Jane Goodall, a famous primatologist inspires people all over about making a difference.
Kind and powerful words of
On 13th of June, Jane visited Vienna to give a lecture. A few minutes before the start...
People are crowded in the modern gallery of Colloseum XXII trying to find the nearest vacant seat to the stage so they could be as close as possible to a woman, who has inspired so many in the last few years. On the seat awaits us an informative newspaper about the current projects in Congo of the "Jane Goodall Institute" and a payment form for donations. Each person can get involved in making a difference, either by a donation or a volunteer work for reforestation, building schools in villages or to help the chimpanzees back to their freedom. The audience is filled with students and children but also elders, some of whom remind of senior wild biologists with white hair, loose pants, light colored long shirt and an olive green waistcoat which gives a typical "safari" appearance. Everyone is eager to hear the words of the amazing woman with an amazing journey. At the age of eighty-one she still travels three hundred days a year to propagate the serious environmental issues and motivates people to act.
The lights go out, the audience silences and suddenly we hear quiet and short repetitive sounds of "u", which quickly turn into louder and longer sequences and eventually end with a kind human voice "Hello". Jane greeted us with a loud imitation of a chimpanzee in the forest.
A short video follows showing Jane in national park Gombe making contact to our nearest relatives, the beginning of her journey.
"She went into the forest with a dream and came out with a mission"
Jane appears on the stage and again demonstrates the call of a chimpanzee and explains its meaning: "Hello, I am Jane." She reveals how very important this call is for all chimpanzees, because this is how they remain in contact with their family members. Chimpanzees wander sometimes alone or in small groups and they communicate with calls. This heartwarming greeting made everyone smile and we were all ears for the rest of the speech. On this evening Jane talked to her friends.
"I would like to tell you, how everything began. There was one person in my life, who made everything possible. It was my dear mother. I grew up in London with little nature in a poor family. When I was four and a half years old we visited our relatives on their farm and I was given a job. I got a basket and was responsible for gathering the eggs in a hen house. Now, I wondered...an egg is so big but there is no such opening on the hen. So how does an egg come out of the hen? Since no one satisfied my question I decided to find it out for myself. As I saw one hen going up the ladder to the hen house I was sure it was going to lay an egg, so I followed it. This turned out to be a big mistake! The hen got upset and flew away. After that I knew that no hen is going to lay an egg in this hen house with me scaring them away, so I thought of something else. I hid in the empty hen house and waited...and waited...and waited...which was fine for me, but my poor mother did not know where I was. Apparently I was gone for over four hours and my family already called the police.
When I then came running to my mother all excited and covered with hay, she did not get upset about me disappearing but instead set down and listened to the story about a hen laying an egg.
Why is this story so important? I was filled with excitement when I came to her running and she did not kill it by getting upset. She listened to my amazing story! Isn't that wonderful? And this is already the making of a little scientist."
This story touched everyone in the audience. You cold notice it on our faces and in our eyes. Full of expectations we were eager to hear more.
"I loved animals and my mother bought me a book with animals so that I would learn to read more quickly. And I did. My first book was Dr. Doolittle. I was amazed how he could talk to all the animals and I wanted this too so I observed them very closely and learned from them. I pretended in front of my friends to understand what animals are saying and they believed me. "
World war ll came and her father had to leave. The family struggles with little money and Jane is busy with one thing there is, books. She spends days in library reading about animals and discovers her second favorite book "Tarzan". She is fascinated by the story, falls in love with Tarzan and starts dreaming about Africa. Her only disappointment is, however that Tarzan marries the wrong Jane! Again, her mother stands by her side and tells her: "Jane, with hard work and strong will you will get where you want to be. Just do not give up."
Eventually, she receives an invitation to visit her friend in Kenya and at the age of 23 she goes to Africa alone for the first time. There she meets Dr. Luis Leakey who is impressed about her knowledge on animals and gives her a project. She starts observing a group of chimpanzees in national park Gombe.
The first encounters were not so well. Jane was the white ape in the forest and chimpanzees were running away from her. They would look down on her from the trees and try to frighten her away with screams. She ignored them and pretended eating leaves on the floor, hoping that they would lose interest on trying to scare her off. Eventually they did.
David Greybeard, a big male, was the first who accepted Jane being constantly present and later other chimpanzees did too. One day she observed how he took a small twig from the tree, removed the leaves and stuck it into a termite nest. He fished the termites out of the nest and picked them off with his lips. This was a revolutionary discovery! She was the first person to witness chimpanzees making and using tools. At that time humans were believed to be the only specie capable of that. She sent a telegram to Dr. Leakey about the discovery and he wrote back joking about science that we should either redefine man, redefine tool or accept chimpanzees as humans.
