My Evening with Jane Goodall

Jane GoodallI should begin with a disclaimer – I did not have a one on one evening with Jane Goodall. It was more like me and a few hundred of my closest friends. But the entire evening had this intimate feeling and Dr. Goodall herself had a way of connecting with each and every person in the audience. I have admired Jane Goodall since I was a child reading her chimpanzee books. My love of animals and respect for the environment can be traced to my time watching National Geographic documentaries on Friday nights, many of those on the complex lives of Chimpanzees all starring Jane Goodall. So, when I heard that Jane Goodall was coming to Kitchener to speak, I had to go. Dr. Goodall entered the room like a rock star. The cheering was deafening. However, as soon as she began to speak the entire audience became silent – leaning on her every word. The majority of her speech was more of a story of her life – in her words and with her wit. It was clear that she was not the quiet and reserved women I had assumed her to be, but instead she is a strong, outspoken and above all determined woman. Her road to Africa to study Chimpanzees was a long and hard fought one, including many funding constraints and having to pursue a PhD without having received a bachelor’s degree. 

The entire reason for the evening was to support The Jane Goodall Institute. Dr. Goodall has been travelling around the world to promote her Institute which has the mission to protect wildlife and empower people. The Institute was founded when Dr. Goodall began to see the ecological devastation occurring across Africa and the impacts that this destruction was having on her beloved chimps. The Institute is globally recognized as a leader for effective conservation and sustainable development practices that stem from a community based approach to conservation. In addition to founding her research station in Gombe, Dr. Goodall began her Roots and Shoots program which is now found in over 100 countries including here in Canada. This program focuses on empowering the youth in communities to make a difference for animals and the environment. Throughout her talk, Dr. Goodall paints a devastating picture of the current state of our environment – factory farms, pollution, the devastating loss of biodiversity and global deforestation. It seems, from the stories Dr. Goodall tells and the facts that even we tell our students in our Universities, that we have lost all chance at stopping our slide into peril. However, Dr. Goodall gives us five reasons to hope:

  • Youth: Our youth are showing that they care about the environment. They hold a passion for the environment not seen before.
  • The Human Brain: We as humans have the capacity for great innovations and great ideas. We also have the ability to think of future generations rather than how we can gain benefits in the now. Dr. Goodall reminds us to ask ourselves this question with every decision we make “how will this impact the environment?”. We must make good choices.
  • The Resilience of Nature: The natural world can heal. Forests that have been destroyed can return. We just need to help it along.
  • The Human Spirit: The undeniable human spirit that never lets us give up. No matter how dire the outlook is, there will always be someone who will not give up.
  • And Finally – something that you would never expect from an 84 year old, Dr. Goodall believes that the power of social media can give us hope. In every corner of the globe people are coming together and connecting, sharing ideas and educating each other. This sharing of knowledge can push governments to act and to protect the environment.

It was this hope that, above all else, Dr. Goodall instilled upon her audience and upon myself. We all need to take hold of our human brain and use our human spirit to demand a change, to demand that we save our only home.

(Photo Credit: The Jane Goodall Institute of Australia)