Jane Goodall and Social Activism
“Why do you want to help the world so much?” This question was boldly posed to Dr. Jane Goodall by an eight-year-old boy. Dr. Goodall was standing on stage before an audience who had just watched the documentary Jane’s Journey in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Dr. Goodall’s life is certainly worthy of a documentary and this documentary is certainly worth watching.
In the 1960s, Dr. Goodall travelled to Tanzania at the age of 26 – she was armed with a passion for Africa, a strong will and an independent mind. With the help of renowned anthropologist Louis Leakey, Jane began her now famous career as a behavioral researcher of wild chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania.
Jane lived a secluded life, eventually marrying a photographer and filmmaker from the National Geographic Magazine. They raised their son in the Tanzanian forest, untouched for the most part by the outside world. However, times could not be locked out for long and Jane could not ignore the everincreasing danger of modern development and environmental destruction. In response, she decided to devote all her energy to saving our endangered planet and became a global activist, using the fame she had acquired in the Western media as “the chimpanzee lady in the African bush” to leverage influence.
45 years later, Jane is not only a UN Messenger of Peace but she is also the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, the youth movement, “Roots and Shoots”, which now has thousands of members in over 100 countries and countless awards. Jane’s Journey, shows Dr. Goodall’s relentless travels, her efforts to campaign for chimpanzees, environmental protection and well, yes, for a better world.
So back to Dar Es Salaam, there I was, sitting in the dark audience in this small Tanzanian theatre listening to Dr. Goodall, and yet finding myself engulfed in my daily worries and frustrated about my inability to impart any influence on the course of the world, the global financial system, war or the Millennium Development Goals. I was however able to find some comfort in the knowledge that Jane sometimes feels the same way. The documentary showed her challenges, her loneliness and her personal struggles. She overcame these concerns by constantly reminding herself of the greater mission, what it was pushing her forward: the necessity to safeguard the survival of her chimpanzees. This idea of resorting to your core motivation is what I took away from the movie and the night. Jane expressed this idea wonderfully herself in saying, “where your passion lies, that is where you make the most difference.”
By Katharina Neureiter
Katharina Neureiter sends her dispatches from Tanzania, Africa, where she is working as a consultant. Before venturing to a continent where everything seems to be forward looking, bright and vibrant, Katharina graduated with an MSc from the London School of Economics specialising in colonial history, war cultures and genocide. She has worked and/or travelled in Nepal, South East Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe – always in pursuit of adventures and stories. You can check out more of her thoughts and experiences at www.hearabout.tumblr.com.