Jane Goodall celebrates 50 years of activism

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jane goodall
A new book provides an update on the scientist's innovative work and activism

In some ways it's hard to imagine that 50 years have passed since Dr. Jane Goodall, scientist, animal rights activist and conservationist, first visited Gombe and began studying chimpanzees in the wild. Yet, so many things have changed since her groundbreaking observation that chimpanzees make tools and hand down the knowledge of how to do this from generation to generation -- formerly thought to be a uniquely human attribute.

As this year is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Goodall's first visit to Gombe, the Jane Goodall Institute issued Jane Goodall: 50 Years at Gombe. The book not only celebrates the amazing achievements of Dr. Goodall's life, but also provides an update on innovations related to her work, and the work of others like her.

The most striking facet of this book is the discussion of Dr. Goodall's current work. Did you know that for the last 24 years, Dr. Goodall has spent less than three weeks in any one place? For a woman known for her patient observations of animal behaviour over hours and hours of sitting quietly in one place, this seems impossible! However, Dr. Goodall recognized that leaving her work at Gombe in the hands of others, and taking up the torch of raising global awareness was the best thing she could do to help ensure the long-term survival of chimpanzees, and all Great Apes, in the wild (thus, defining Dr. Goodall as a true hero in my book).

The book reveals the extent of Dr. Goodall's current reach, scope and on-going belief in humanity, despite the horrors in animal treatment she's witnessed. Dr. Goodall identifies four reasons for hope: the human brain (a dandy device, isn't it?), the resilience of nature (as they say, the earth will recover from our reckless disregard for nature -- we just won't be around to witness it), the determination of young people and the indomitable human spirit. Along these lines, Dr. Goodall's "Roots and Shoots" program inspires and supports young people around the world in taking action in their communities. Youth choose projects that show care and compassion for the human community, animals and the environment.

Dr. Goodall also came to realize that growing populations and deep-rooted human problems, such as poverty, needed to be addressed in conjunction with animal and habitat conservation. This is where her TACARE program (pronounced "Take Care") and innovations in technology come to play. The program works to link conservation to poverty alleviation (very different than the "prosperity comes from resource extraction" model we've grown so used to) by fostering "community-centered conservation activities that seek to preserve and restore the environment while helping villagers meet basic needs, such as education, health care, clean water, and arable land."

One use of innovations in technology to help achieve ecological balance for human populations in poverty with animal populations is with geographic information systems mapping and analysis. These tools are used to document and better understand how human communities and animals like chimpanzees compete for space:

"...scientists meet with villagers, and together they pore over satellite maps and discuss how the forest has dwindled over the decades, how wildlife and people use the land now, and what might be the best use of given areas -- including conservation -- in the future."

In addition to this important work to cultivate the well-being and prosperity of human populations, Dr. Goodall is still crusading on behalf of chimpanzees and other endangered animals who are poached in the commercial bushmeat trade, locked up in cages for medical research, or sold for entertainment purposes. "Every year, poachers kill thousands of chimpanzees," and given that there are less than 300,000 left in the wild, this has a devastating impact.

Dr. Goodall's 50th anniversary tour recently brought her to Canada -- specifically to Calgary -- to share her ongoing work and rally people like you and me to act to end the devastating effects poverty has on human and animal populations around the world. After all, Dr. Goodall's life to date is a reminder of what one person can accomplish in the struggle for animal and human rights.

"So, let us move forward with faith in ourselves, in our intelligence, in our indomitable spirit. Let us develop respect for all living things. Let us try to replace violence and intolerance with understanding and compassion. And love." - Jane Goodall

This review also appeared on GreenHeroes.tv

Read Melanie Redman's blog Folks Gotta Eat on rabble.ca.

Jane's thoughts on Gombe 50 from Jane Goodall Institute of Canada on Vimeo.

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