‘A Small Window’ to Heal the Planet

Jane Goodall and Bill Gates are hopeful about changing the course of the climate crisis — and the events industry has a big role to play.

Author: Michelle Russell       

Jane Goodall

“Any discussion of hope would be incomplete without admitting the horrible harm we have inflicted on the natural world and addressing the real pain and suffering people are feeling as they witness the enormous losses that are occurring,” Jane Goodall writes in The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times. (Simon Fraser University)

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell

There is something reassuring about having Jane Goodall’s voice in your ear. I’ve been listening on audiobook to the world’s foremost naturalist and her cowriter Douglas Abrams narrate The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, where Goodall talks about how she became a fierce advocate for biodiversity and conservation and why she holds out hope that we will be able to heal the planet.

“Any discussion of hope would be incomplete without admitting the horrible harm we have inflicted on the natural world and addressing the real pain and suffering people are feeling as they witness the enormous losses that are occurring,” Goodall says in the book. “We only have a small window of opportunity — a window that is closing all the time.”

It was a conference that led Goodall to shift her focus from research to advocacy. After she earned her Ph.D., Goodall returned to Gombe, Tanzania, to continue her research observing chimpanzees in their natural habitat — where she would have “happily stayed … forever,” she said in the book, but “that all changed when I attended that 1986 conference and had my ‘Damascus moment.’”

At that chimpanzee conference hosted decades ago by the Chicago Academy of Sciences, Goodall saw a film that secretly captured the use of chimps in medical laboratories, which caused her to dedicate her work to animal-human conservation. Attend- ing a conference changed the trajectory of her life and the way research is conducted in medical laboratories.

As we go to press on the November/December issue, COP26, the world’s largest and most significant conference addressing catastrophic climate change, is winding down — and the world is hoping the policies and pledges world leaders make will change the trajectory of the climate crisis.

In her book, Goodall offers four reasons why she remains hopeful about our future. At the top of her list is our human intellect and ability to innovate — and Bill Gates cites innovation as the reason why he left this year’s global climate summit feeling more positive than the last summit he attended, in 2015. “Six years ago,” Gates wrote on his blog, “there were more people on the we-have-what-we-need side than on the innovation side. This year, though, innovation was literally on center stage. One session of the World Leaders Summit … was exclusively about developing and deploying clean technologies faster.”

We’re the industry that convenes the greatest minds to solve our biggest problems, and we must be an industry that conducts itself in a sustainable way — see the net zero pledge the events industry presented at COP26.

We tried to tie every piece of content in Convene’s first single-topic issue, to the climate conversation. From carbon offsets to sustainable swag to our cover and CMP Series story on COP26, we made sustainability the lens through which we planned the November/December issue, as we collectively make it the lens through which we create a post-pandemic events industry.

Landing in the Right Place

Land acknowledgements are a way for events to show respect for the land and Indigenous peoples, but they can’t be check-the-box items. Like sustainability at events, doing them well requires thoughtfulness, research, and emotional intelligence. Convene Deputy Editor Barbara Palmer offers a deeper look at this initiative in our Ascent series story, “Acknowledging Indigenous Peoples in a Purposeful Way.”

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.