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Old 07-06-2005
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Default Jane Goodall - When Peace Comes

Jane Goodall - When Peace Comes
Tuesday, 05 July 2005

This past 4th of July weekend, rather than doing the usual "get drunk, hang out by the beach and watch the fireworks" routine, my sister and I decided to do something very different. We hopped in a car and drove to Boulder, Colorado for the "When Peace Comes" workshop, featuring wellness guru Brian Luke Seaward, actor Michael York (Basil from Austin Powers, among many other roles) and last but certainly not least, Jane Goodall.

You may or may not know who Jane Goodall is. She was made famous years ago for studying chimps in Gombe, Africa. (Not monkeys - monkeys have tails - and not gorillas, that was Dian Fossey.) While many people recognize her name from her work with the chimps, she has worked extensively to promote peace on all levels. In fact, in 2002, Jane was appointed a United Nations Messenger of Peace, among many other accomplishments.

I won't spend a lot of time talking about her history, since all of that and more is available on the Jane Goodall Institute website at - but I did want to tell you a little bit about the peace workshop.

It took us about 20 hours to reach Boulder by car - over 5 hours more than we had expected, so we didn't get in until about 4AM Saturday. Registration was at 8:30, so you can imagine we were pretty pooped.

It started off with Brian Luke doing an intro and expressing thanks, at which point Michael York got up and spoke for a little bit. I sensed that he was perhaps asked to do that particular part of the workshop somewhat last minute, as his presentation seemed less focused than I would have expected, meandering here and there. That said, he was funny and sincere, and admitted that he isn't an expert in this field, which I deeply respect. (He did the narration for Jane's latest DVD, which is why he was there. He does have such a mellifluous and dreamy voice.)

After his part, Michael and Jane signed autographs and we got the chance to meet with them briefly. I always feel like a jackass when I have to meet famous people with only a moment or two to talk. Its not because I am star-struck, but more because I feel as though I only have this brief moment of time to make an impact. The stress usually gets the better of me and I sound like a babbling moron, but what can ya do, right?

Next up was Jane - who was... simply amazing. Just to be in the presence of such greatness makes one greater themselves, I think. She spoke about a variety of topics, all relating to peace - most specifically peace with the animals and peace with the environment. She also spoke briefly about genetically modified foods (which will be discussed in much more detail in her upcoming book) and animal testing.

Talking about global peace (political, environmental, inner, etc.) is harder than it sounds. The concept of world peace is just so... BIG - so much bigger than all of us that it seems as if our own tiny lives can't possibly have an impact on The Big PictureTM. We have all heard the "butterfly flapping its wings" analogy, but to cynics like me, it can be hard to accept that concept. Its not that I don't want to believe it - I do. But its a struggle.

Just before Jane was finished speaking, I felt both utterly inspired and desperately depressed. I wanted to change the world, but found myself missing the tools and practical applications that would let me do that. I felt that everything I was already doing simply wasn't enough, but was unsure of what else I could do. And perhaps most devastating of all, I felt that all hope was lost, and that the damage we have already done to each other and the earth was too extensive. We had missed our chance to make amends.

Reasons for Hope?
Jane closed with what she calls her "reasons for hope". While her list of reasons for hope was slightly abbreviated (since they would be doing the formal presentation later that night), I struggled with a few of them.

She spoke of how humans have such amazing brains that she finds hope in the fact that we can come up with ways to improve the planet, stop animal testing, etc. Unfortunately, the amazing brains we have don't fill me with hope, but rather fear and despair, because I know damn well what those amazing brains wind up doing: finding new ways to exploit people and the planet for financial gain. So while our brains may be amazing, that particular reason couldn't break through my thick skin.

Her second reason for hope is the determination of young people. I struggle with this one all the time, for despite the fact that I do know that young people, when given the chance, can do such wonderful, powerful things, I also see the horrible things they do every day, and the way that so many of them are losing their sense of morality and compassion. This, of course, is due to the fact that parents these days seem to think that raising a child is a spectator sport, and are quite content to park them in front of a television set or PS2, rather than be forced into actually having a conversation, or (God forbid) reading to them. And the reality is that its not likely to change anytime soon, as people continue to alienate themselves from their communities and continue having babies when they do not have the skills, money, or desire to care for them properly. So that second reason didn't really fill me with much hope either.

Her third reason for hope is the indomitable human spirit. Once again, while I know that there are truly extraordinary people out there, my disappointment in human nature is renewed every single day. Like Jane, I too have met some amazing people on my journey, but it always seems as though the bad far outnumber the good, and I am always left feeling that it won't be enough.

