Tours, Tenacity, and Tarzan: Jane Goodall’s Visit to Westmount

By Juliana L, Ana D, and Felicia M.

As you may or may not have heard yet (if you haven’t then you quite possibly live under a rock), Dr. Jane Goodall, one of the most famed and celebrated scientists and activists worldwide paid a visit to Westmount Charter School. She came last Wednesday to speak to the students of the Parkdale campus and last Thursday she spoke to the Mid-High students. Many students viewed it as a wonderful opportunity and as she said in her speech, “Ideas are for sharing”.

The study of science, as many scientists would tell you, is undoubtedly an activity that requires great dedication and concentration. Hours sitting in a lab, tediously manipulating variables and poring over pages of analysis. Everything about it requires a patience unimaginable to many. Westmount Charter School has come upon the unique opportunity to meet one with the dedication, concentration and patience needed to become a world famous scientist and activist: Dr. Jane Goodall. Westmount is the only school in Canada who Jane Goodall has ever presented to, and it is the only one who she will be speaking to during her time in Canada. When students learned of this fact, they liked the idea that our school is “special” enough to have caught her attention. The opportunity to have this presentation was a lucky one indeed, and there is a hub of excitement in both Westmount campuses. At Parkdale in particular there is a lot of enthusiasm. Students and staff have initiated a small Roots and Shoots program. The younger members of Westmount look up the Dr. Goodall as a role model.

For those of you who don’t know (although you really should), Dr. Goodall is most famous for her research in the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve which she lived in for months at a time studying the local chimpanzees. She integrated into the primate society so completely that they eventually allowed her to feed them, groom them, and touch their infants. She essentially became a member of their tribe, being active in the lives of many generations of chimpanzees. Her personal connection with the chimpanzees was controversial in the scientific world, because instead of identifying each chimpanzee with a number, she gave them names. She also had a limited scientific background, among other factors. Studies conducted in that forest would change the future of primatology and anthropology for years to come. Before Dr. Goodall’s research, not much was known about our closest animal relatives. Following her connection with the apes, Dr. Goodall resolved to improve conditions for her primate companions as well as the rest of the earth’s environment. Her status as an activist was enforced by the founding of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots and Shoots program, both of which Dr. Goodall established. In her words, “Roots and Shoots is about hope.” Now, after publishing quite a few books, Dr. Goodall spends her time touring the world giving speeches, having not slept in the same bed for more than three consecutive weeks in twenty years.

The general student reaction to the visit was a positive one. Of course, there was a fair amount of indifference, but as a grade nine student so eloquently put it, “Jane Goodall is a very inspirational person, and getting to see her speak is an amazing opportunity.” Many students do not fully understand or appreciate her work, and for some, her area of study was not one that they were interested in.

In her speech, Dr. Goodall talked mainly about her past and how she got to where she is. In an engaging and mesmerizing manner, she covered many years of travelling and researching in less than thirty minutes, ending the history with the story of why she became an activist. It was quite a sudden change in her life, starting when she agreed to meet with a group of scientists after she had published several books and gotten a degree. The scientists discussed the conditions of some captive chimpanzees and were shown images that shocked and haunted Dr. Goodall, which, along with the dark premonitions of global warming and habitat destruction, launched her into the path of the activist.

Among other things, she blames this destruction on greed and an unquenchable thirst for money. “We have learned to use money to live. It starts going wrong when we start living for money.” If humanity in general were less selfish and more inherently giving, the problems that we face today would most likely be less prevalent.

An uplifting topic in the speech was hope and “the indomitable human spirit”. A woman such as Dr. Goodall, who constantly instills hope in so many, is also made hopeful by many. One person she continuously brought up was Chris Koch, a 34 year old man from Nanton with two stumps for legs and two slightly longer stumps for arms. Recently, he climbed all 840 steps of the Calgary Tower in 24.09 minutes to raise money for the flooded Calgary Zoo. Jane Goodall heard of his feat, met him, and was extremely impressed, citing him as one of her inspirations.

Jane Goodall’s story, with all its twist, turns, and tangents, was undoubtedly one of the most inspirational speeches the student of Westmount have ever heard. Even those that were indifferent to Dr. Goodall’s visit at first naturally came to cherish her unique insight and humble personality. Her arguments against butchery, forestry and the bushmeat trade were extremely persuasive and enjoyable to listen to, as well as her uplifting messages of the hope she has seen in the world. After all, “we are bound into a common humanity.” All in all, Dr. Goodall’s visit was an extremely beneficial experience for all who heard her speak.

For an exclusive interview with Dr. Jane Goodall, click here


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