Jane Goodall joins lawmakers in calling for rethinking conservation and national interests

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The relationship between national security, economic interests and environmental protection needs to be rethought and reformed, lawmakers and experts said Tuesday.

Rethinking conservation and how humans interact with nature will require a “more respectful” relationship, famed primatologist Jane Goodall said at The Hill’s Conservation and U.S. National Security event.

The founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and United Nations Messenger of Peace told The Hill’s Steve Clemons that “we must learn to create a new relationship with the natural world.”

“The most important thing that we have to realize is that we are part of the natural world, not separated from it, and it’s our disrespect of the environment, our disrespect of animals that led to the pandemic that is causing so much economic chaos around the world today,” she said.

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), a member of both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Armed Services Committee, highlighted the connection between study of the natural word and national security at Tuesday’s event.

“We have been negligent over decades, arguably maybe even longer, in terms of our responsibility to recognize biosecurity as a threat and we have been delinquent in down payments into that, not only domestically, but also internationally,” she said.

Had the United States not “abandoned things like pandemic response” and “had we been more thoughtful about zoonotics and its influence,” Houlahan added, the country could have been in a much better place today amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had the knowledge, we just chose not to prize that and value that in our budgeting,” she said.


Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, said many people do not understand how environmental instability can lead to political conflict, but the relationship needs to be top of mind when dealing with national security.

“I think this linkage is particularly profound and maybe not as well thought through between conservation, environmental well-being, stewardship, economic well-being, stability in play and our own national security,” he said at the event sponsored by Natural Security.

“The 21st century construct has got to be one in which we regenerate,” he said.

“This deep value of stewardship for the land…is intimately, inextricably intertwined into the idea of stability which keeps people away from twisted forms of ideology and would strain nationalism that I think can serve as an architectural paradigm for 21st century thinking about how we all keep ourselves secure and prosperous.” 

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