Azara Blog: Jane Goodall lecture

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Date published: 2005/02/22

Jane Goodall gave a lecture tonight at St Catharine's College, on behalf of her Roots and Shoots organisation, and hosted by the St Catharine's Amalgamated Societies. The lecture was in the dining hall and was packed out, so several hundred people attending.

She spent the first part of her lecture talking about how she got her start in life. She was encouraged by her mother to think she could do things if she wanted to. She read Tarzan books and decided she wanted to go to Africa. She saved enough money to go out there and ended up working for Louis Leakey. From there she ended up going to Cambridge to do a Ph.D., and that was without an undergraduate degree, so pretty amazing.

During the 1960s and 1970s she did her great work on chimpanzees. She said that in 1984 she attended a conference in Chicago and decided afterwards that she would dedicate herself less to science and more to trying to save the world (not her words). So she set up Roots and Shoots (1991) and now travels the world (supposedly for 300 days a year) preaching the message.

With many people, including most so-called environmentalists, you hear their message and immediately ask what their angle is, and there usually is one. With Jane Goodall you feel that she is totally sincere and selfless. You could listen to a George Bush speech and come away impressed with his great humanity. Unfortunately you know he doesn't mean a thing he said and underneath is a nasty piece of work. With Jane Goodall you know she means what she says, and she has a positive message.

Her message is basically that people have to take it upon themselves to improve the world, and in particular the environment. Of course mankind has been changing the environment massively (most people would say for the worse) for hundreds and thousands of years, but recent technology has allowed bigger and deeper changes, and the human population is now so high that possibly irreversible changes are happening.

But after stating that the environment was being destroyed by mankind, she then said that she thought there were four reasons for having hope: (1) humans have brains so can figure out better ways to do things; (2) the environment has shown itself to be remarkably tolerant of abuse; (3) there are young people (who are not set in their ways); and (4) the existence of the human spirit. When most people say things like this you would reach for your sick bucket, but not when she says it.

During the question period she was asked if there was one wish she had for the world what would it be. Her answer: "another election in the US". (Unfortunately the Republican slime machine would fix it again.)

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