Conservationist Jane Goodall’s words on population are distorted

CLAIM: Conservationist Jane Goodall said, “We can solve all the world’s problems if we reduce the world’s population to where it was 500 years ago,” at a World Economic Forum conference.

AP ASSESSMENT: Context is missing. This misrepresents Goodall’s comments and is not an actual quote. While he said that many of the world’s environmental problems would be alleviated if the population were what it was 500 years ago, he did not advocate depopulation efforts.

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing a two-year-old video of Goodall, a British primatologist, with a misleading caption suggesting she advocated a plan to reduce the world’s population to alleviate the effects of climate change.

The clip, shared on Instagram on Tuesday, shows Goodall speaking about the future of the Amazon rainforest at the World Economic Forum Conference 2020 in Davos, Switzerland.

In the video, she says: “We can’t hide from human population growth, because it underlies a lot of the other problems. All of these things that we’re talking about wouldn’t be a problem if the world had the population size it was 500 years ago.”

But text overlaid on the video in quotes distorts his words by claiming he said: “We can solve all the world’s problems if we reduce the world’s population to where it was 500 years ago.”

“You don’t even try to hide it anymore, folks!” he reads the caption on the post, alluding to a more sinister meaning behind his words.

However, the full audio of the clip makes it clear that Goodall never used the words “reduce,” nor did he advocate efforts to forcibly reduce the population.

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The clip was also widely shared in July 2022 along with unsubstantiated claims that it proved that the COVID-19 pandemic was manufactured to control population growth.

Goodall actually made the statement while appearing on a panel discussion called “Securing a Sustainable Future for the Amazon” at the WEF conference in January 2020. Population growth is only mentioned briefly. The rest of the discussion focused on protecting the rainforest, stopping deforestation and safeguarding local populations.

Everything’s good, recognized for her expertise on chimpanzeeshe has also advocated for combating deforestation while protecting local livelihoods.

In the longest clip, clocking in at roughly 27 minutes into the discussion, the moderator asks about her association with the billion trees projecta forest restoration effort.

“How important is it that the trees that are planted through that are valuable enough to go as far as possible and make sure they are not cut down by local communities or big corporations?” asks BBC journalist Mishal Husain.

Goodall responds by describing the factors that lead to deforestation and how the project intends to address them, then lists four “shady things” that she says need to be mitigated. These include poverty, corruption, excessive land use, and human population growth.

However, she never calls for a population reduction to 500-year-old levels, as is falsely suggested.

In the past, Goodall has advocated for measures like better education and the empowerment of women to curb population growth. For example, she addressed this in a video appearance in the Conference Population Affairs in 2019.

“It really is absurd to think that there can be unlimited economic development on a planet with finite natural resources, and the fact that human populations continue to grow on this precious population of ours is something everyone should be aware of,” he said in his message. , adding: “It has been shown throughout the world that as women’s education improves, family size tends to decrease.”

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Learn more about fact checking at AP.