Conversation is Key

For more than 40 years Jane Goodall has been working to raise our awareness of the animal kingdom and the world we share with them. She is an inspiring woman who has written countless books and won many awards for her great humanitarian work. Being involved with nature is an essential part of Goodalls existence. She has spent her lifetime trying to make the rest of the world understand why its so important for us to care for the world we live in.

For me, being in the forest has always been living very close to God or the Great Spiritual Power, because when you are out in the forest there is a sense of timelessness, and an enormous sense of the interconnectedness of all life, Goodall says. The cycle of living and dying is very clear. Its also very peaceful but can be tumultuously, wildly exciting when there is a thunderstorm and rain batters down on the canopy. There is the music of the streams. And the animals, if you are there long enough, will accept you.

Her passion for nature developed when she was young child. From a very early age I was in love with animals. When I was about 10 years old I fell in love with Tarzan of the Apes from reading the books. I was very jealous of that Jane of his, Goodall laughs. I thought I would be a much better mate for Tarzan. Right then and there I determined when I grew up I would live in the wild with animals and write books. Everybody laughed at that. We didnt have any money. It was the end of WWII. And how would I go off to Africa? It was still thought of as the Dark Continent full of dangerous animals and poisonous arrows.

But my mother never laughed. She would say, Jane if you really want something, you work hard enough, you take advantage of opportunity and you never give up. Then you find a way. That was the background and support I had. It was basically a family of women. My father was away in the war. There was never anyone in the household who said, You cant do that because you are a girl.That just didnt come into our way of thinking. Eventually I saved up money to go out and join a friend who had invited me on a holiday in Kenya. Thats where I heard about the late (Dr.) Louis Lekey. He offered me a job as his assistant, which led to an incredible opportunity to go and learn about the chimpanzees. But from all of this comes the most important message that we as individuals are capable of following our dreams.

Goodall says she feels lucky to have heroes and mentors in her life. I have so many personal heroesI actually find teachers to be heroes, she says seriously. So often families become dysfunctional and they break up because of increases in violence and drug abuse. Sometimes the teacher is the only person standing between a child and ruin. More and more they have to deal with the most terrible levels of violence in the schools. Some of them are so committed and dedicated. They face these things and actually help children to escape from their backgrounds.

She believes there is still more we have to learn from the animals with which we share the world. The Chimpanzees have taught us that we are not the only beings on this planet with personality, a mind capable of rational thought and emotions including happiness, sadness, fear and despair. And once you realize this, you have a new respect not just for the Chimpanzee but for all of the other amazing animals, because there isnt this sharp line dividing us from them. So it really teaches us humility and we better understand our place in nature. Her life has been about creating a safe haven for the animals she loves. The Jane Goodall Institute began in 1976. Back then it was strictly a mechanism to raise the money to keep the research going on these famous chimpanzees, but even back then I knew it was going to need to expand, says Goodall. So right from the beginning it was the institute for conservation, wild life research and education. Now it has expanded absolutely into all of those areas. Weve carried on long-term research. Weve worked with 33 villages around the national park to improve the lives of the people so that they in turn can care for the park and prevent the encroachment that was destroying everything.

We also care for orphaned chimpanzees whose mothers have been shot, mostly for food in the illegal bush meat trade in Central Africa. We are working to slow down that trade and to stop the trade of endangered species.

One of the ways she believes we can change the world is by teaching our children about protecting our environment and the animals that live in it. The Jane Goodall Institute developed a program, which is in 60 countries around the world and is called Roots and Shoots. Its preschool through university and it is about making the world a better place for humans, animals and for the environment we share.

I see no point in trying to conserve a species or a habitat if at the same time we arent raising a new generation to be better stewards than we have been. The entire planet is in danger,says Goodall. Species are disappearing every day and we are poisoning the air, water, and the land. We are bringing children into a world that isnt safe for them. And weve got to try and turn this around for them before it is too late.

“The big problem today is that we are one person plus six billion other people in the world. Although most of us know the kinds of things we can do each day that will make the world a better place that will allow us to live in harmony with nature, we don’t always do them. We can save water and pick up trash, so that it doesnt leak toxins into the ground. We can turn the tap off when we clean our teeth. The point is that if every one of us lived that way the world would change rather quickly