One of my dreams in life is to be like the wonderful explorers and conservationists that I see on PBS Nature programs, and that I’ve come to know through books. There are so many people out there doing good for our world, helping to save wildlife and protect land from development. One such person who has had an impact on me is Jane Goodall.
A few summers ago I read Reason For Hope: A Spiritual Journey by Jane Goodall. I was profoundly moved by Jane’s words about her life and work with the Chimpanzees of Gombe. I’ve always had a love for all wildlife, but never really appreciated apes until reading about Jane’s work with them. What I found was a very unique, intelligent and dynamic animal, who shared many of the same emotions that we ourselves do.
Jane was born and raised in London, and from the time she was little she was fascinationed by animals. When she was one-year old her father gave her a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee, which was created to celebrate the birth of the real Jubilee, the first chimp to be born in the London Zoo. Jubilee became Jane’s favorite childhood companion, and still travels around the world with her today. Jane writes that it was the family she was born into, and the experiences she had as a young girl, like reading in the trees outside her window, that ultimately shaped her life. An invitation from one of her friends to visit Africa set her life’s journey in motion.
What I love most about Jane Goodall is her undying energy for saving not only chimpanzees, but all wild creatures and places. She is well into her seventies now, yet still travels the world lecturing and teaching people about the importance of conservation. She is also a very peaceful person. If you have ever heard her talk she has such a gentle voice, but one that evokes powerful ideas. Although her life, like anyone’s, has been riddled with suffering and pain from the loss of people and animals she has loved, she continues to remain hopeful. I think hope is not something easily maintained in today’s world. Jane always tries to tell herself before something stressful, “By this time tomorrow (or next week, or whenever,) and it will all be over.” She also relies on this spiritual quote: “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” She carries with her a peace from the forest. I too, find peace and strength from nature…even if its just sitting outside and closing my eyes, feeling a gentle breeze, the birds singing around me and listening to the “talk” of nature which makes me feel so alive.
When we believe in something and feel so passionately for it, we will fight for it. I am grateful to Jane Goodall and the many others like her that continue to fight for our wild places and continue to defend and care for animals. I hope that others too will be inspired to carry on the works of these people, and continue to fight against the war on our environment. I hope that each of us will do our own parts, however small, each day to help protect the places we love that are close to us, or worlds away. I hope that we will always have hope to keep on, like Jane.
“As long as I live I shall continue to spread awareness about the true nature of animals, the extent of their suffering, and our responsibilities toward them.”
Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man is a well researched and in-depth biography of Jane, from her beginnings to her most recent work. The author begins in the prologue with an image of Jane as she steps onto stage to give a lecture, and offers a “greeting from the chimpanzees: noisy inhalations and hooting exhalations building in volume and climaxing into screams. Only Jane could do this!
I love when we can get a closer look into someone’s life by their correspondence. Some of my most empassioned reading has been through the letters and diaries of such people like Sylvia Plath and Edith Wharton. Africa in my Blood: An Autobiography in Letter, The Early Years gives the reader a look into the mind and life of Jane Goodall through her letters to friends, family, and even her pets, like Pickles the cat.
Beyond Innocence: An Autobiography in Letters, The Later Years is the follow up companion to the first set of letters. It includes a chapter and several letters on Jane’s heartbreaking witness and discovery of cruelty among her beloved chimps. She witnessed several attacks among the chimps, including kidnapping of babies and cannibalism. The letters reveal that Jane is deeply disturbed by the behavior.
Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe takes a close look at Jane’s experiences in the wildes of Africa. I love how she starts almost all her books with a single image, like in this one when she is waking up at dawn in the jungle: “All around, the trees were still shrouded with the last mysteries of the night’s dreaming. It was very quiet, utterly peaceful…the occasional chirp of a cricket, and the soft murmur where the lake caressed the shingle.”
Hope for Animals and Their World is Jane’s newest book release. I love Jane’s dedication of the book to “the memory of Martha, the last passenger pigeon and to the last Miss Waldron’s colobus and the last Yangtze River dolphin. As we think of their lonley end, may we be inspired to work harder to prevent others suffering a similar fate.” Jane travels all over the world exploring the work that is being done to save animals from the brink of extinction. She meets many incredible people and animals along the way. An inspirational read!
I adore the two new children’s books about Jane that we’ve added to OWL’s children’s collection: Me…Jane, a picture book biography about her life (there’s a note from the Jane in the back too!) and The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps, a more detailed biography. Both books have great illustrations.
Sarai is the Publicity Coordinator/Library Assistant who believes, like Jane, that even small steps make a big difference.