World-renowned primatologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall brought her message of hope and environmental stewardship to The Agnes Irwin School on Sept. 15, charging students and families with making a difference in the world around them.
“We have compromised your future,” Dr. Goodall told students at an evening lecture, referencing climate change, deforestation and violence. “But is it true that it’s too late to change things? I don’t think so.”
Dr. Jane Goodall, a UN Messenger of Peace, is best known for her landmark study on the behavior of wild chimpanzees in Gombe National Park in Tanzania, research she began in 1960 at the age of 26. She is also the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, a global nonprofit that seeks to contribute to the understanding and preservation of great apes and their habitats through conservation, research and education. The 81-year-old travels more than 300 days a year, sharing her message of environmentalism with audiences across the world. Agnes Irwin marked the first stop on her United States fall lecture tour.
Goodall met with Lower and Middle School students in morning assemblies, sharing stories about her life living among chimpanzees, and speaking to students about the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots, a youth-led community action program that targets specific local challenges in a neighborhood or community, helping people, animals and the environment.
This year, Agnes Irwin plans to establish a Roots & Shoots community action program, and students in Lower School shared with Goodall efforts they are already making to better understand and care for the environment around them. One of these projects is the study of the school’s stream, which they will undertake in science classes as well as in partnership with Riverbend Environmental Education Center.
In both assemblies, students had the opportunity to ask questions of Dr. Goodall, and the researcher encouraged them to remember their own effect on the surrounding environment.
“Everybody in this room makes an impact — you matter,” the pioneering researcher told Middle School students. “Will you make the world a better place? How will you treat animals? Other humans? The environment?”
More than a thousand members of the Agnes Irwin community, including Upper School students and Agnes Irwin families, heard from Goodall at an evening lecture entitled “Sowing the Seeds of Hope,” where Goodall brought her audience into the world of the Gombe chimpanzees — from her early observations and experiences to the latest news and stories from the field. Goodall shared and expounded upon her reasons for hope in the face of a world filled with bad news, placing hope in the human brain, resiliency of nature, power of social media, the indomitable human spirit, and the determination of young people.
“My greatest hope is in … young people who see the problems in the world and are inspired to take action,” Goodall said.
2015 marks a very special year for the Jane Goodall Institute, as Dr. Goodall celebrates the 55th anniversary of her work at Gombe, which forever changed how the world viewed the relationship between humans and animals.