Students and faculty at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale were treated to an extraordinary and rare opportunity on Tuesday, Sept. 12, when world-renowned anthropologist, ethologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall spoke there at a morning assembly. It was part of a two-day visit to the Valley that included a talk in Aspen the night before and another assembly at Glenwood Springs High School on Tuesday afternoon.
Dr. Goodall was brought to the Valley by Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), which arranged for her first visit here in 17 years. “Dr. Goodall travels more than 300 days per year spreading a message of hope and inspiration that humans can solve the environmental challenges we face,” Chris Lane, CEO of ACES, told The Sopris Sun. He continued, “It was no easy feat [bringing her here]; it was two years in the making.”
The main objective of her time here was to reach out to the Valley’s young people and encourage them to learn about and get involved with the many challenging issues (e.g., climate change, loss of species) that they will be facing as they grow up. She pointed specifically to Roots & Shoots, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) she set up in 1991 as “a global movement of youth just like you who are empowered to use their voice and actions to make compassionate decisions, influencing and leading change in their communities.”
In an ACES press release, Dr. Goodall said, “Joining forces with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies in the stunning Roaring Fork Valley and connecting with the community’s youth is a source of great joy for me.” She went on, “There is much overlap with my Roots & Shoots organization and ACES’ work to educate for environmental responsibility. The invaluable experiences shared in nature’s embrace spark the passion and commitment needed to create a harmonious future for all living beings.”
In her talk, Dr. Goodall recounted how her childhood love of animals propelled her into her pioneering work in Africa on chimpanzees and their behavior. However, it was learning in the 1980s about the destruction of the rainforests and the chimps in them that compelled her to leave the research field and become even more world-renowned as an environmentalist, conservationist and humanitarian.
After the end of her talk, there was a brief Q&A session. When asked about Roots & Shoots’ presence in Colorado, a JGI staff person said there were about 30 groups. Dr. Goodall encouraged people to join, noting, “Anywhere you go [in the world] with Roots & Shoots, you will find family.” Her answer to the best thing we can do environmentally was, “Join Roots & Shoots!” while adding, “Do something you’re passionate about.”
When The Sun asked her about the importance of interacting with children and young people, Dr. Goodall said, “So many young people today – especially today – are losing hope, and you can’t blame them … and if all of our young people lose hope, we’ve had it. Although the window on time is closing, there’s still that chance if we get together.” Referring to the enthusiastic standing ovation she got at the end of the program, “And it’s easier to keep on — you could see their reaction — and that’s whether I’m in Austria, Japan, China.”
She answered one final question for The Sun: How do you keep doing this? (She is 89 years old.) Her answer: “Because, I’m passionate. Because, although it may sound weird, I was put on this planet with a mission, and I’m trying to follow through with that.”
Lane commented, “Dr. Goodall has a magic about her.” And that certainly was present on Tuesday.
Dr. Jane Goodall chats with RFHS science teacher Hadley Hentschel before the start of her talk at the school on Tuesday. Hentschel was instrumental in arranging Goodall’s appearance there. Photo by Sue Rollyson