The NS Interview: Jane Goodall, primatologist

“My mother never laughed at my dream of Africa”

You've been working in Tanzania for 50 years now. Does it feel as long as that?
In some ways. The whole world has changed. But when I'm there, I climb up to the peaks where I used to sit and I can recapture exactly the way I felt back then.

How has your scientific field changed?
The data is still collected crawling about in the field with pencils and paper. But there's GPS technology, and DNA profiling means we can study stress, hormones - things like that.

Does Tanzania feel like home now?
When I'm in the forest with a chimp, yes - but when I first went in 1960, there was chimp habitat everywhere. Today, it's barren hillsides.

Are you concerned about climate change?
Absolutely. Recently I went to Greenland and saw huge slabs of ice falling from an ice cliff. The Inuit elders said that 15 years ago, even in summer, there was no melting. That's seeing with your own eyes what is happening.

What is predicted for Tanzania?
The droughts and flooding will get worse. And massive deforestation leads to soil erosion and biodiversity loss.

Can the situation be salvaged?
Well, you can't expect people who are starving to respect the boundaries of a park. So, at the institute, we began working with local villagers. Now people have set land aside to form a buffer around Gombe. You can actually see little green corridors growing out to other remnant forests.

What's the hope for Gombe's future?
Eight years ago, there were only about a hundred chimps, and no way for them to increase their gene pool. Now, they can use these corridors.

Where do you draw the line between chimpanzees and human beings?
There is no sharp line, but we are different. I believe it may be a result of developing the ability to communicate, to plan for the distant future, to learn from the distant past.

Has your work affected your view of humans?
I learned from my dog long before I went to Gombe that we weren't the only beings with personalities. What the chimps did was help me to persuade others.

You've said your field, ethology, is not a hard science. What do you mean by that?
When I began in 1960, individuality wasn't an accepted thing to look for; it was about species-specific behaviour. But animal behaviour is not hard science. There's room for intuition.

Going to Tanzania as you did was an unusual move for a woman at that time.
My family has very strong women. My mother never laughed at my dream of Africa, even though everyone else did because we didn't have any money, because Africa was the "dark continent", and because I was a girl.

How important was her support?
Well, the British authorities refused to allow me to go to what was then Tanganyika on my own. So the volunteer who came with me for four months was my mother.

Do you feel you were treated differently from male colleagues as a young ethologist?
National Geographic cover girl, that was what I was. Science could take everything I said with a pinch of salt.

What lies ahead for women in science?
Women tend to be more intuitive, or to admit to being intuitive, and maybe the hard science approach isn't so attractive. The way that science is taught is very cold. I would never have become a scientist if I had been taught like that.

Do you vote?
I haven't voted, I'm afraid, for a while. I should, but I'm never there.

Do you consider yourself a political person?
I'm highly political. I spend an awful lot of time in the US trying to influence decision-makers. But I don't feel in tune with British politics.

Is there a plan?
Maybe somebody else had a plan. I didn't.

What would you like to forget?
Divorcing my first husband; the death of my second husband; the Holocaust. But if you forget, you're not as energetic about change.

Who are your heroes?
My mother and my grandmother were certainly inspirational. Muhammad Yunus, who came up with microfinance, is an all-time hero.

No scientists?
I never wanted to be a scientist, you see! But I would pick Linnaeus and Darwin.

Are we all doomed?
Yes, if we don't take action soon. We've got to stop sitting on our bottoms and leaving it up to everybody else to make the changes we want.

Defining Moments

1934 Born in London
1957 Becomes assistant to the naturalist and palaeontologist Louis Leakey
1960 Arrives at Gombe park. Travels back to England, wins funding, returns to Gombe
1965 Gains ethology PhD from Cambridge
1971 In the Shadow of Man, the best-known of more than 20 books, is published
1977 Founds the Jane Goodall Institute
1995 Awarded CBE. Made a dame in 2004
2010 Marks 50 years at Gombe

This article first appeared in the 12 July 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Behind the mask

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The French millennials marching behind Marine Le Pen

A Front National rally attracts former socialists with manicured beards, and a lesbian couple. 

