Goodall encourages global connections with Roots and Shoots

Jane Goodall urges youth and educators to make a difference in their communities and the world while in Cranbrook.

Dr. Jane Goodall speaks to event sponsors at a reception at the Key City Gallery

The stories and the opportunity to meet a living legend drew many to the Key City Theatre this past weekend to listen to Dr. Jane Goodall, but many came away inspired to make a change in their neighbourhoods.

Goodall was in Cranbrook on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 thanks to the Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN) and a variety of local sponsors to talk about her Roots and Shoots program.

Speaking to a group of local school children in school districts 5 and 6 Monday morning, Goodall encouraged them to start branches of Roots and Shoots in their schools.

Goodall said Roots and Shoots began when she realized she was meeting many youth who had no hope for the future and felt their world had been harmed.

“We’ve indeed compromised their future,” Goodall also told a more grown-up crowd on Sunday. “They wanted me to do something about it.”

And so she did – she began empowering youth to take on three projects that could help humans, animals and the environment to learn how those three things are connected. The program blossomed from a meeting at Goodall’s home in Tanzania with 12 high school students in 1991.

“It’s not true that there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Goodall doesn’t expect everyone to make drastic changes in their lives, but rather encouraged her audiences to think about small changes they can make every day that would make a big difference.

“We need to start thinking every day that what we do affects the future of our children,” she said.

Through Roots and Shoots Goodall has appealed to teachers around the world asking them to simply listen to their students. She did just that at her speech to local educators on Sunday afternoon at the St. Eugene Mission, but again repeated her call for action with the public and students.

The name Roots and Shoots is a symbolic one. Goodall said the program is all about breaking down barriers and connecting engaged youth from around the world. She said the root and shoot of a seed can push through physical barriers to break through and grow.

“Think of the rocks in the walls as all the problems we inflict on poor old Planet Earth,” Goodall said. “We love to build these barriers and Roots and Shoots is about taking them down.”

All hope is not lost for Planet Earth, said Goodall. She has seen incredible things happen in the wild.

“Once we let nature have a chance, it’s amazing how resilient it is,” she said.

Goodall also believes in the “indomitable”  human spirit, and pointed to legendary leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. who stood up for what mattered regardless of what everyone else believed at the time.

“People have stood up against the common belief,” she said.

Goodall said the very youth she encourages to take action are the reason she continues to travel for more than 300 days a year.

“How do you think I have the energy to travel?” she asked the group of teachers.

One teacher from Nelson talked about the shooting of four grizzly bears in the area this summer. Goodall said a group of students in Africa near Mt. Kilimanjaro had a similar problem involving elephants being shot for trampling farmers’ fields. Goodall said through Roots and Shoots the two could be connected and discuss their problems together.

“Roots and Shoots is about growing the family of man,” she said.

A local Roots and Shoots group has already been running for several years in Canyon-Lister Elementary School.

The program runs from pre-kindergarten all the way to university, and has been expanded for adults in prisons and seniors’ homes around the world. For more information on Roots and Shoots visit www.rootsandshoots.ca.

Susie MacDonald, program director for CBEEN’s Wild Voices for Kids addressed the group of students after Goodall and told them about local projects that fit in with the Roots and Shoots mandate available in the Columbia Basin, from bat box building to stream keeping. The full list of available projects is available at cbeen.org/action.