Dr. Jane Goodall is an English primatologist
Dr. Jane Goodall has been misquoted in several posts. (David Mariuz/AAP IMAGES)

Depopulation conspiracy fuelled by misquoted speech

Kate Atkinson December 30, 2022

A World Economic Forum (WEF) speaker has suggested reducing the global population in a bid to solve "all the world's problems".


False. Jane Goodall has been misquoted. She did not suggest reducing the world's population in her WEF speech.

Social media users are sharing posts which claim primatologist Jane Goodall advocated for reducing the world population.

The posts, which relate to a viral video clip of Dr Goodall speaking at a World Economic Forum (WEF) event, include a text overlay quoting her as saying: “We can solve all the world’s problems if we reduce the world population to where it was 500 years ago.”

The posts, some of which feature the actual video footage, have been shared widely on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, with examples seen here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Various users have also shared a screenshot of a tweet (archived here) which shows Twitter CEO Elon Musk responding to the quote by saying: “This philosophy is the death of humanity.”

Several versions of the post have appeared online
 Several versions of the post have appeared online 

Another user shared the quote alongside the caption: “By “(reducing) the world’s population,” is Jane Goodall advocating for sustainability, or global genoc1de to “solve the world’s problems”?”.

However, Dr Goodall has been misquoted. The original video reveals that she never used the word “reduce” or discussed depopulation.

The clip is taken from a panel discussion held in January 2020 at the WEF conference in Davos, Switzerland, where Dr Goodall was speaking about the future of the Amazon rainforest.

About 27 minutes into the discussion, BBC journalist Mishal Husain asks Dr Goodall about the Trillion Trees Project, which works to protect and restore rainforests.

Dr Goodall responded by talking about the importance of protecting existing trees and mitigating poverty, unsustainable lifestyles, corruption and population growth.

“We cannot hide away from human population growth. Because, you know, it underlies so many of the other problems. All these other things we talk about wouldn’t be a problem if there was the size of the population that there was 500 years ago” (video mark 31 minutes 27 seconds), she says.

Dr Goodall has spoken about the impact of population growth on the environment for decades. She made a similar statement in a 2003 report (page 162) and in speeches in 2007 and 2009.

The claim fits a common conspiracy narrative around the WEF, its founder Klaus Scwab and the issue of depopulation.

Dr Goodall interacts with a gorilla at Melbourne Zoo
 Dr Goodall interacts with a gorilla through a glass window at Melbourne Zoo in 2011. 

Several such claims have been debunked, see here and here. AAP FactCheck has previously debunked the claim that Scwab detailed plans to depopulate the world in his book “The Great Reset.”

The same clip of Dr Goodall has previously been used by spreaders of misinformation to claim it as evidence the COVID-19 pandemic was planned, as fact-checked by PolitiFact here.

Associated Press has also addressed the claim.

The Verdict

The claim that primatologist Jane Goodall suggested reducing the world population in a bid to solve “all the world’s problems” is false.

Dr Goodall has been misquoted. She stated that problems facing rainforests wouldn’t exist if the population was the same size as it was 500 years ago.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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