Swans Commentary » swans.com January 12, 2009  



Jane Goodall's Elite Monkey Business


by Michael Barker





(Swans - January 12, 2009)   In October 2008 the world renowned primatologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, Jane Goodall, traversed Australia, regaling packed houses with stories from her latest autobiographical book, Hope for Nature. Undertaking such whirlwind tours is the norm for Goodall. On average she spends some 300 days a year on the global lecture circuit to raise funds for her wide-ranging charitable activities. This gruelling schedule means that rather than conducting chimpanzee research, speaking engagements have tended to dominate her life over the past several decades. In an interview conducted last year by The Sydney Morning Herald she was asked what had prompted her to make this serious lifestyle change in the 1980s, Goodall replied:

Realising that chimpanzees were becoming extinct -- the forests were going -- and realising that the environmental and social problems of Africa could often be laid at the door of the elite communities around the world.

Yet despite recognizing that elites present a serious threat to the environment, she is adamant that the same elites will, with a little support from the public, provide the solutions to the very problems that they have created.

Bearing Goodall's evidently optimist outlook in mind, it is fitting that she formerly served as a board member of the Humane Society of the U.S., a group that describes itself as "the nation's largest... animal protection organization," and is well supported by the elite community that Goodall apparently rails against. Here it is informative to point out that one particularly notable board member of the Humane Society is David Jhirad, who is currently the vice president for research and evaluation at the Rockefeller Foundation -- an influential philanthropic group that happens to be a key democracy-manipulating organisation (see my earlier article "Pacifying Civil Society"). In addition to holding this influential position, Jhirad acts as the executive vice president of The Gemstar Group, an organisation that, according to their Web site, "work[s] with partners around the world in implementing market-based approaches to global environmental problems." The president of The Gemstar Group, William Nitze, served as deputy assistant secretary of state for environment in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

Goodall's philanthropic activities are not, however, constrained to animals. Since 1990 Goodall has acted as vice president for conservation on the international board of MediSend International, a "nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian medical aid and education to people in need in developing countries worldwide." Given Goodall's oft-repeated advice that concerned people should shop with socially responsible corporations, she is in strange company at MediSend, as they accept "generous support" from some of the world's most environmentally rapacious corporations, e.g., ExxonMobil and BHP Billiton. Furthermore, this is no aberration on MediSend's part, as Goodall sits on their advisory board alongside Rene Dahan (the former executive vice president and board member of ExxonMobil), and Mary Jo Myers (whose husband, General Richard Myers, is a board member of Northrop Grumman -- the third largest arms manufacturer in the world).

Goodall's connection to such elite front-groups is sadly not an anomaly, and she is also a member of the president's council of Counterpart International, a group notes that "works closely with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on macro-international humanitarian assistance programs in the Commonwealth of Independent States of the former Soviet Union." Counterpart's work can also be linked to one of the US government's most notorious democracy manipulators, the misnamed National Endowment for Democracy (NED). This is because Counterpart's Chief Operating Officer, Harry Dorcus, formerly served in the same capacity at the core NED grantee, the International Republican Institute.

Given Goodall's elite ties it is not surprising that her work raising awareness of spiritual and environmental dimensions of corporate governance plays an important and well-remunerated part of her work. Indeed, working with her Australian tour partner, Andrew O'Keeffe, she recently presented a two-day workshop at Taronga Zoo (Sydney) "on designing people strategies based on human instincts" with tickets costing a princely sum of $3,000 a head.

Moreover, the location of Goodall's most recent corporate workshop is intriguing. As although little known, the philanthropic arm of the zoo, the Taronga Zoo Foundation, is chaired by the infamous neoliberal activist Maurice Newman. Thus, at the same time as Goodall was making the transition from the forests to the lecture hall (in the 1980s), Newman was playing a crucial role as a member of the secret Crossroads group, an initiative that Dr. Damien Cahill has described as a "clandestine group that brought together about 40 radical neoliberal activists with the specific aim of sharing and planning ways of furthering the radical neoliberal agenda." At present though, Newman is better known owing to his role as a board member of the Queensland Investment Corporation, and as the chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Returning to Goodall's Australian visit, the main reason for her tour was to mark the formal launch of the Jane Goodall Institute Australia. Here it is poignant to point out that the CEO of this recently created Institute, Polly Cevallos, formerly served as the Marketing Manager for Taronga Park Zoo. Moreover, the zoo's connection to Goodall's work predates this tie, because Debby Cox (a former zookeeper at Taronga Zoo) presently serves as the executive director of the Ugandan branch of the U.S.-based Jane Goodall Institute (which was initially founded in 1977).

Considering Goodall's elitist pedigree, it is fitting that the work of the Jane Goodall Institute/Uganda is openly supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and that they also work in collaboration with the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust. Furthermore, the aforementioned Debby Cox formerly served as the project director of the latter trust, and their work appears closely tied to that of another elite-friendly environmental group called the Born Free Foundation (which is represented on the trust's board). The Born Free Foundation is chaired by Virginia McKenna OBE, who in 2004 received a Genesis award from the Humane Society of the U.S. However, more significantly, one of their board members, Ronnie Wilkie, formerly served as the senior director for the commercial consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, overseeing operations in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. The Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton is none other than the former CIA director, James Woolsey.

The question then remains: "do such elite links imply that the nature of the Goodall's chimpanzee research, undertaken in her name by the Jane Goodall Institute, is not solely about making the world a better place?" This question will not be answered in full here, but perhaps the first place to look for answers to this question is in the background of the person she has chosen to head up her institute. Unfortunately, following such a link leads us to Bill Johnston, an individual who formerly served as managing director and executive vice president of the public relations behemoth, Burson-Marsteller, and as a senior fellow at the influential conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute.

Furthermore, one might also interrogate the past of the executive vice president of the Jane Goodall Institute, Robert Menzi. This is because prior to joining the institute he was the chief operating officer of Protiveris, a corporation whose Web site notes that it is the "world's leading technology company dedicated to the commercialization of micro- and nanocantilever systems for academic research, drug discovery and development, bio-defense and diagnostic applications." Here it is interesting to observe that the former chair of Protiveris, B. Francis Saul III, maintains other dubious connections as he is a board member of Lee Technologies, where he sits alongside the president of Northrop Grumman Information Technology, James R. O'Neill. On top of this link, Menzi's biography (maintained on the Jane Goodall Institute Web site) even points out that he previously "worked as part of the corporate development staff at Raytheon Company." The biography of course neglects to mention that Raytheon is the fifth largest defence manufacturer in the world, whose board include various infamous elites, like for example the former CIA director, John Mark Deutch.

Unlike the original US-based Jane Goodall Institute, the Australian branch of the Institute does not maintain controversial ties to the military-industrial complex. That said, their three person strong board of directors has direct connections to Wolseley Private Equity through an individual named Mark Richardson (who is a cofounder of the firm). The two other board members are Professor Christopher West (who is CEO of Adelaide Zoo), and Professor Colin Groves (who is a primatologist at Australian National University). Richardson cofounded Wolseley Private Equity in 1999 with the help of James Todd, an individual who two years earlier had co-founded a New Caledonian nickel mining company called Moneo Metals Limited. This link is particularly noteworthy because the Managing Director of Moneo Metals, Peter Cordin -- who is concurrently a board member of Coal of Africa Limited (formerly GVM Metals) -- is best known for the leading role he played in Europe's largest environmental disaster while working for Esmeralda Exploration. The disaster in question occurred in January 2000, when mismanagement at Esmeralda Exploration's Romanian-based gold and silver mine caused a deadly cyanide spill.

To surmise: the shady connections outlined within this article do not provide evidence to contradict the fact that Jane Goodall is a passionate and vocal orator on all things environmental. All the same, in spite of her evident passion, it seems more than probable that the message of hope that Goodall preaches worldwide is unlikely to promote environmental solutions that seriously challenge corporate power. This explains why Goodall's feel-good answer to the catastrophic problems facing the world is to simply encourage her audiences to consume in a more ethical and environmental manner. Thus in sum Goodall provides an elitist message that is totally compatible with the individualistic ideologies of the neoliberals leading the onslaught on our planet.


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About the Author

Michael Barker has recently handed in his PhD thesis at Griffith University in Australia. His other articles can be accessed at michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com.



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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published January 12, 2009