Jane Goodall is still saving the world at 85.
On May 8th, the Roots and Shoots team in Sydney had the opportunity to help out at her event: Rewind the Future at the ICC (International Convention Centre) in Darling Harbour.
Little did we know that we would have the chance to meet the remarkable lady herself.
For those who don't know Jane Goodall, she is considered to be the world's number one guru on chimpanzees (she discovered that chimps can utilise tools and are thus intelligent during her time in Gombe National Park); conservation and animal welfare issues. She is an English primatologist and anthropologist, and always asserts that Tarzan "married the wrong Jane!"
Jane was named a UN Messenger of Peace, is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots programme and now travels the world educating us all on how we can get ourselves out of this pickle we call climate change.
She is also absolutely hilarious, as seen in this interview with John Oliver.
I first read about Jane's story in a TIME magazine in Cobar, but hearing Jane tell her story in the ICC was of course a totally different experience, and this time I learnt so much more...
Jane spoke of her life and how she had reached point that she was at. I particularly enjoyed her stories from her childhood - apparently she had always shown all the signs of a young scientist. At 2 she brought a mud swamp of worms into her bed, and then at 4 years old she spent 4 hours in a chicken coop because she just could not leave until she had found out where on earth the egg came out. You can imagine how stressed her mother was whilst she was missing.
It was clear that Jane was always interested in animals. She couldn't afford to go to university though - so practically self taught herself everything she could about them through reading library books. Think the Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. She worked as a secretary in London to support herself. Then one day, her friend invited her to stay on her family's farm in Kenya.
Whilst there, Jane visited a museum and met Dr Leaky - who showed her around and was very impressed with her abundance of knowledge and enthusiasm surrounding animals. It just so happened that Dr Leaky was in need of a secretary at the time, and there was Jane - a trained secretary. She got the gig; and long story short ended up going on a study venture for 6 months to Gombe National Park, where she made ground-breaking discoveries that would change the course of science.
Jane credited her mother for a lot of her success, as she encouraged Jane and revered the young scientist she so clearly was, instead of squashing her spirit. When Jane was in Gombe later her mother stayed with her for sometime, amidst snakes, scorpians and a slighty eccentric cook with a fond spot for sherry.
On meeting Jane: "This must be so weird for you' (getting photographed all the time) 'Oh, I'm used to it!'
What Jane emphasised upon sharing her story was this: she didn't have a degree and was often laughed at when she told people her dreams of working in Africa. Getting there took a lot of saving and working - as a waitress at some point, and when she got there she endured long periods of no success. Even when she did make her discoveries, other scientists didn't believe her. When Jane did eventually go to university to get her PHD, she faced further challenges as she was reprimanded by staff for giving the chimps names ('these creatures should be identified by numbers, and that's that!')
Jane's story is a testament to all - anything is possible if you have the guts and gumption to pursue your dream. She managed to do it as a young woman, without a qualification, family or connections, and she wasn't exactly rolling around in dollars (or rather, English pounds).
So we learn about the power of a determined and resilient mind. What else did we learn?
Well. Jane also spoke of tackling climate change - the communities she has seen effected by it, not eating meat and the sentience of those creatures, invasive species, and even death - which she regarded as her 'next big adventure'.
Regarding meat consumption:
“Thousands of people who say they ‘love’ animals sit down once or twice a day to enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been utterly deprived of everything that could make their lives worth living and who endured the awful suffering and the terror of the abattoirs— and the journey to get there— before finally leaving their miserable world, only too often after a painful death,” Goodall wrote in her 2003 book, The Ten Trusts.
At this event Jane touched on health aspects of not eating animal products, pointing out the amount of hormones and antibiotics that are pumped into cows to produce milk.
Regarding invasive species:
"Well this is one of the really difficult moral issues, because we brought the cats with us - we brought foxes with us to Australia because people wanted to hunt them... and they are harming the native flora and fauna, so clearly they shouldn't be here and it's better that they're not. But that feral cat has become something to be despised - and it doesn't matter what you do to it, but that cat was brought here by us, and it has just as much personality, and capacity to feel fear and happiness and pain as a domestic cat... so it's a tough thing. They shouldn't be here, they should be removed, but we shouldn't think of them as 'vermin' - we should say 'we're really sorry we brought you here', and we should try and do it in as humane a way as possible. And think about them with respect, not as just mud. How you do it is something scientists are working on ... but I'm not sure people are working enough on it yet. They are dropping 1080 at the moment - it's horrible. That's 4 days of suffering with blood coming out of your eyes, it's not nice."
Jane had very good things to say about Taronga Zoo and the team there. She pointed out that Taronga zoo provides a great place for young people to learn more about animals and encourage them to care more about protecting them and the environment.
Jane said that in a world where there seems to be little hope, we must always draw inspiration from these two things - young people, and the indomitable human spirit. If we all work together, we really can make change happen.
Big thanks to Dr Jane and the Roots and Shoots team - Asitha, Jess, Zara, Abbie, Srima, K'Lynn and the NYLC commitee for making this all possible.
Later that evening, Zara sent us this photo with the caption: "She got home and was happy with her performance...and right back to work" to which Shannon replied: "Aww Bless her, that definitely sounds like Jane." ❤️