As a writer, I’m not a fan of the exclamation mark. It’s overused and often quite unnecessary. But when it comes to describing the evening I attended where Dr. Jane Goodall spoke, even a single exclamation mark somehow doesn’t seem enough.
Her story of going off to live in the middle of nowhere (well, Tanzanian nowhere) to study chimpanzees is remarkable enough. The fact that she had the patience and fortitude to spend countless hours trying to gain their trust is also amazing. Add to this her discovery that chimpanzees fashion and use tools, have distinct personalities and convey emotion and you know you’re in the presence of someone who is beyond remarkable.
But even further than this, she is now 85 years old and currently spends a whopping 300 days on the road. Her message? One of the urgent need to take action against climate change – not by necessarily pressuring the powers that be to wake up and take action but to instead think locally.
She also had some profound things to say about how trying to eradicate poverty is a huge part of this equation. One time, when flying back to Gombe National Park, she looked down and observed how much deforestation had taken place. She realised that poverty in the local people had made them desperate for land to grow crops. She instigated programmes that have helped these local people so that now the forest that had disappeared has been restored.
Her Roots and Shoots programmes that go into schools and communities is pivotal to her local approach. The programme encourages work in three areas just where you are: environmental, conservation and humanitarian. There are thousands of these groups worldwide, including here in New Zealand.
One other element of Dr. Jane’s talk that stood out to me was the way she credited her mother with being instrumental in the way her life had unfolded. Her mother recognised from an early age that Jane’s focus on animals was something special, something to be nurtured. Her support extended so far as to accompany Jane on her first trip into the jungle, camping with her despite the obvious – and quite dangerous – perils of snakes, scorpions and food-raiding baboons.
In this, the 10thanniversary of the release of Mothering Heightsit seems quite fitting to include a story about an inspirational mother who raised an inspirational daughter. Nowhere can this be better seen than in the following extraordinary clip, for which there just aren’t enough exclamation marks in the entire world:
Coming soon. . .