An Evening With Jane Goodall was an evening spent with a champion who remains witty, funny, insightful and hopeful in the face of challenging times for environmental, humanitarian and animal rights.  

Dame Jane Goodall is one of our world’s greatest icons: animal rights activist, ethologist, primatologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. She has received an International Peace Award, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, among others. Perhaps best known for researching chimpanzees in Gombe Reserve National Park for over four decades, she now spends around 300 days a year traveling for her cause: To urge as many people as possible to take action and protect nature for animals, for the environment and for people. Thanks to the Jane Goodall Institute NZ and TEARAWAY, I had the opportunity to have a chat with Jane backstage before the talk.  

Debbie Tan (left) and Jane Goodall (right) backstage.

Her catalyst for the tours is the desire to inspire hope and action. If she could challenge everyone in New Zealand and the world to do something, it would be for everyone to consider their decisions and the impacts of what they choose to do. This extends to what we wear, eat, do and the level of ethics we choose to practice in our daily lives; to think about where things come from and where they go after we use them.

Goodall emphasised that environmental and animal rights issues are urgent and pressing, but it is not too late. She urges each audience she meets to not accept business as usual. With so many environmental and animal rights issues all around the world, she acknowledges that “you can’t not get depressed” and overwhelmed by them at some point. But she acknowledges that you can’t tackle everything. Her advice is to “know your focus on the piece of the pie,” and do what you can with what you can, keeping in mind that action is happening all around the world for many different causes.  

Her central message is that every one of us makes an impact on the world every day, and that we are responsible for choosing the kind of impact we make. Roots and Shoots, a 26-year strong global youth organisation that she founded, is all about creating positive impacts. The organisation is dedicated to environmental, animal rights and humanitarian service and education, and operates all over the world in 137 countries, including New Zealand. Each branch selects three issues to focus on: one environmental-, one animal- and one human-centred. You can find out more and join Roots and Shoots here – they have just opened applications for the National Youth Council, so apply through the Jane Goodall Institute NZ if you would like to help deliver and lead positive change in New Zealand.

She sees her role now as bringing hope to people. There are five reasons for Jane to hope. Firstly, the human brain is creative and innovative, always creating new ways to limit our impact on the environment. Secondly, nature is resilient. She pointed to the black robin as a New Zealand example; there was only one fertile female left, but she managed to breed and her species recovered from the brink of extinction. Thirdly, Jane believes that the human spirit and passion of people trying to improve our world is “indomitable” – unbreakable. Fourthly, social media has increased awareness and new opportunities to participate and connect in action. Lastly, youth gives her hope: she has seen change increase in both awareness and impact through Roots and Shoots.  

An Evening with Jane Goodall left the audience inspired by that indomitable human spirit, a a re-invigorated desire to act and still hope that things will change for the better.  

For more info and to see how you can make a positive difference, drop in to the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand.