A Friday With Jane Goodall (TheByteWeek Issue 9)

My Fridays are quite conventional; my weekends begin by seeing a movie, spending time with friends, perhaps, eating out, going on a date or, on certain, less enjoyable Fridays, spending an evening working at the Ringk. In this regard, my Fridays are enjoyable. This Friday, I met Dr. Jane Goodall.

No, seriously, the Dr. Jane Goodall, and I’ve been retelling my experience by putting great emphasis on the “The” in the sentence. This Friday, I met THE Dr. Jane Goodall. Granted, saying that I met Dr. Goodall is a bit of a fallacy, since I didn’t technically meet her. Instead, I had an opportunity to attend a short lecture delivered by the world’s foremost experts on chimpanzees at David Suzuki Secondary School, a relatively new facility in the city of Brampton, Ontario, Canada. The lecture was an introduction to Dr. Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program, and was both an apology and a rallying call for the action of the future generation. Strong emphasis was placed on the “Stand up and take action” principle, and while various anecdotal examples were provided, some involving stray cats, others involving the educational standards of Tanzanian high schools, the main focus of the lecture was on the individual.

Specifically, by taking action for a cause that one believes in, it is possible for that one to accomplish, and achieve, their goals. Dr. Goodall’s examples stemmed from her own upbringing, in addition to the knowledge and wisdom she gained by studying chimpanzees in Tanzania, and by spending time with now-deceased Louis Leakey, still one of the worlds most well known archaeologists and anthropological minds. Born to a relatively low income family in London, England, 6 years before World War 2 broke out, Goodall attributes much of her personality to her mother. She repeatedly stated in her lecture that, without her mother’s guidance and encouragement towards her natural and scientific interests, she wouldn’t have become the expert she is today. As the lecture continued, she detailed her early years as a Phd. student at Cambridge University, and how, despite being almost sure of the sentient nature of the chimpanzees she had spent years studying, her hypotheses was continuously rejected and attacked by the professors she worked with.

Dr. Goodall made quick reference to the sentience of both humans and chimpanzees, and the knowledge and/or acceptance of the species’ morality by stating that “I do believe that [chimpanzees] are aware of death. A mother treats her child differently when the child is ill and when it has died.” Dr. Goodall also mentioned that, regardless of what her professors stated, she believes that personality and emotion exists in all species and “Anyone who’s had a pet can attest that they act differently when you’re around.” Interestingly, during the question and answer session held after the lecture, my inquiry had to do with the sentience and intelligence of chimpanzees and whether, if they were capable of learning a human language, our closest cousins would achieve the same level of sentience as us. As I’ve noticed often happens, I didn’t get to ask my question, though I didn’t dwell on this fact for very long.

The lecture was succinct, and as she left the large gym that doubled as her amphitheatre the power of her words were made relatively clear as soon as she was replaced by the Executive Vice-something-or-other of the Roots and Shoots Branch of Canada. While Dr. Goodall denounced the various multinational corporations that have spent time damaging the world, her replacement directed us to a movie theatre. While Dr. Goodall apologized to the students in the gymnasium for the world they have been left by their inept and unwise elders, her replacement directed us to a website. While Dr. Goodall made it clear that she understood that future generations have seemingly impossible work to accomplish to genuinely fix their planet, her replacement told us to take a more active stand.

Interestingly, Dr. Goodall said the same three things that her replacement did, though the delivery was different. There was a level of prominence, authority, and genuine emotion in Dr. Goodall’s voice that the Executive Vice-something-or-other simply couldn’t match. Quite frankly, I really do wonder how anyone could have possibly thought that replacing Dr. Jane Goodall was a possible task.

As always, this has been your Admin; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-Ek

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