Yesterday I heard Jane Goodall speak and while it is not directly related to food, I think I would be remissed if I did not mention it on my blog. She was an incredible speaker – not that, that is news to anyone. The experience was great on three different levels… first the internal excitement I felt in seeing someone I find so inspiring. Secondly, hearing all of the people around me talking about how they idolized her and how important her work was and is still is. And finally, hearing her words themselves told a story that captivated everyone in the audience and people watching online.
First, I will start with me and my discovery of Jane Goodall. My first encounter with Dr. Goodall was in third grade. We had to read a biography, present on it and dress up as the person. My mom insisted that I be Dr. Goodall, because of my love of wildlife. So I was. I am pretty sure I had never heard of her until then and didn’t think much about her for years to come. After graduating college I read two of her books and looked into internships at the Jane Goodall Institute in Arlington, VA. Then a few weeks ago, I saw that she was speaking at American University, and I had to go.
As I sat in the audience yesterday I was thinking about the things I knew about Dr. Goodall and trying to contain my own excitement. I was not alone in my excitement, but since I attended the talk alone, I had no one to share my excitement with so I listened to the people around me. I was surrounded by people equally as excited as I was. The girl sitting directly behind me was an AU freshman. She had dragged her new friends to the talk and was trying to explain to them how important and inspiring Dr. Goodall was. She also mentioned that she had a signed poster on her wall. I was almost ashamed that my own dedication was not as great as hers, but I am not a college freshman and no longer have posters on my bedroom walls. I also heard numerous other people talk about Jane’s work- they have followed her career as if she was their favorite actors or athletes.
Finally the words Dr. Goodall spoke reinstated with me as well. Yes she worked in the jungle for many years and made huge strides in conservation and our knowledge of primates and the animal world. Plus she did things and visited places that women didn’t go or do in the 1950s. But she has also done so much since leaving the jungle and she has allowed her message to grow and change over the years.
Dr. Goodall spoke about how the chimps are safe to live in Gombe National Park, however outside of the park live extremely poor people that were transforming the land into desert because of their unsustainable practices. However, it is not possible to get people to care about chimps or the environment if they are starving to death. For the last 10 years she has been working in the region to teach the locals sustainable ways to make a living off the land. She said that the people were receptive to the new techniques and even to information about family planning. After almost a decade there are hard wood trees in the buffer region around the park, the wildlife is returning and the people not as desperately poor.
In other regions of Africa human war is a major threat to chimps and through a long series of events Dr. Goodall has become a Peace Ambassador through the UN. She has programs – like Roots and Shoots that promotes peace around the world.
It is so interesting that a biologist could become one of the most influential peace promoters in the world. Everything in the world is so interconnected. I would like to attack conservation issues through sustainable farming practices and Dr. Goodall has done it through world peace. The issues we face are so complex and the answers are not simple.