"We differ genetically from the chimpanzees in only a little over 1%. There is a huge similarity in their immune system, brain, nervous system and blood composition. We can get a blood transfusion from them if we match the blood group. Each of them even has a vivid and unique personality and they also have emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, despair and love. They are capable of mental as well as physical suffering." All these things were considered as not possible in 1961 as Jane arrived to Cambridge to start her PhD in ethology, because minds, feelings, emotions and a personality were unique to us, humans. Her first encounter with the academic world was not very positive. The professors told Jane, that she did everything wrong. She gave chimpanzees names instead numbers and she spoke about their feelings. Before that she has never been to university and being told that everything she has done was wrong, was a shock.
However, Jane knew that those professors were wrong. She was sure, because she had a very good teacher all through her childhood who has thought her so well. It was her dog, Rusty and she explained that anyone who has grown up with an animal would understand that. Today, science has already accepted that animals can have personalities and emotions and studies are already being done on this subject.
In her further observation she noticed the impact of a social life in the early development of young chimpanzees. Chimps have long-term supportive relationship with their mothers that can sometimes last a life time, which can be up to sixty years. Some mothers are very supportive and some less. The infants of supportive mothers are later able to deal much better with different situations then infants of less supportive mothers. Even different personalities are being developed. The bond between a mother and a child is so strong that if a baby loses its mother it can get so emotionally stressed that it can die.
Jane lived a dream. She spent days, months, years in the forest observing the chimpanzees and learned so much about them and us every day. Unexpectedly, she left Africa in the early 90. In 1992 as she flew over Gombe with an airplane she was deeply shocked by a dramatic view. Most of the forest that she knew all these years was gone. She knew about deforestation at that time, however, she had no idea it was that massive. Most of the chimpanzee habitat was destroyed and more was about to be. All these years when she was watching chimps and learning from them, she felt like they have done so much for her and now she felt it was time for her to do something for them. She decides to leave Africa and becomes an activist.
Now we know that chimpanzees experience very human-like feelings. Over the years we have seen love, friendship and sadness. "Chimpanzees are so much like us in so many ways, biologically, intellectually, behaviorally and emotionally. They kiss, embrace, they hold hands just like we do. They throw rocks and are sometimes very good at aim, they hunt and share."
Jane has often been asked if she really still has hope for us to turn this destructive wheel around after all that she has seen around the world. She named us four things. Firstly, it is the children, young people who our future depends on and indomitable humans, like Nelson Mandela, human courage and human compassion. Secondly, it is the social media with which you can reach so many people in a very short time. Thirdly, it is the resilience of nature, we can destroy a river and bring it back to life. And last, it is our brain. We are able to fly to the moon, to see so far deep into the universe and yet are so stupid to destroy our own home. How can that be? It is a fact that our brain is very much capable of making a difference and good decisions, we just have to do it!
"So, YES there is hope. It is in our hands, your hands, my hands, in the hands of our children. It is really up to us."
Mahatma Gandhi: "If you look into human history you see that every evil regime has been overcome by good."
"Roots and shoots", a program for hope, was established in 1991 in Tanzania. Roots make a firm foundation and shoots are so tiny but will break through a brick wall to reach the sun. With this program hundreds and thousands of young people can contribute to a major change in this world. Together they can break through brick walls all over the world. It is a massage of hope where every single individual has a role, where every single person makes a difference. Young people from preschool to university are involved in three different kinds of projects. One project is to contribute to your own human community, another one includes animals, also domestic ones and the third involves something for the local environment. Young people have a choice to choose for themselves which project they want to participate in. Do they want to clean the river, remove the toxins from the soil or work in a dog shelter. More than that, they can communicate with other groups around the world who are also making the world a better place, they can connect.
"The philosophy behind this program is "no violence". Violence leads to violence and the tools for solving the problems are knowledge and understanding, hard work and persistence and most importantly, love and compassion leading us to respect all life." So far 130 countries are involved and more are joining.
Her amazing energy, great sense of humor and impressive calmness inspired me. She talked very kind but great words and passed on to us extremely important messages about actions for our planet. Now, we all understand better the importance and are more aware of the current situation of environmental safety. Everyone around us impacts the world every day. We make decisions every day, what we buy, what we eat, how we treat each other. Therefore, everyone can decide to make a change every day.
I think today is a great day to start making a difference. Please, think about our planet as you go along the day, grow your awareness and inspire others with kind words and good deeds. Thank you.