From Tanzania with Love

It usually begins the same way. “Oooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooooooh Ooooooh Ooooooh Ooooooh”.

You all know what it is. A greeting from the chimpanzees of the Gombe in Tanzania. It always generates a round of applause when it is uttered by 77 year old Dame Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall, more commonly known as Jane Goodall.

Jane’s childhood hero, Tarzan received the apes and the love of another competing Jane Porter. As a child, Jane got a bed full of earthworms and a dog named Rusty. Raised in Britain, her mother encouraged her to follow her love of animals. While growing up, she studied everything she could get her hands on about animals, preparing her for the opportunity when it came. In 1958 Dr Louis Leakey, a prominent Kenyan Archaeologist and Paleontologist, adopted 24 year old Jane as his protégé and arranged for her to study chimpanzees at Gombe in Tanzania, in the hope that they would provide information on the behavior of early humans. As they say, the rest is history.

Her study of chimpanzees redefined what it meant to be human. Her reporting norms challenged the scientific community by giving the chimpanzees names, instead the traditional scientific method of using numbers. The study still continues to this day making it one of the longest running studies in the world, just having celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

In 1977, Dr Goodall set up the Jane Goodall Institute which supports the research at Gombe and kicked off Roots & Shoots programme in 1991. Dr Goodall has another title these days, United Nations Messenger of Peace. This title which only 12 people on Earth have was conferred upon her by the United Nations in 2002, in recognition of her work for creating conservation and development programs in Africa.

Today Dr Goodall is primarily focused on advocacy for the environment and for peace by developing Roots & Shoots and speaking all over the world. She reportedly travels 300 days a year, which shows a single minded devotion and passion to support all that she cares about.

Several themes consistently appear when Dr Goodall speaks publicly and in private. The first one is the indomitable human spirit and will to follow your own path. The power to overcome challenges and live the life you want lies within. Dr Goodall is an exemplar to that, travelling to 2 continents and challenge the norms of her day to make it to Gombe.

Nature is supremely resilient and Dr Goodall commented that Earth will still continue to live if humans misuse it. It will just be all the people, their children and all the animals that we know today that will die in this inhospitable environment that we are creating through our shortsightedness. Stock market speculation and quarterly earnings are key motivators in many corporate decisions to our detriment. To this end, Roots & Shoots is about reconnecting young people with nature in order to educate them and inspire them to do the environmentally friendly things in life.

Stop and think before you make a decision. Consider the consequences of your actions. Are you building the environmental bank balance or trashing the global house that our children need to live?

Roots & Shoots – The Power of Youth is Global

Roots & Shoots was founded in 1991 by Dr Jane Goodall after listening to teenagers in Tanzania discuss the many challenges that the world faces. It is an international association of environmentally focused clubs that do global and international community service. Roots & Shoots clubs can be found at zoos, schools and in the open community. Clubs can be set up for specific age groups starting at 5 years of age. In Singapore there are clubs at:

Typically an educational institution will pay for a small club fee and all the students at the institution can participate in the club activities. Speaking to several teachers and students at the Roots & Shoots 20th Anniversary celebration they highlighted several compelling aspects of being part of the Roots & Shoots community.

  • Club members could join or create any project that interested them, which contrasted with World Wildlife Fund or Animal Concerns Research & Education Society which has a more formal and structured participation model.
  • The club also provided forums where different clubs could collaborate, share ideas and feedback on any project.
  • Club members moving in between countries could join other Root & Shoot clubs with minimal disruption as they formed a part of a vibrant global community with a common language.
  • It was one of the few, if not the only, youth based international associations that had an environmental focus.

Roots & Shoots 20th Anniversary celebration in Singapore

Dame Jane Morris Goodall, DBE, is the UN Messenger of Peace and is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on Chimpanzees. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute.