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Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall. Photo courtesy of National Geographic

By Jeffrey Sanzel

From scientist to activist: Dr. Jane Goodall addresses an audience in a scene from the film. Photo courtesy of National Geographic

It could not be more appropriate that the new documentary Jane Goodall: The Hope premiered globally on Earth Day, April 22, in 172 countries and 43 languages on National Geographic, Nat Geo WILD and Nat Geo MUNDO channels. At the heart of Goodall’s work is more than just the wonder of nature but the need to respect and honor our coexistence with other species of the planet. Her passionate yet gentle character is iconically associated with this message.

The two-hour film continues where Jane (2017) left off. Jane Goodall:  The Hope is an exploration of the work she has done since 1986, when she transitioned from scientist to scientist-advocate. It is a beautiful film, powerful and simple, with no narration. Instead, it is told through interviews juxtaposed with recent and archival footage spanning over six decades.  

There are a few nods to her earlier life.  One of the first scenes, Goodall shows her childhood copy of The Story of Doctor Dolittle, the book that first opened her eyes to a world of possibilities. There are occasional glimpses into her person life — some time spent with her grandchildren or having a glass of whiskey with friends. But the heart of the film is Jane Goodall as conservationist and messenger.  

A scene from the film. Photo by Michael Christopher Brown/Magnum Photos

At 86, Goodall still maintains a grueling schedule of three hundred days on the road, traveling and speaking across the entire globe. In one sequence, she is shown shuttling from airport to hotel room (where she makes toast on an iron) to traveling again.  

It would be a difficult schedule for someone a third her age, but Goodall sees it as both quest and responsibility. When told she should slow down, her response is that she must speed up as time is running out. Between tours she lives in the English home that her family has had since 1940, sharing with her younger sister, Judy.  We are treated to just a few rare moments of rest, accentuating her constant and unflagging work.

Goodall never sought fame but has reluctantly accepted it to further her cause. She readily admits that she would have preferred to stay in the forests of Gombe, living with and studying chimpanzees, but realized she was in a position to speak out where people would listen.

Whether addressing a crowd of several thousand or interacting with a handful of elementary students, her unique spirit comes through. Her goal is to always reach people through their hearts. She is a guide and a messenger, not a preacher. One boy describes her as “Mother Theresa for the environment.”

Her outreach has included the Jane Goodall Institute as well as the Zanzibar-based Roots and Shoots program. The latter engages young people on issues of conservation and gets them directly involved. She is particularly inspiring to young girls, several of whom give impassioned paeans  to Goodall as a role model.  In fact, the latter third of the documentary concentrates on her legacy and the myriad results of the seeds she has planted.

A scene from the film. Photo courtesy of National Geographic

The film highlights her ability to connect with people and not divide them. James Baker, former White House Chief of Staff, was an avid hunter. Yet, she was able to find common ground in a belief in clean water. He readily gave her introductions to countries across the world. She developed a long-time relationship with Rodney Macalister, manager for Conoco.  Throughout, he is interviewed and marvels at how she managed to get a huge oil company to build a chimpanzee sanctuary. He states simply, “She commands respect in the softest of ways.”  

Goodall went into labs that used primates for experimentation so that she could report firsthand. Often questioned by more radical activists, she makes clear that she would rather work with people “to do it better” then to be constantly adversarial. Ultimately, with years of considerable yet considerate pressure, she got the National Institute of Health to reduce its use of animals for the testing of drugs and other experiments. She has the ability to bridge the gap between the most unlikely individuals.

It should be noted that there is disturbing footage of the torture and mistreatment of chimpanzees. The filmmakers have wisely not overused these important images but they are as devastating as they are essential in their depiction of cruelty and neglect.  

The documentary clearly shows Goodall’s inner focus: “I believe only that when head and heart can work in harmony we can achieve our true potential.” Her message is shared with everyone from the youngest children to the most educated of academics, from politicians to Prince Harry. And her affect on them is clear.  

She is hope attached to action. She understands that to make conservation work you have to engage with the local people and make their lives better. Conservation must help through community, remembering that there are basic needs that will come first (e.g., health, water, education).

Ultimately, it is Jane Goodall’s optimism that shines through. Her belief that the young people can and will make the world a better place. One of the final moments of the film is her speaking to a sold-out crowd.  She raises her hand and says: “Together we can —together we will save the world.” And because she believes, it makes us believe it too. Jane Goodall: The Hope is an important film in the truest of ways. It is not just to be seen; it is to be shared.  

Jane Goodall: The Hope is now streaming free on demand.

Dr. Jane Goodall Photo courtesy of National Geographic

National Geographic commemorates Earth Day with a special screening of the new two-hour documentary Jane Goodall: The Hope on April 22 starting at 9 p.m. The film, which will air globally in 172 countries and 43 languages on National Geographic, Nat Geo WILD and Nat Geo MUNDO channels, takes viewers through chapters of Dr. Goodall’s journey, highlighting how she inspires hope for our planet, love for its animal inhabitants and actions of stewardship for this generation and those to come.

Dr. Jane Goodall and Prince Harry at Windsor Castle for the 2019 global leadership meeting of Roots & Shoots. Photo courtesy of National Geographic/Hitesh Makan

Featuring an extensive collection of photographs and footage that spans over seven decades, the special depicts the formation of the Jane Goodall Institute’s “Tacare” community-centered conservation approach and Roots & Shoots youth empowerment program, her remarkable advocacy and leadership on behalf of chimpanzees and humanity. 

