In October, I was lucky enough to hear Jane Goodall speak in person for the second time. The event was the Wildlife Conservation Network’s (WCN) annual conference in San Francisco.
The first time I heard Jane speak was at the 2019 WCN conference. This was a very special experience as my dad, sister, and I were lucky enough to meet Jane in person. My dad has a conservation project utilizing technology to protect African rhinos from poaching.
His like-minded friend who knows Jane personally set up the meeting. Know- ing how much my sister and I admire Jane, he invited us to join. To learn about the rhino project, visit e n c h o i c e . c o m / S a v - ing-the-Rhino.
It was a surreal experience sitting in Jane’s hotel lobby waiting for her to appear. I will never forget that warm smile and aura of peace as she walked into the room. Yet, she looked tired and worn. I wondered how at her age she found the energy to travel 300 days a year (her custom before the pandemic), each day
packed with meetings and events.
Later that evening the air buzzed with excitement as we waited for the talk to begin. Jane lit up as she walked on stage. She looked re-energized and invigorated. The stage is where she comes to life, so eager to spread her message of love and compassion and change the world one event at a time.
Jane is often the keynote speaker for the WNC conference, and she has helped to shape their mission from the start. The organization supports entrepreneurial conservationists who develop strategies to help people coexist peacefully with wildlife wildnet.org.
This year the format was a little different: Jane was interviewed about her life and work. Jane emphasized that we must learn to coexist peacefully with wildlife even when we ind it challenging. She spoke fondly of her childhood with a mother who encouraged her curiosity, allowing her to spend hours outside by herself exploring nature.
It was Jane’s childhood dog Rusty who taught her the intelligence and rich inner life of animals. Rusty could solve problems,
keep track of schedules, and plan for the future. He could communicate his varying emotions. Rusty was not unusual; rather he brought to light the intelligence and sensitivity of animals.
It is hard for us to imagine, but when Jane began her research on chimpanzees, contemporary scientists questioned her radical view that animals have individual personalities, intelligence, and emotional lives.
She received criticism from the scientific community when she named her chimp subjects instead of giving them numbers. Jane completely changed the way animals are viewed both through her research indings and her advocacy. Thanks to Jane, most of us recognize the idea that animals are emotional, sentient beings worthy of respect. Jane’s advocacy continues despite her advanced age. She turned 88 this year!
The Jane Goodall Institute is active and thriving.Jane’s pride and joy is the Roots and Shoots program, which she developed to get the next generation active and excited about wildlife conservation. Roots and Shoots is a youth-led global community
From left to right: Lisa Wade, Jane Goodall, and Debbie Parsons.
program demonstrating the power of individual action. janegoodall.org/ our-work/our-approach/ roots-shoots
When asked how she inds the energy to keep going, Jane replied, “ I can’t stop. The animals need me.” She is building her institute and her Roots and Shoots program to carry on her work after she is gone, and each of us can continue to amplify her work in our own lives. We can choose to view wildlife in more positive ways.
Jane calls on us to have compassion for all animals, even those we may consider pests. To learn how to have a peaceful relationship with wildlife such as coyotes, gophers, and more, check out the “Coexisting with Wildlife”
Photo courtesy of Debbie Parsons
Resource are available at plantbasedadvocates.com
While walking my dog the day after I heard Jane speak, I found that I had really tuned in to my dog’s needs. Instead of rushing around the block, I realized that I was letting her choose the way. I was allowing her to stop and smell the roses or whatever plant happened to attract her keen sense of smell. It is her walk after all!
Debbie grew up in South Africa where she developed a deep love and respect for nature and wildlife. She is a member of Plant-Based Advocates, a nonproit encouraging people to eat more plants.