More from Jane Goodall’s Speech, 5/5/2010

Back to Chicago on May 5, Goodall stepped to the podium exuding dignity, grace and a knowledge of her own place in the global ecosystem–and relating the story of her life, career and her partnership with Rishi Tea.

“The whole story starts off when I was a little girl in England, very poor and loving animals; mother found me books to read about animals because she thought I’d learn quicker that way,” she related, strong and simply, from the podium. “That was when I had a dream I would grow up to go to Africa and live with animals and write books about them. I knew there was no Tarzan but knew there were animals there.

“I was the wrong sex and girls simply didn’t do things like that back when I was 11 years old, but my mother didn’t laugh at me; she said, ‘If there’s something you want, work hard and never give up, you will find a way.”

And she did: “I was working in London and got a letter inviting me to Kenya; then went home and worked as a waitress for six months to get money together. So, off I went, and I can still think back to the excitement of that moment when ship took off and I was waving goodbye to family and friends; what an amazing adventure.

“I was lucky enough to hear about Louis Leakey…he gave me the opportunity to study not just any animal, but one just like us,” said Goodall, continuing a bit later. “Looking back over the years it’s the ways they resemble us that’s the most striking. The biological similarities are incredible; just differ in DNA  by one-percent, but the brain of is similar to ours in structure and anatomy.”

Goodall would go on to patiently study chimpanzees as her life’s work, advancing the field of primate search most famously by proving that the chimpanzees used tools, in the shape of blades of grass as ant-eating utensils. “We didn’t know very much about chimpanzees. They were animals in a zoo, sometimes in a circus. [They were] famous for performing at chimpanzee tea parties. They quite clearly enjoyed tea,” and she said the last with a smile, also relating what Leakey said to her after she related this discovery: “He said, ‘Now, we muse redefine tool, redefine man, or accept chimpanzees as humans.’

In the decades since, that hasn’t exactly happened. “If we don’t take care, in 50 years, there will only be isolated pockets of chimpanzees left in the world. The commercial hunting of bush meat is very different from subsistence hunting, people struggling to survive. There are more people than the land could support, so how could we think of protecting the chimpanzees when the people are looking into an oasis from an almost desert?

“The TACARE (Take Care) program effort by an NGO to come at it from different angles; anxious to help chimpanzees and the environment. [It's] an effort to improve the lives of the villagers around Gombe Stream National Park with tree nurseries, allowing trees to regnerate around the village, regenerating farm land, introducing water projects, sanitation projects, building school. We didn’t build the schools but we managed to find the money and the villagers built the schools.

“One of the most successful elements we introduced is micro credit, enabling groups of women to take out tiny loans and the projects must be shown to be environmentally sustainable. Breeding chickens and selling eggs or a tree nursery; [they] pay it back and can take out another small loan. These people are proud because they’ve done it themselves; it’s their hard work.”

“Tea doesn’t grow around Gombe; what we had high in the hills there was very good coffee. I was talking to growers and asked them to come and see the coffee, and we found it was fantastic coffee, Gombi Reserve, which you can still buy. We sell 400 tons of coffee a year,” continued Goodall. “Now, I look out at Gombe and where there had been bare hills, there are now trees 30-40 feet high. It’s helping the chimpanzees and the people, too.

“[We're] using Google Earth to train local people to monitor success they have in protecting and restoring their forest, enabling them to get some of this money that comes in from carbon trading. If they can prove they’re stopping attrition of the forest, they can be eligible for some of the money. We’ve developed this holistic program; ends up it’s one of the best in Africa. This is success, but it’s like a drop in the ocean. Right across Africa, chimpanzees are vanishing and forests are being cut down.

“[There's] a bad effect some big corporations are having on Africa,” said Goodall. “The more I learn about totally unethical values of some of these corporations, the more I want to work with companies like Rishi Tea, which is not exploiting people and the developing world.

“How much longer can we go on beleaguering Mother earth before she finds it impossible to heal the harms we’ve inflicted? Important we get together to prevent that from happening. Roots and Shoots is hope. Hundreds of thousands of young people around the planet can break thorugh; every individual makes a difference ever day. We have a choice; what impact will we make? Will we choose to buy responsibly produced products such as Rishi Tea, such as our coffee? Will it cost us more money to buy organically grown food? Yes. If we spend money, don’t you think we’ll appreciate a little more the food we buy and think about these farmers struggling to survive.

Random Factoids:

**In china alone over 300 distinct teabush varietals and several thousand hybrid varietals.

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