“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”– Jane Goodall
Admired by conservationists, feminists, vegans, and vegetarians alike, Jane Goodall is a name that has become a synonymous descriptor of a female who is curious, determined, respectful of the natural world, and thoughtful. Her long-term study of chimpanzees in Tanzania produced groundbreaking work that caused her biographer to dub her “the woman who redefined man.” When she was 5 years old she was given a job of collecting eggs from hens, and was found observing how chickens behave. Fast forward some decades, and she has become the most influential primatologist in the history of primatology- Observing chimpanzees in their natural habitat, and speaking on their behalf on topics that include conservation of their world, protection from abuse and exploitation, and the sophistication and significance of non-human life.
“Goodall’s detailed, engaging descriptions of chimpanzee society transformed our notions of what it means to be a primate–and what it means to be human.” — Sierra Magazine
From her work, and long-term, two-way communication with chimpanzees, Dr. Jane Goodall has gained an understanding of non-human life that few of us can pretend to hold, and many of us aspire to. She puts us all in our place with clear pushes of personal responsibility saying things like:
“Thousands of people who say they love animals sit down once or twice a day to enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been utterly deprived of everything that could make their lives worth living and who endured the awful suffering and the terror of the abattoirs.”
Instead of telling us what to eat, what to do, how to live, she tells us what is happening and leaves our choices up to us. Dr. Jane Goodall is an internationally respected, professional observer, and there is perhaps none better to inform us of our behavior.
In her study of the destruction of chimpanzee habitats in Africa, Dr. Jane Goodall encountered crimes against humanity and western exploitation of African resources, leftover from decades of colonial abuse. She observed young people losing hope and started an international nonprofit to assist in finding localized solutions to problems, empowering the youth of the world. In typical Jane Goodall fashion, instead of placing blame and spreading anger, she created a way to help communication, organize, and facilitate the spread of ideas. The media has called her “a champion of human rights” due to her work reinvigorating hope in local communities.
Overall, Dr. Jane Goodall seems to be a role model for all. What I admire most about her is her overall position on respect for life. Her method of scientific observation combined with the human capacity for compassion is singular and the reason why so many hold her work in high esteem. When looking at the treatment of beings who are foreign to the human race, such as chimpanzees, she said in her book Through a Window (1990):
“The more we learn of the true nature of nonhuman animals, especially those with complex brains and corresponding complex social behavior, the more ethical concerns are raised regarding their use in the service of man–whether this be in entertainment, as ‘pets,’ for food, in research laboratories or any of the other uses to which we subject them. This concern is sharpened when the usage in question leads to intense physical or mental suffering–as is so often true with regard to vivisection.”
It seems Dr. Jane Goodall believes these non-human animals are not so foreign to humanity. And for this, I, and an internationally spanning community of conservationists, feminists, vegans, and vegetarians, appreciate Jane Goodall.
Has Jane Goodall inspired your activism?
Also by Anastasia: Inspired Living: A Poem for Every Need
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Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Festival della Scienza via Flickr