Jane Goodall discusses environmental conservation, asks young people to take charge in lecture at UNT

Jane Goodall discusses environmental conservation, asks young people to take charge in lecture at UNT

Jane Goodall discusses environmental conservation, asks young people to take charge in lecture at UNT
April 10
17:45 2018

World-renowned primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall addressed a crowd of nearly 4,000 in UNT’s Coliseum Monday evening, discussing chimpanzees, environmental protection and the future of the planet.

Goodall, 84, opened the lecture with a traditional chimpanzee greeting call, then talked about arriving in Africa and working for well-known archaeologist and paleontologist, Louis Leakey.

“I think [Leakey] was impressed that this young girl straight from England could know so much about the animals,” Goodall said. “This took me into this wonderful world where there were people all around me who could answer all my questions about the birds and the reptiles and the insects, all the rest of it.”

Since then, Goodall has extensively worked and researched chimpanzees and their African habitats in the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania.

Goodall explained that the reason she left research happened during a 1986 conference, where some sessions focused on conservation, commercial hunting and inhumane captivity.

“For me it was a shock,” Goodall said. “So, I went to that conference in 1986 as a scientist, planning to carry on with that wonderful life,

and I left as an activist.”

In 1977, she established the Jane Goodall Institute, which works to protect chimpanzees and their natural habitats. The institute has protected nearly 1,500 acres of habitat as well as protected more than 5,000 chimpanzees and gorillas that live in those habitats, according to the website.

Since October 1986, Goodall has not spent more than three consecutive weeks in any place, constantly traveling the world to advocate and raise funds for environment and nature-related causes.

Goodall talked about the initiative behind Roots and Shoots, an organization she started for young people who strive to make environmental efforts.

“Roots and Shoots began with 12 high school students in Tanzania in 1991, and we decided that the main message we wanted was that every single one of us in this room, everyone single one of us on this planet, make some kind of impact every single day,” Goodall said. “We have a choice of what kind of impact we’re going to make. We decided that because everything’s interrelated on this planet, that each group of Roots and Shoots would choose their own project.”

Projects can focus on any matter that is “near and dear” to the hearts of those involved including animals or the environment, Goodall said.

UNT professor Randy Loftis led the Q&A session that followed the lecture. A VIP event followed at Gateway Center featuring only vegetarian food as Goodall herself has been a vegetarian for many years.

Environmental science Ph.D. candidate Jared Williams was invited to the lecture as a member of the We Mean Green Fund for sustainability at UNT.

“It was amazing to finally get to hear the wonderful Jane Goodall and the words of inspiration and with a small seed of hope — we can all make a difference,” Williams said. “That’s what we at the We Mean Green Fund are trying to advocate for, what we’re working toward through the help of the student body is to make a difference through sustainability.”

While discussing the state of the earth and environment, Goodall translated a saying from a Native American tribe.

“We haven’t inherited this planet from our parents, we’ve borrowed it from our children,” Goodall said. “But we have not borrowed our children’s future, we have been stealing it. We’re still stealing it today. But I don’t believe it is too late, I believe there is a window of time.”

President Neal Smatresk said it can be easy to sometimes forget sustainability in our world and that Goodall’s lecture could not have come at a better time.

“It isn’t often you get to hear from a legend and what she’s done is certainly legendary,” Smatresk said. “She gives a message of hope and inspiration, which I think we need in times when the environment’s in danger. I think it reinforces an ethic and value that we hold dear and, from my perspective, it was a timely reminder of our environmental accountability.”

Born in London in 1934, Goodall first traveled to Kenya in 1957 and soon became a secretary for Leakey, who later arranged funding for Goodall to study at Cambridge University. There, she obtained a Ph.D. in ethology and became only the eighth person to ever obtain a Ph.D. without having completed any prior degrees.

Goodall said one of the things that gives her hope for the future is technology, and young people and their minds, noting that young people “are already changing the world as we speak.”

After traveling the world, Goodall said she now has questions about what humans are doing to the environment and their motives behind it.

“So how is it possible that with this intellect we destroy the only planet we have?” Goodall said. “Have we lost the wisdom? In the old days people would say, ‘How does this decision I make today affect future generations?’ Now it’s all about, ‘How does it affect me now, me and my family or the next political campaign?’ I truly believe it’s only when head and heart work in harmony that we can obtain our true human potential — and our human potential is huge.”

Featured Image: Jane Goodall lifts “Mr. H,” a stuffed animal given to her by a friend, during her speech at the UNT Distinguished Lecture Series. Goodall talked about her life’s work of studying chimpanzees, activism, and sustainability efforts. Rachel Walters

About Author

Sean Riedel

Sean Riedel

Sean Riedel has been a staff writer for the North Texas Daily since June 2017.

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