Photo: Vincent Calmel

Dr. Jane Goodall Takes Action on The Anthem Stage

This past week’s events, the cries and protests to raise awareness concerning the impacts of global warming were not extraordinary to Dr. Jane Goodall, who has spent the past 60 years as a scientist and activist. 

First famous for her observational studies of chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, Goodall has established an unrivaled legacy of science, conservation and outreach. With her field notes full and her research center and program running smoothly, Goodall now spends 300 days per year traveling around the world to implore humans to engage in real change – with the hope that they are listening. This week’s two sold-out events at The Anthem would imply that perhaps they are.

“I’m trying to tell people what’s happening in the world and the mess that we’ve made, and the fact that unless we all get together and take action soon then it may be too late,” Goodall said before speaking to the audience at The Anthem. “The window of time is closing and it’s not enough just to wave placards, but we must take action.” 

Soon thereafter, she took the stage, her slight frame enveloped by a bright shawl in the pattern of a monarch butterfly and a pendant in the shape of Africa dangling from her neck. Her demeanor was calm, presence almost spiritual, but her determination was fierce, and urgent. She greeted the audience with a pant-hoot hello learned from her chimpanzee friends, then spent the next hour and a half simply talking to us, as if we mattered. As if anyone could, and should, do what she does. Teach by doing. Lead by example. 

“There are some world leaders who are so caught up in feathering their own nests and pandering to big business, and they’re pandering to shareholders, and so we’re caught up in a vicious cycle of corruption and materialistic distance from the natural world, of not understanding the natural world. So the only way to get to anybody isn’t by shouting at them, isn’t by getting angry, it’s by somehow finding a way to reach the heart.” 

Goodall found a way to reach the hearts of many by showing the world that chimpanzees, humans’ closest living relatives, have distinct personalities, just like people do. But staying hopeful is hard. Despite understanding the impacts our actions have on the planet, other species and ourselves, mass destruction and devastation continue. Goodall points to two things that have given her hope in more recent years – engagement from communities directly impacted by climate change, and children. 

“The program that we began at Gombe by working with the local people, and getting them involved [is a source of hope].” she said. “We are restoring or protecting forests with local people now in six other African countries… And the reason it’s working is because people are beginning to understand that it is for their own future, too.” 

Through the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program the youth are empowered to effect positive change by developing projects that help people, animals and the shared environment. Roots & Shoots gives the support, resources, tools and training for young people sponsoring projects with direct action, proving that individual actions really do matter.

While Goodall is a household name, she was once just a young woman with a desire to learn about animals. How did she become the icon she is today?

“I don’t think it’s that difficult if you know exactly what you want to do and you go ahead and do it and you have the facts to back it up. There’s a growing number of women who are doing things that were never done before. And those who succeed to me seem to be the ones who are really passionate about what they do. They’re not aggressive. They’re just gentle about it and prove by their actions and what they’ve done that they can do it. Don’t accept me because I’m a woman, accept me because of what I’ve done, the value of what I’ve done.”

Goodall’s legacy will be celebrated with an exhibition at the National Geographic Museum in partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute, opening November 22, 2019. The exhibition, “Becoming Jane,” will lead visitors through an intimate glimpse into the life of Goodall.

Highlights of the exhibition will include a replica of Dr. Goodall’s research tent, a hologram of Goodall herself, a virtual-3D exploration of Gombe Stream National Park, opportunities to practice chimpanzee vocalizations. And of course, presiding over the exhibition will be Jubilee, Goodall’s famed childhood stuffed animal chimpanzee, gifted to her in 1942. 

For more information about Jane Goodall, click here.


Courtney Sexton

Courtney Sexton is a New Jersey native who grew up between the Delaware River and the sandy Pine Barrens. She has called D.C. home for long enough to now be considered a “local”. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is the co-founder of D.C. literary reading series and writing community, The Inner Loop. She listens to a lot of music and sometimes even tries to make it. She writes a good deal about places and human relationships to them, constantly exploring the intersections of nature and culture. Her dog, Rembrandt, features prominently in her life and work.