The Lake Tanganyika Littoral Ecosystem Project group had dinner and a show with Jane Goodall on July 16, 2011! There was a party at Jane Goodall Institute in Kigoma, on the banks of Lake Tanganyika celebrating her 50 years as an ethologist (one who studies animal behavior) and environmental activist. Jane spoke for a while and introduced the new film about her life and then discussed it with us afterward. The film, Jane's Journey is scheduled for release in the US in September 2011. Goodall’s life is an amazing and inspiring story! After the film, we had dinner with Jane and sat and talked until late about her life and work, environmental issues, and about communicating to public audiences.
|Ryan Satchell, Wright State undergraduate Biology major, Len Kenyon, and Jane Goodall|
Jane told the story of her first major lecture. She was working at Gombe when a letter arrived from the National Geographic Society. They had decided to fund her research for another year, and to fly her to Washington to speak to an audience of more than 5000 people. Jane told us she was terrified and wished she would be gored by a wild water buffalo so she wouldn’t have to go. Needless to say, she was well prepared with interesting material and film from her fieldwork with the chimps, and she made a good impression on the audience. After all these years she said she still carefully prepares before every speaking engagement. She is very soft-spoken, but with an air of authority, honesty, humor, and sincerity. Her message is one of hope for the future. She said she never wanted to be a scientist, but always loved animals and the outdoors. Ironically, she was almost kicked out of her doctoral program at Cambridge because her dissertation came out as a book that had popular appeal, suggesting that it was not scientific enough. Goodall spoke further about the need for scientists to represent the importance of their work to the public in non-political terms in order to communicate the urgency of environmental issues. As the evening wore on, Jane spoke of her work as a “fight” for the environment and the future of life on earth, but stopped to say she should not refer to this important work as a fight. Perhaps her charm and wit are a gift, but her ability as a speaker comes with a great deal of knowledge, experience, and thoughtful preparation.
|Baby chimp at Gombe Park|
|Jane Goodall and Renalda Munubi, PhD student in Biology at Wright State University|
No one questions science when it contributes to enhancing the quality of our lives, but the advances we experience in everyday life take a long time to develop from the scientific work that takes place in the field and laboratory. Scientists need to speak clearly and appeal to public understanding in ways that will proactively affect public policy. Goodall acknowledged that if scientists don’t speak for themselves, then corporations will. The world needs more environmental activists and speakers like Jane Goodall. Every scientist can’t be a Jane Goodall, but society needs to understand the importance of current research for the future of the planet.