Appealing to our Better Nature

The primatologist Jane Goodall greeted a crowd of more than 8,000 at the University of Colorado on Thursday, October 1, by hooting a “hello” in chimpanzee. This was an unexpected pleasure for those of us in the audience. Her messages about animal behavior and the environment were compelling. However, I’m afraid that what I might most remember about the event was that it started with a moment of silence for the victims of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, where 10 people died earlier that day. 
Goodall said she felt that humans were the only animals capable of true evil. She said chimpanzees in the wild are very violent, but they can’t plan ahead or anticipate others’ feelings the way humans can. 
At community events in the United States, instead of feeling the “freedom” Americans prize so much, I suspect most of us are increasingly uncomfortable in situations where crowds of any size gather. More and more people are recognizing it is time for a change. 
But what can be done? Could a change in gun laws really work? It has in Australia. Check out, for example, the article, “Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms: faster falls in firearm deaths, firearm suicides, and a decade without mass shootings.” That's just part of the mounting body of evidence that is calling us to act. 
We humans may be capable of evil, but we are capable of a lot of good, too. We can -- and must -- do a better job of protecting ourselves and each other. 

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