ATHENS - World renowned for her trailblazing study of chimpanzees, Dr. Jane Goodall needs no introduction. Sporting an honest, simple look, Goodall’s white hair is pulled back in a low ponytail just as it was when she was interacting with chimps in Africa so many years ago. Immersing herself in the chimpanzee’s natural environment, her 1960 discovery that these creatures make and use tools shook the scientific world.
Today, at the age of 84, the British primatologist travels some 300 days a year around the globe with her mascot stuffed animal Mr. H., spreading environmental conservation awareness, and hope for a future generation that respects life.
Goodall last visited Greece in 2016 where she delivered a lecture on “Reasons for Hope” at the Megaron Athens Concert Hall. A UN Messenger of Peace and Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, she this year embarked on a tour that brought her to three Greek cities: Athens, Thessaloniki and Heraklion.
During her stay in Athens, Goodall visited the American Community Schools (ACS) in Halandri where elementary and middle school students participating in her Roots & Shoots educational program had the opportunity to present their ideas and proposed projects for improving the local community and environment. The projects focused on animal rights, community service and environmental awareness.
“Dr. Jane Goodall’s commitment to preserving the ecosystem speaks to our hearts. Our vision ‘empowering students to be architects of their own learning’ aims to help develop responsible citizens of the world that can be part of the solution, ACS Dean of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Peggy Pelonis said.
Goodall then gave a short lecture on social and environmental challenges, followed by a brief interview, urging students to make a difference as individuals.
“Every single one of you has a special role to play in this life, even if you may not yet know what it is, and every single one matters in the scheme of things,” Goodall said. “Every single one of you makes an impact on this planet every single day, and you have a choice as to what kind of impact you make. You are either going to make things better, or you do not care.”
With an aim of bringing together students from preschool to university to work on humanitarian issues and matters of conservation and the environment, Goodall founded Roots & Shoots in 1991. The program, active in 80 countries around the globe, seeks to empower youth to pursue a life of compassion that betters society and the environment.“Being responsible citizens is a learned behavior that happens in stages...first is developing a social interest mindset, then creating opportunities for social engagement, and finally encouraging active participation through social devotion,” ACS Athens President Dr. Stefanos Gialamas said.
According to JaneGoodall.org, in 1900, an estimated 1 million chimpanzees existed in the wild, with just 340,000 remaining today. Sparked by her fascination of chimpanzees, Goodall is a proponent of environmental appreciation and conservation efforts, dedicating her life to spreading knowledge and understanding on these important issues.
“Go on, carry on doing good things, making the world a better place, bringing smiles to people’s faces, making little dogs wag their tails, watering little plants,” she urged students.
At the age of 26 in July of 1960, Goodall traveled from England to modern day Tanzania, Africa, where her journey began. There, equipped with little more than a notebook, binoculars and her innate interest in wildlife, she discovered the world of chimpanzees, and the rest, as they say, is history. With over 50 years of travels and studies, Goodall has become the face of environmental conservation worldwide.
Goodall’s visit to Athens was organized by Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Greece, with the support of Save a Greek Stray, Pallas Theater, the British Council Greece and Science Communication (Sci Co).