“In 85 days, Marine will be President of the French Republic!” The 150-strong crowd cheered at the sound of the words. On stage, the speaker, the vice-president of the far-right Front National (FN), Florian Philippot, continued: “We will be told that it’s the apocalypse, by the same banks, media, politicians, who were telling the British that Brexit would be an immediate catastrophe.

"Well, they voted, and it’s not! The British are much better off than we are!” The applause grew louder and louder. 

I was in the medieval city of Metz, in a municipal hall near the banks of the Moselle River, a tributary of the Rhine from which the region takes its name. The German border lies 49km east; Luxembourg City is less than an hour’s drive away. This is the "Country of the Three Borders", equidistant from Strasbourg and Frankfurt, and French, German and French again after various wars. Yet for all that local history is deeply rooted in the wider European history, votes for the Front National rank among the highest nationally, and continue to rise at every poll. 

In rural Moselle, “Marine”, as the Front National leader Marine Le Pen is known, has an envoy. In 2014, the well-spoken, elite-educated Philippot, 35, ran for mayor in Forbach, a former miner’s town near the border. He lost to the Socialist candidate but has visited regularly since. Enough for the locals to call him “Florian".

I grew up in a small town, Saint-Avold, halfway between Metz and Forbach. When my grandfather was working in the then-prosperous coal mines, the Moselle region attracted many foreign workers. Many of my fellow schoolmates bore Italian and Polish surnames. But the last mine closed in 2004, and now, some of the immigrants’ grandchildren are voting for the National Front.

Returning, I can't help but wonder: How did my generation, born with the Maastricht treaty, end up turning to the Eurosceptic, hard right FN?

“We’ve seen what the other political parties do – it’s always the same. We must try something else," said Candice Bertrand, 23, She might not be part of the group asking Philippot for selfies, but she had voted FN at every election, and her family agreed. “My mum was a Communist, then voted for [Nicolas] Sarkozy, and now she votes FN. She’s come a long way.”  The way, it seemed, was political distrust.

Minutes earlier, Philippot had pleaded with the audience to talk to their relatives and neighbours. Bertrand had brought her girlfriend, Lola, whom she was trying to convince to vote FN.  Lola wouldn’t give her surname – her strongly left-wing family would “certainly not” like to know she was there. She herself had never voted.

This infuriated Bertrand. “Women have fought for the right to vote!” she declared. Daily chats with Bertrand and her family had warmed up Lola to voting Le Pen in the first round, although not yet in the second. “I’m scared of a major change,” she confided, looking lost. “It’s a bit too extreme.” Both were too young to remember 2002, when a presidential victory for the then-Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, was only a few percentage points away.

Since then, under the leadership of his daughter, Marine, the FN has broken every record. But in this region, the FN’s success isn’t new. In 2002, when liberal France was shocked to see Le Pen reach the second round of the presidential election, the FN was already sailing in Moselle. Le Pen grabbed 23.7 per cent of the Moselle vote in the first round and 21.9 per cent in the second, compared to 16.9 per cent and 17.8 per cent nationally. 

The far-right vote in Moselle remained higher than the national average before skyrocketing in 2012. By then, the younger, softer-looking Marine had taken over the party. In that year, the FN won an astonishing 24.7 per cent of the Moselle vote, and 17.8 per cent nationwide.

For some people of my generation, the FN has already provided opportunities. With his manicured beard and chic suit, Emilien Noé still looks like the Young Socialist he was between 16 and 18 years old. But looks can be deceiving. “I have been disgusted by the internal politics at the Socialist Party, the lack of respect for the low-ranked campaigners," he told me. So instead, he stood as the FN’s youngest national candidate to become mayor in his village, Gosselming, in 2014. “I entered directly into action," he said. (He lost). Now, at just 21, Noé is the FN’s youth coordinator for Eastern France.

Metz, Creative Commons licence credit Morgaine

Next to him stood Kevin Pfeiffer, 27. He told me he used to believe in the Socialist ideal, too - in 2007, as a 17-year-old, he backed Ségolène Royal against Sarkozy. But he is now a FN local councillor and acts as the party's general co-ordinator in the region. Both Noé and Pfeiffer radiated a quiet self-confidence, the sort that such swift rises induces. They shared a deep respect for the young-achiever-in-chief: Philippot. “We’re young and we know we can have perspectives in this party without being a graduate of l’ENA,” said another activist, Olivier Musci, 24. (The elite school Ecole Nationale d’Administration, or ENA, is considered something of a mandatory finishing school for politicians. It counts Francois Hollande and Jacques Chirac among its alumni. Ironically, Philippot is one, too.)

“Florian” likes to say that the FN scores the highest among the young. “Today’s youth have not grown up in a left-right divide”, he told me when I asked why. “The big topics, for them, were Maastricht, 9/11, the Chinese competition, and now Brexit. They have grown up in a political world structured around two poles: globalism versus patriotism.” Notably, half his speech was dedicated to ridiculing the FN's most probably rival, the maverick centrist Emmanuel Macron. “It is a time of the nations. Macron is the opposite of that," Philippot declared. 

At the rally, the blue, red and white flame, the FN’s historic logo, was nowhere to be seen. Even the words “Front National” had deserted the posters, which were instead plastered with “in the name of the people” slogans beneath Marine’s name and large smile. But everyone wears a blue rose at the buttonhole. “It’s the synthesis between the left’s rose and the right’s blue colour”, Pfeiffer said. “The symbol of the impossible becoming possible.” So, neither left nor right? I ask, echoing Macron’s campaign appeal. “Or both left and right”, Pfeiffer answered with a grin.

This nationwide rebranding follows years of efforts to polish the party’s jackass image, forged by decades of xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic declarations by Le Pen Sr. His daughter evicted him from the party in 2015.

Still, Le Pen’s main pledges revolve around the same issue her father obsessed over - immigration. The resources spent on "dealing with migrants" will, Le Pen promises, be redirected to address the concerns of "the French people". Unemployment, which has been hovering at 10 per cent for years, is very much one of them. Moselle's damaged job market is a booster for the FN - between 10 and 12 per cent of young people are unemployed.

Yet the two phenomena cannot always rationally be linked. The female FN supporters I met candidly admitted they drove from France to Luxembourg every day for work and, like many locals, often went shopping in Germany. Yet they hoped to see the candidate of “Frexit” enter the Elysee palace in May. “We've never had problems to work in Luxembourg. Why would that change?” asked Bertrand. (Le Pen's “144 campaign pledges” promise frontier workers “special measures” to cross the border once out of the Schengen area, which sounds very much like the concept of the Schengen area itself.)

Grégoire Laloux, 21, studied history at the University of Metz. He didn't believe in the European Union. “Countries have their own interests. There are people, but no European people,” he said. “Marine is different because she defends patriotism, sovereignty, French greatness and French history.” He compared Le Pen to Richelieu, the cardinal who made Louis XIV's absolute monarchy possible:  “She, too, wants to build a modern state.”

French populists are quick to link the country's current problems to immigration, and these FN supporters were no exception. “With 7m poor and unemployed, we can't accept all the world's misery,” Olivier Musci, 24, a grandchild of Polish and Italian immigrants, told me. “Those we welcome must serve the country and be proud to be here.”

Lola echoed this call for more assimilation. “At our shopping centre, everyone speaks Arabic now," she said. "People have spat on us, thrown pebbles at us because we're lesbians. But I'm in my country and I have the right to do what I want.” When I asked if the people who attacked them were migrants, she was not so sure. “Let's say, they weren't white.”

Trump promised to “Make America Great Again”. To where would Le Pen's France return? Would it be sovereign again? White again? French again? Ruled by absolutism again? She has blurred enough lines to seduce voters her father never could – the young, the gay, the left-wingers. At the end of his speech, under the rebranded banners, Philippot invited the audience to sing La Marseillaise with him. And in one voice they did: “To arms citizens! Form your battalions! March, march, let impure blood, water our furrows...” The song is the same as the one I knew growing up. But it seemed to me, this time, a more sinister tune.