I have very much enjoyed reading this quiet, thoughtful and intimate book. Jane Goodall is such a singular individual. She does such extraordinary things yet seems to take everything in her stride. Strolling through a forest in Africa is apparently easier than visiting a city.
Jane Goodall was asked to deliver a sermon one Saint Francis’s Day in San Francisco. She took as her text Genesis Chapter 1, verse 26: ‘And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ She goes on to explain that:
… many Hebrew scholars believe the word ‘dominion’ is a very poor translation of the original Hebrew word v’yirdu, which actually meant to rule over, as a wise king rules over his subjects, with care and respect. It implied a sense of responsibility and enlightened stewardship.
This brings us to the idea of fiduciary duty. One of the most exciting developments in the environmental movement is championed by a lawyer in Oregon called Mary Wood. She has written extensively about the duty that a government, and future governments, has to look after the people of the land. This includes future generations, the air those people breathe and the water they drink. Clearly it must include the entire habitat and ecology around the people. I went to a fascinating seminar about this at Monash Law, introduced by Ken Coghill. I have to say I didn’t understand very much – I only did half a law degree – but I was greatly heartened by these incredibly intelligent students, lawyers and judges striving to find a way to hold successive governments accountable for the environment. Isn’t that a better way of looking at the word ‘dominion’?