Dr Jane Goodall inspires 

Environmentalist, humanitarian and the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees Dame Jane Goodall took time in her Aotearoa New Zealand tour to inspire Canterbury students of all ages, from primary-school age up to UC students in the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) last week. SVA President Jared McMahon shares his impressions of the encounter below:

Most 83 year olds have done a fair bit of living, having survived the Second World War, the Cold War and now the war on terror. They’ve experienced an unparalleled explosion in connectivity, through invention of the worldwide web and the advent of the information age, but few could lay claim to a life so full of living, that it rivals the extraordinary journey of Dr Jane Goodall.

The Student Volunteer Army executive, members of our high school programme from Cashmere High and St Andrew’s College, along with students from Sumner School, were lucky enough to meet Dr Goodall recently and talk with her about a range of issues, from animal rights activism and climate change, to a society struggling to deal with apathetic youth, and what these issues may mean for our future.

In 1960, at just 26 years old, Dr Goodall set up a study of chimpanzees in Gombe Stream Tanzania, that has continued on for over 55-years and seen her become not only the world’s foremost expert on Chimpanzees, but an ardent campaigner for conservation efforts and increasingly a voice for social change. Meeting Dr Goodall was a remarkable experience, as she shared with us her stories from Gombe Stream and also her thoughts about the future.

There were several points made by Dr Goodall that really resonated with me and many of those present. The first being of the vital need to swiftly and decisively change the way we treat our planet, its animals and its people.

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Dr Goodall used the quote “we have not inherited the plant from our ancestors, we’ve borrowed it from our children”, she then went on to say she believes this is wrong and instead, “we’ve stolen it from them, and we’re still stealing”. For the young people in the audience it was hard not to reflect on some of the political, economic and social decisions made in the decades before and since our birth, and how these decisions might impact our future, had we been stolen from?

Her fight against apathetic youth was the second key message that really struck a chord with the audience, mentioning numerous times that “the greatest danger to our future is apathy”. Dr Goodall, at 83 years old, spends roughly 300 days a year travelling the world promoting the idea to young people of how absolutely critical it is that they engage and participate.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear these words from Dr Goodall herself and to share in some of the wisdom that a life so well lived can bring.

Student Volunteer Army (SVA) executive members with Dr Jane Goodall during her visit to Christchurch.
Student Volunteer Army (SVA) executive members with Dr Jane Goodall during her visit to Christchurch