Since 1986, when she assumed an activist role, renowned British primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall has not remained in the same location for more than two or three weeks.
Making a stop in Madison Monday, Goodall offered her experiences as a scientist and researcher at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center as part of the 7th annual Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference.
Goodall cited the reading of a second-hand copy of “Tarzan of the Apes” during her childhood as the moment her dream to go to Africa and live in the jungle began, which was made possible by her mother, whom Goodall credits with fostering her scientific curiosity.
This scientific curiosity is something Goodall has worked to instill in young people through The Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program, which she created in 1991 as part of an effort to empower 12 young students who saw problems in their society and wanted to improve them. Students’ projects must aim to improve the environment, animals or people.
Today, Roots & Shoots has a presence in over 130 countries and works to bridge the disconnect Goodall said exists between human intellect and compassion.
“How could we, with this intellect, be destroying our only home ... we only have this one, precious planet,” Goodall said.
Goodall also said getting involved with Roots & Shoots is the best thing a college student can do at a big university to contribute to environmental sustainability.
“It’s my greatest reason for hope,” Goodall said. “[The youth] choose projects they’re really passionate about, and that is why it’s working.”
University of Wisconsin-Madison sophomore Molly Minster said although Goodall highlighted serious challenges facing the environment, “there was still this inspiring message on how we can make a difference on our Earth and preserve it for future generations.”
Paul Robbins, director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, noted the audience of approximately 2,000 people was mostly students, which he said contributed to the event’s success.
“If hope is about young people and the hall was filled with young people, then the day went well,” Robbins said.