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This article was published 28/9/2017 (266 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Jane Goodall met with a group of Winnipeg elementary students Thursday afternoon, she felt she may be speaking to the child who would someday carry on her legacy.
"What we need is a whole raft full of Jane Goodalls," the 83-year-old scientist and animal-rights activist said. "One isn’t going to be enough. I want there to be thousands of Janes. That’s what we need to change the world."
The world-renowned researcher spoke with 25 students in the Winnipeg School Division’s Roots & Shoots program. Founded by Goodall in 1991, Roots & Shoots is a global organization dedicated to empowering young people to make positive environmental changes in their community and country.
Although she travels 300 days a year doing environmental outreach work, Goodall is best known for her more than 55-year study of chimpanzees — which began in 1960, when, at 26, she travelled to Tanzania from her home in England.
As much as she considers instilling an environmentalist ethic in people at a young age to be important, meeting children in Roots & Shoots has the added bonus of motivating her to keep working after all these years.
"It gives me the energy to carry on, knowing that it makes a difference. I know from experience it makes a difference because they write and tell me. It really does help inspire action and that’s what it’s all about," Goodall said during an interview. "As long as we carry on with business as usual, then for our children, and our children’s children, it’s going to be a very grim world. And that’s why I’m so passionate to grow Roots & Shoots."
After Goodall spoke to the children, the eager hands of young environmentalists shot up to ask her questions and share stories about projects.
The questions ranged from why she loves animals to what inspires her to whether or not she had a favourite chimpanzee during her time in Africa. (The answer to the last question: yes, the chimpanzee she named David Greybeard, the first one to warm up to her.)
"When the teacher came to me and said that I’m going to get to meet Jane Goodall, I was like ‘No way,’" nine-year-old Trisha Olesco said with a smile. "And also, when Dr. Jane Goodall came into the room, I had the same reaction."
Goodall is visiting Winnipeg not only to meet with students, but also to accept an honorary doctorate this afternoon at the University of Winnipeg. Tonight, she will speak at an event at the Burton Cummings Theatre.
She said the main thing she wants children in the Roots & Shoots program to know is the work they do is important.
"I want them to feel they that they truly are making a difference and to know there are Roots & Shoots groups in a hundred countries, all feeling the way they do, all wanting to take action, all making a difference every day."
While she laments the loss of wilderness, forests and wetlands around the world, Goodall believes climate change can be countered with a societal change in perspective — which, she said, will take everyone from politicians to big business and ordinary people.
When asked if she misses her time spent in Africa studying chimpanzees, Goodall said: "You know, (National) Geographic just made a new documentary out of footage... that was discovered. More than any other documentary, it’s taken me right back when I watch it.
"Back to the young woman I was, those chimpanzees I knew so well, that carefree life in the forest. It’s very moving for me and without question those were the best days of my life. I carry the memory of those early days," she said.
"I know I can’t have them back again, but nothing can take away the memory."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.