“If we keep on separating head from heart, I don’t know how long we’ll last.” Those were the words that Jane Goodall left us with in Arusha.
It’s not often that you get to share a small audience with one of the world’s greatest minds. So when we had the opportunity to have dinner with Jane Goodall in the heart of Africa, we couldn’t say no.
We found out Jane was in Tanzania just 48 hours before she was to speak in Arusha. The world’s foremost researcher on chimpanzees was hosting a fundraising dinner just an hour’s drive from Moshi.
Jane’s love for Africa began after reading Tarzan of the Apes. She joked that Tarzan had married the wrong Jane.
The girls were enthralled by stories Jane told from her research, which was the first to prove chimps have emotions and personalities. But they were equally interested to hear Jane’s thoughts on the threats that chimps face today.
Deforestation and an appetite for bush meat are contributing to the declining chimpanzee population in East Africa. Medical research and the entertainment industry are also factors.
Conservation efforts aimed at animals will not be effective unless we find solutions to help people struggling to survive near chimp habitat. Jane says we need to improve the lives of people if we hope to preserve animal habitat and the environment.
We also need to stop being so greedy in the West.
“The most intellectual creature on the planet is destroying its only home,” Jane reminded us. Our incessant need to consume more stuff has global impacts that are beginning to affect us all.
The attitude that business knows best fuels our need to consume, as well as our short-term view of the future. “Only when we have heart and mind working together, can we create our best world,” Jane said.
I loved how Jane linked the need for development in Africa with protecting our environment. Our short, two months on the continent have ingrained within our minds the disparity that exists between the West and the rest of the world. But we also see many things that can be done if the world decides to work together.
I was proud of Sophie for being brave enough to ask a question during the Q&A session at the end of Jane’s talk. She used a microphone in front of the 40-odd person audience to clarify how many chimps we have lost since Jane began studying them. Jane responded that Tanzania had two million chimps when she first arrived, but now the population is between 250,000 and 300,000.
At the end of the session the girls got up to meet Jane. We had bought one of her books through a fundraising auction, and she signed it for them. She told the girls, “Together we can make the world a better place.”
I know the girls realize that meeting Jane was important, but I’m sure when they are older they will understand its significance that much more. It was an incredible evening, and definitely a highlight of the trip!