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Goodall Lecture Promotes Conservation and Peace

September 10, 2009 – When primatologist Jane Goodall, famous for her conservation work with chimpanzees, stood before a Georgetown audience on Sept. 9, she greeted the crowd with a call straight from the primates she works tirelessly to protect.

Low and deep, and then with a fast crescendo, Goodall puffed her chest and hooted, “Hoo-a, hoo-a, ooh, ooh, ooooh.”

“That’s especially for you people in the back because it’s the (chimpanzee) distance call,” Goodall told the rapt Gaston Hall audience. “For me, it’s one of the most evocative sounds of the African forest.”

Goodall came to Georgetown for a lecture and a book signing co-sponsored by 10 university and student groups, several of which have an environmental focus. Goodall’s newest book is Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species are Being Rescued from the Brink.

Goodall: Conservation Cannot Wait

By evoking the voice of chimpanzees Goodall provided a glimpse into her work for those who have never traveled to the African woodlands or experienced the conservation crisis that is ravaging habitats.

The world cannot afford to ignore animals’ plights, whether it is the illegal hunting of chimps or the disappearing food source for American burying beetles, because nature exists on a delicate balance, Goodall said.

“We do not yet know the effect which may be caused by removing one small and seemingly insignificant creature from the ecosystem, and yet there have been demonstrations of how this can lead to complete collapse of an ecosystem,” she explained.

As a witness to disappearing rainforests, melting icebergs and other environmental blows, Goodall bemoaned disregard for unsustainable living.

“Given that we humans are, without question, the most intellectually superior being that has ever walked the planet, how come we destroy this planet?” Goodall asked.

Putting Conservation in the Next Generation’s Hands

Goodall said younger generations play an important role in protecting species and the planet.

“If new generations aren’t being raised to be better stewards than we’ve been, there is no point to any of these efforts to save any of these animals or any of this environment,” she said.

That message hit home with Georgetown anthropology major Julia Schindel (C’10), who said no one should walk out of Goodall’s speech uninspired.

“If she hasn’t lost hope after seeing forests destroyed and species decimated, then who am I to leave this room without hope?” Schindel said.

Goodall encouraged Georgetown students to get involved through the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots and Shoots, a program that encourages positive changes developed by local populations. Roots and Shoots operates in 111 countries, and each chapter addresses the intertwining goals of making the world a better place for people, animals and the environment.

Children from the local Washington chapter flew a giant peace dove toward the end of the lecture in Gaston Hall. The dove, a soaring puppet made from recycled sheets, promotes the United Nations International Day of Peace on Sept. 20.

“If we don’t dare to envision peace,” Goodall said, “peace will never come.”

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