BY EMILY WHITSTON-LEE ON JULY 29, 2019
Emily is a member of the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand's National Youth Leadership Council.
As you must be aware recently New Zealand was lucky enough to have Dr. Jane Goodall come by our shores. Throughout her visit I was lucky enough to not only hear her words (more on those to come), but to also see how people responded to her. For me my ‘Week with Dr. Jane’ started in Wellington at the last climate march.
Arriving in Wellington early I found the startings of the student climate change march, and curious I stuck around and joined them. The phrase youthquake has been around since the 1960’s, but in 2017 it was deemed word of the year. Seeing children who were five or six marching alongside all ages and kinds of people asserted why. These generations are fighting for what they deserve. A planet which is able to take care of them. Signs varied from heartfelt pleas to Prime Minister Jacinda Arden to declare a climate emergency, to one of my personal favourites, which claimed that ‘Dumbledore would have never let this happen’. Whilst we cannot be sure how Professor Dumbledore would have addressed climate change, we can be sure that with young people vocal and fighting for their right to have a home planet that can support and sustain us for the long term he would have no choice but stop, listen and be inspired.
The Governor General’s House
Despite being exhausted from marching to Parliament in shoes that really were not fit for the job, in the evening came another chance to see inspiration occur. This was through a reception held at the Governor General’s house, celebrating the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand and Dr. Jane. Walking into this event was daunting to say the least, with everyone dressed to the nines, and no idea who was who. Thankfully, I almost immediately started talking with some of the students who had been invited and was again overwhelmed by the drive and passion of the generation, learning about the sustainability projects that they were implementing in schools. Then we got to the main event. Hearing Dr. Jane speak. And it was incredible, to put it mildly. Seeing a room rapt as absolute silence fell, and soft-spoken Dr. Jane spoke about her journey and her passion to see change. This speech concluded with a phrase I would hear several times over the next few days – “Together we can! Together we will!”. Although this phrase was a constant throughout Dr. Jane’s talks each time it was used it elicited the same reaction as this first time I heard it – an impassioned response of “Together we can! Together we will!”. It was also here that I got to meet Dr. Jane and take a photo I look awful in, but will cherish for the rest of my days, as it is so rare to meet someone as truly inspirational as she is.
For me, this was the big event in my time with Dr. Jane. Auckland’s Aotea square was filled to the brim with people wanting to hear about Dr. Jane’s life, and her message of conservation. If you purchased any of the merchandise that night, hello again! And thank you for your support, you definitely kept us busy. It was in this talk that I was first introduced to all of Dr. Jane’s travelling companions, toys which illustrate her points, whilst never feeling like being condemned. Something small which resonated with me was hearing Dr. Jane talk about an early love of Tarzan and the Apes inspiring some of her love of animals (Tarzan was a favourite film growing up, although I will warn you, the book has not aged well). Incidentally, I rewatched the film the other day, and noticed that in scenes Gorillas are seen to be using tools, something which after hearing Dr. Jane talk I then knew was due to her contributions to the study of primates. We also got to watch a video of Dr. Jane and rehabilitated chimp, Wounda – if you can watch this without shedding a tear I am in awe of you. Seeing Aotea theatre full of people who care about our planet, and all who inhabit it provided me with my third hit of inspiration in two days, I headed home on cloud nine.
Day three! Here we saw Dr. Jane addressing school students who had gathered for the Climate Change conference at Auckland University. Dr. Jane addressing student questions directly, as well as spotlighting a story which had moved her to action on these speaking tours. This story was about how Dr. Jane realised she has a platform to talk about climate change after speaking with Inuit elders in Greenland, and how they told her that icecaps which they had known to stay frozen year-round were now melting. When students asked Dr. Jane about New Zealand problems, such as dairy farming, Dr. Jane was clear, New Zealand has to solve their own problems. And seeing the faces that were enraptured throughout this talk, scribbling notes as fast as their hands would allow I personally felt confident that with this generation New Zealand’s problems could not be entrusted to anyone better, and I went about my day continuing to ride the inspiration that Dr. Jane and the students had given me.
This was my last stop on my tour following Dr. Jane. On this evening students and parents assembled at Kristin school to hear Dr. Jane speak. Kristin school itself has a thriving Roots & Shoots programme, which facilitates students giving back to both the community and the environment. Here Dr. Jane addressed students with reality, but also a message of hope from my perspective. As with the Climate March which started off my Dr. Jane tour all ages were present and engaged, and all were lucky enough to get a share of the inspiration that Dr. Jane’s speeches are imbibed with. It was here that it finally happened, my inspiration tank was full, and the world seemed even more magical.
Seeing a room full of people who are inspired to make a change is in my opinion when change begins, and so to everyone whose inspiration to make a change was sparked by Dr. Jane’s words, actions and legacy together we can, and together we will turn those sparks into flames. Dr. Jane has said that “The head and heart need to work in harmony to attain our true potential”, and her inspiration targets our hearts, and now we need to use our heads. Let’s all put our heads together and do something, because each of us taking one small action can have one huge impact.