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The Book of Hope

A Survival Guide for Trying Times (Global Icons Series)

by Jane Goodall, Douglas Abrams

The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall, Douglas Abrams X
The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall, Douglas Abrams
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    Oct 2021, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Herschbach
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Filled with sage reflections and interesting anecdotes, Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams' The Book of Hope is a thoughtful and inspiring discussion of how to find hope in times that seem hopeless.

Cataclysmic floods. Unprecedented heat waves and protracted droughts. Devastating wildfires breaking out across the globe, even in the Arctic Circle. A dire report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change detailing the catastrophic consequences of a rapidly warming Earth—and the narrowing window of opportunity we have left in which to act.

After a summer of bad news for the planet, the very idea of hope may seem quaint, naïve, even out of touch. Despair, sadness, anger and foreboding all seem more suited to the times. Indeed, in a recent landmark study on attitudes about climate change, over three-quarters of young people aged 16 to 25 reported feeling negative emotions about the future, including fear, anxiety and hopelessness.

Yet as Goodall and Abrams stress in The Book of Hope, hope is not mere wishful thinking or blind denial. Nor is it a luxury we can no longer afford. Rather, hope is an essential survival trait and a necessary spur to action—a vital antidote to the paralysis that all too often overcomes us when we face challenges that feel too overwhelming to confront. "We do need to respond with fear and anger about what is happening," as Goodall puts it. "Our house is on fire. But if we don't have hope that we can put the fire out, we will give up."

Thus, while The Book of Hope is in part a pep talk for the despairing—a "survival guide for trying times," as the subtitle suggests—it is also a stirring call to action, an urgent plea to do all we can to bring the planet back from the brink before it is too late."[R]ise to the challenge, inspire and help those around you, play your part," Goodall enjoins readers. "Find your reasons for hope and let them guide you onward."

The second book in the Global Icons series, The Book of Hope is a follow-up to The Book of Joy (2016), co-authored by Abrams with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. As the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees and a renowned naturalist and conservationist, Goodall certainly fits the bill as a "global icon." Credited with revolutionizing our understanding of primate behavior, she spent years studying chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, before broadening her life's work to advocate for sustainability, animal rights, environmental justice and humanitarian causes worldwide.

Structured as an extended conversation narrated by Abrams, the book follows Goodall from Tanzania to the Netherlands to her family home in Bournemouth, England to record their discussions on topics such as the psychology of hope, the role of spiritual beliefs, and the crucial connection between saving the environment and tackling issues of social and economic injustice.

Throughout the book, readers are treated to many stories from Goodall's fascinating and full life, including details about her childhood during World War II, the early days of her career, and her travels around the world as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. These personal reminiscences are interspersed with scientific tidbits and anecdotes culled from her vast knowledge about the natural world to illustrate why—despite the direness of the climate emergency we face—she still finds reasons to remain hopeful that we will rise to the challenge and salvage a livable future.

Our reckless abuses of the natural world have brought our planet to breaking point. Unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases have heated the atmosphere to dangerous levels, disrupting the equilibrium of natural systems and unleashing deadly weather patterns around the globe. Climate change and pollution, combined with wanton deforestation and habitat destruction, have pushed more than one million plant and animal species to the edge of extinction.

Yet it is not too late to turn things around, Goodall urges, and we can find inspiration for hope—and action—in the acuity of the human intellect, which enables us to solve formidable problems through inventiveness and creativity, in the indomitable human spirit, which gives us the fortitude to prevail through the darkest of times, in the power and passion of young people rallying for change, and in the resilience of nature, which allows it to recover from the harms we inflict on it.

Though a slim volume, The Book of Hope brims with quiet wisdom, candor and humanity, offering an uplifting message of empowerment sorely needed in these days when it is all too easy to slip into despair and defeatism. "There is hope for our future—for the health of our planet, our societies, and our children. But only if we all get together and join forces," Goodall writes in the concluding section. "Remember that as individuals we make a difference every day, and millions of our individual ethical choices in how we behave will move us toward a more sustainable world."

This review first ran in the November 3, 2021 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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