most definitely still there and I do not recommend disregarding it entirely, there are bright spots. Not everyone roles tires on fire down canyons in Utah, or litters, tortures animals, drives 85 on the freeway, or buys a mansion of a house. There are many wonderful and good things that are happening and instead of getting angry about the horrible things, I need to get active and support those wonderful things that are happening all around us. The more people support them, the more other people will realize what is happening and will want to make a difference as well. Scaring people does not work, but encouraging them and helping them to make a difference does. When that happens I believe we will see a difference in how the environment and humanity is treated.

I read this book all the way through.

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