Her fourth reason for hope is the one that actually raised my spirits and made me think that we might have a chance of making things better. She spoke of the incredible resilience of nature. She writes, "I have visited Nagasaki, site of the second atomic bomb that ended World War II. Scientists had predicted that nothing could grow there for at least 30 years. But, amazingly, greenery grew very quickly. One sapling actually managed to survive the bombing, and today it is a large tree, with great cracks and fissures, all black inside; but that tree still produces leaves. I carry one of those leaves with me as a powerful symbol of hope. I have seen such renewals time and again, including animal species brought back from the brink of extinction."

It occurred to me that I see this resilience over and over as well. In the areas of southern California where wildfires raged, leaving the earth black and lifeless, there is now green. I see this too in the powerful wills of some the animals that have been so viciously abused by man. Where they were once hanging onto life by a thread, they are now flourishing in new homes with families that give them the love and protection they deserve. And perhaps another reason for hope that can be seen in the lives of these animals is nature's seemingly impossible ability to forgive. When I look into the eyes of animals that have suffered through even the most brutal attack or the most vile neglect, and I see gratitude and joy instead of anger and hatred, that gives me hope. If humans were able to forgive so much pain, perhaps we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now.

I hope someday to possess the amazing sense of inner peace, strength and power that Jane embodies. When she speaks, it is so clear that she truly believes that we can and shall save the world. I'm not there yet. I still find myself scratching, clawing and biting for every scrap of inspiration and faith I can get, every day trying to convince myself that its all worth it, and that it really does make a difference.

One of the things that sets JGI apart from some of the other organizations out there is that JGI understands that in order to fix something, you need to look at it as a whole, and not just fix the symptoms. A good example is how they hired the locals (effectively, the poachers) in Gombe. Jane understands that most people don't poach because they are evil - they poach so that they can feed their families. When you give them an alternate way to make a living, many of them gladly accept it.

This is a point that always gave me a migraine while working at Tiger Rescue. We would get these bright-eyed volunteers who meant well, but clearly couldn't see the whole picture. We would field comments like "I want to create a sanctuary for tigers with a breeding program to release them into the wild and prevent their extinction." Noble aspirations, without a doubt - but until the socio-economic issues surrounding these areas are addressed, releasing more into the wild simply means more will be killed. Poachers can feed their families for a month on just one tiger carcass, and until these people are given alternate ways to feed their children, the poaching will not stop. Additionally, releasing more tigers into a shrinking habitat makes no sense either. If habitat loss is affecting what few tigers we have left in the wild, how could adding more predators into the mix possibly be a good idea?

A balance has to be found if we have any hope of being successful in our efforts to protect these animals - and without our protection, their fate is surely sealed. JGI has done such a wonderful job of showing that when you address the problem as a whole, you can see real, lasting results. Is it always that easy? Of course not. Corruption and politics are always nearby to make a mess out of even the best plans - but this course of action is the only one that will actually work in any kind of long-term capacity.

There is so much more to say, but I fear that this has been long and rambling enough as it is. While this kind of a conference isn't exactly easy on the soul, I am so glad we went. Brian Luke followed up on Sunday with some relaxation and introspection exercises, which certainly helped ease some of the stress. The conference was a bleak reminder of how bad things have been permitted to get, but in the same breath, when someone like Jane Goodall truly believes we can save the world, who am I to argue? I wouldn't call the weekend uplifting, but it was absolutely thought-provoking and somber - for me, at least. It served as a reminder that although I am immersed in my organization and trying to improve the planet that way, I must not neglect my other obligations to the earth, and that I should be making an effort every day to leave as small of a footprint as possible.

If you're interested in seeing more of the great things that the Jane Goodall Institute is doing, including their TACARE ('Take Care') program and their fantastic Roots and Shoots program, visit their website at
-- A. Gianotto

R.I.P. Susan Caskey AKA "Critterfuz": April 1970 - Dec 2007.
R.I.P. Keegan Merrick AKA "RichmondACO": July 1977 - Jan 2009.

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Old 07-13-2005
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Thanks for this A. Gianotto Jane seems like an amazing person.

On a side note..I have been trying to watch all of the Dian fossey movie. But everytime it was on TV, I was on-call and of course usually right in the middle of cell would ring and have to go out on a call and ending up missing the other half of the movie *L* I swear..I have started to watch that movie 4 times and have not be able to finish it *L*

Anyhoo..happy to hear that you and your sister had a great time

"The greatness of a nation and it's moral progress can be judged by the way it's animals are treated".

"Saving just one pet won't change the world, but, surely the world will change for that one pet." You might be the only love they know in their life.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly

You can either be the cure or the disease.
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