“Being out in the forest of Gombe, I had a great sense of spiritual awareness; I began to realize that everything is interconnected,” says Goodall. “Since then, every day, it’s become clearer that climate change is an existential threat to our natural world, and if we destroy this world, we destroy our own future.”

Dr. Jane Goodall signing book for young girl at Esri Conference in 2019. Photo courtesy of National Geographic/Michael Haertlein

“Each day, every single person has the chance to make an impact through small, thoughtful choices, and when billions of people make the right choices, we start to transform the world,” added Goodall. “Don’t give up; there’s always a way forward.”

The documentary includes appearances by Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, and U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, among others.

“The need to protect our planet has never been more urgent, and we’re using Earth Day’s 50th as an opportunity to inspire viewers through the wonders of our planet and its incredible species for viewers around the world,” said Courteney Monroe, president, National Geographic Global Television Networks. “With the Earth Day takeover across all of our networks and platforms, we are able to reach the largest audience possible to celebrate this momentous day and ensure that viewers fall in love with our planet and act to protect it.”

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Earl L. Vandermeulen High School sophomore Arunima Roy. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

By Rita J. Egan

It was a successful school year for 15-year-old Arunima Roy of Port Jefferson. The sophomore and high honor roll student at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School was recently chosen as an ambassador to Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council.

The Roots & Shoots council has many branches all over the world, according to Roy. Teenagers with a passion for saving the environment apply to the group in order to aid each other in their projects.

A member of her high school’s environmental club for the last two years, Roy said she got involved with Roots & Shoots when her Spanish teacher, Dawn DeLeonardis-Moody, who is also one of the faculty advisers of her school’s club, suggested she look into the organization. After visiting the website and researching the organization’s work, Roy said she became extremely interested in its youth council. After applying for the program and completing two interviews, Roy became an ambassador.

During the application process, Roy told the organization, “I want to help clean up the environment, and I want to help save and preserve natural habitats.”

DeLeonardis-Moody has been involved with Roots & Shoots for a decade, so she knew Roy would work well with the group. The Spanish teacher said as a sophomore, Roy is the perfect age to take on the role as she has a concept of the environment and community. She described the student as soft yet strong, who works well in a group and individually.

“Arunima … she can be quiet on the surface — she has such a compassionate soul — but she’s also a very hard worker and dedicated. So I see her as an upcoming leader, especially because she has that quiet compassionate side. But once you work with her you realize that her compassion and her passion are so strong, and she’s so in tune with nature,” DeLeonardis-Moody said.

In the past, Roy has worked on beach cleanups and most recently the Green and Clean 2015 event in Port Jefferson to raise awareness about local plants and Monarch butterflies. DeLeonardis-Moody said the student not only worked at the event, but it was partly Roy’s idea to have it, and she worked 8 months to prepare for the day.

The Port Jefferson student said as an ambassador, she will work on her future environmental goals with the school’s environmental club and will get support from Roots & Shoots and her fellow ambassadors.

Jonathan Maletta, co-adviser of the environmental club, said that Roy has the school group’s complete support when it comes to her future environmental projects. Maletta, who has also worked with the sophomore on the Science Olympiad, where she has won gold and silver awards on the regional level, said Roy is an intelligent student with a sound work ethic. “She’s an inspiration, and it’s nice to see someone of the younger generation lead by example, take charge and move in a sustainable direction,” Maletta said.

The club adviser said the student is currently working with the Jane Goodall Institute to recycle e-waste.

Maletta explained that when we recycle electronics and cell phones, we help conserve an ore called coltan, which is found in the Congo, where gorillas and chimpanzees live. Recycling reduces the need for Coltan and the disruption of the animals’ habitat. In addition, when it comes to recycling cell phones and other e-waste, fewer toxins are released into the environment.

Recycling is very important to Roy, and she wishes more people would do so, especially when it comes to items that are simple to discard, such as cans and bottles. She said it not only helps preserve materials, which would, for example, prevent us from cutting down trees or looking for ore and disturbing the habitats of animals, but it also affects us on a local level.

“It’s so important to recycle. There are often garbage cans and there are recycling cans right next to each other. I feel like if they just make the littlest effort to put it in the recycling bins instead of the garbage bins, it would make such a huge impact. The landfills are getting full of garbage, and we’re going to run out of places to put them. We don’t want our backyards to be filled with garbage,” Roy said.

Her advice to aspiring environmentalists is to get a group of friends together and to set easy goals. She said it helps to break things down into something as simple as collecting a certain number of things or filling one bin in a day. She also suggested organizing two groups to clean a beach or area, and make the cleanup a fun competition.

This summer, Roy will attend a Roots & Shoots retreat where she will learn about hydraulics. As for her future goals, she said she wants to be a physician with Doctors Without Borders. In addition to her dreams of becoming a doctor, Roy said that in her adulthood, she will continue to volunteer to help the environment.

“I see it as more of a stress reliever. I feel like I’m making an impact on the environment. I don’t see it so much as work as I see as it as being one with nature,” Roy said. “It would be a nice way to take some time off and get back to my roots, and just find some space for myself to think.”

When it comes to her future plans, especially her environmental goals, both of Roy’s club advisers believe she will accomplish a great deal.

“She’s just so humble, and I think that’s what makes her — that’s part of why she’s so good at this. She’s so quietly passionate and humble, but yet she’s dedicated and really in tune with the community and the environment. She really cares,” said DeLeonardis-Moody.

Formed in 1991, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is the youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. With more than 150,000 members in more than 130 countries, all working on local and global service projects, the program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of young people. Through the program, young people map their community to identify specific challenges their neighborhoods face. From there, they prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution, and take action.

For more information, visit www.rootsandshoots.org.