Roots and Shoots: The Story of Jane Goodall's Grand Project

Roots and Shoots: The Story of Jane Goodall's Grand Project

We've all heard of Jane Goodall. She's arguably the most famous scientist of our time. Her years in Gombe National Park opened the lives of chimpanzees to humanity. We learned about their tool use, meat-eating, and warfare, among many other discoveries.

But there was a key factor in making Jane Goodall a star. In 1962, a filmmaker and photographer named Hugo van Lawick traveled to Gombe with the intention of filming the chimpanzees Jane Goodall was studying. This photographer saw that the chimpanzees were interesting, but he also realized that telling Jane's story was equally captivating. He encountered a young, charming, and charismatic woman. Everyone who knows Jane says she exudes peace, that she has an angelic quality. Furthermore, she was a scientist studying these chimpanzees with whom she connected. It was the perfect story.

So he made a documentary series for television not only about the chimpanzees but also about Jane, titled Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees. It was a huge success. Just three years after starting her study of chimpanzees, Jane Goodall was already becoming well-known.

This is an example of the importance of storytelling in science. Probably, if van Lawick hadn't made this documentary, Jane Goodall would be well-recognized and famous within the academic world, but she wouldn't have reached society as widely, as is the case with most scientists who conduct incredible research but remain relatively unknown.

Jane's great merit is that she knew how to leverage her influence to make significant changes and became an icon for conservation, education, and human rights advocacy. But she didn't do this alone; she mobilized thousands of people because, to her, everyone can make a difference.

One of her most important projects is Roots and Shoots. It began in 1991 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in a humble manner. Goodall had been traveling and giving talks for a while, and in one of them, she met twelve students who had a special interest. They approached her because they were concerned about certain issues: some about illegal fishing that was destroying coral reefs with dynamite, others about animal cruelty in markets, and others about illegal hunting in National Parks.

Jane Goodall recalls telling them, "Why don't you go back to your school, gather friends who feel the same as you, and we'll meet to discuss what we can do." That was the first Roots and Shoots meeting, which involved 30 people. The first project they undertook was cleaning a beach. People laughed at them. Why are you doing this if it's not going to change anything?

As Jane Goodall explains, the name "Roots and Shoots" is a metaphor:

"Imagine a big tree. When it starts to grow, from a tiny seed emerges a small stem with a small root. If you could hold it, it would seem insignificant to you, but you know there is a powerful force there. Those roots can reach water and move rocks, and that stem with sunlight can reach the cracks of a brick and eventually break it. The rocks and bricks are the problems that humans have inflicted on nature."

Roots and Shoots' philosophy is based on the idea that every individual is important, every individual has a role to play, and every individual can make a difference, regardless of their age or background. Its three key pillars are:

  • caring for people
  • caring for animals
  • caring for the environment

Understanding environmental issues is considered crucial. Roots and Shoots encourages young people to conduct a community needs assessment to help them identify locally relevant projects. Then, it's time to take action. Community work and project assessments facilitate a deep understanding of local environmental issues. Finally, these experiences create community connections that foster compassion and inspire further community service and activism.

Thirty years after its inception, Roots and Shoots has grown worldwide. Nowadays, the program operates in 130 countries and has over 150,000 participants. Slowly but surely, the small shoot is becoming a beautiful tree.

Artigo anteriorWhat you need to know before going to see killer whales
Próximo artigo3 Hotels with sustainable practices in Gran Canaria!