For Earth Day #50, Jane Goodall Has One Word

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Dr. Jane Goodall is best known for her pioneering research on chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe preserve, a solitary pursuit that somehow lead to a decades-long sprint as an environmental advocate that has connected her with millions of people around the planet. The global COVID-19 pandemic put a sudden stop to her travels but her work continues, and a new Nat Geo TV documentary on her work indicates that she — and we — are going to pick right up again where she left off.

Jane Goodall, Earth Day 2020
JANE GOODALL: THE HOPE follows Jane Goodall through three generations of advocacy work, photo credit National Geographic/Bill Wallauer).

From Researcher to Activist

The new two-hour documentary, titled The Jane Goodall: The Hope, unspools on Earth Day, April 22, at 9/8c on National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild.

One thread of the film traces Dr. Goodall’s personal transition from an observer of nature to an advocate for conservation. After all, the opportunity to study chimpanzees in the wild is going to be rather limited if there is no wild in which they can live.

After spending years immersed in her own research, she made the leap out of her “Gombe bubble” after attending a conference in 1986 comparing notes with other scientists about habitat loss. Since then, she’s been on the road 300 days out of 365.

The Hope follows another important story line as well. On her travels, Goodall has bent the ear of anyone willing to listen, in government and business as well, and has found support for her work in unlikely places.

That should ring a few bells in the clean tech field, where automakers and other legacy fossil fuel stakeholders are becoming some of the most powerful drivers of the renewable energy transition (well, with some exceptions).

Roots, Shoots, & Compassion

Dr. Goodall has found that the most important ear belongs to young people, and that’s another pivotal thread in The Hope.

“When you deal with a President, then he’s gone,” she explains at one key point. “The more sustainable strategy is to go with the young people.”

By “go with,” Dr. Goodall means the opposite of lecturing. She means developing youth leaders. A significant part of The Hope deals with the “Roots & Shoots” youth organization, which she founded in 1991 as a program of the Jane Goodall Institute.

Roots & Shoots shares some aspects in common with the familiar 4-H (Heart-Head-Hands-Health) youth program here in the US. It fosters key life skills, but with a more potent focus on change-making.

The organization is currently active in 100 countries and deploys its own “4-Step Forumula” to help young people recognize their power to use their voice.

The 4-Step Formula is aimed at helping young people cultivate compassion, as an umbrella for developing a sense of self and a sense of purpose that leads to a positive impact on people and the planet.

“When young people practice compassion, determination, collaboration, and are empowered to use their voice and take action, transformational change occurs in their communities and in themselves,” Roots & Shoots explains.

The Hope

That leads to another thread running through The Hope. From an environmental advocacy perspective, taking responsibility for the well being of the planet is in some ways the easier part of a two-part task. The other part is accepting responsibility for the well being of young people.

Fortunately, it’s a two-way street.

In retelling her motive for launching Roots & Shoots, Dr. Goodall explains that “I was meeting so many young people who didn’t have much hope in the future because older people had compromised the future, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

But, she adds, “They are so passionate and dedicated. They are the ones that give me hope.”

We could all use a good dose of the same medicine right now.

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Photo: via Nat Geo TV, by National Geographic/Bill Wallauer.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3148 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey