Jane Goodall at 80: “Make the world a better place”

Daniel Sendecki April 3, 2014 4

Jane Goodall’s observations of tool-using chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park demonstrated our connection to our planet and changed the very definition of what it means to be human.

Today, the world-renowned conservationist travels more than 300 days a year, spreading her message of peaceful co-existence with nature and one another. She is proof that travel—and travellers—can change the world.

This past Monday, Dr Goodall released her latest book, Seeds of Hope: Wisdom & Wonder From the World of Plants, giving readers an uncommon glimpse into the botanical life of our world. And today, she celebrates her 80th birthday.

“All this hype about being 80 is absurd,” she told The Gazette’s Michelle Lalonde from the gym of Montreal’s Loyola high school earlier this week. “The older I get, the less time there is, so whatever time I have is getting shorter. And there is just so much to do.”

Jane G copy

Spreading an urgent message

Goodall maintains a busy schedule. When she isn’t travelling the globe for speaking engagements, she’s raising awareness for the many causes supported by the non-profit organization that bears her name. That means she hasn’t had a vacation since 1986, when she traded her role as a researcher for full-time travel in an effort to call attention to the problems humans have inflicted on our planet.

This globetrotting expert on our primate ancestors shows no sign of slowing down, and today communicates an even greater sense of urgency in her lectures on environmentalism, wildlife protection, and our need for change.

“The world is a mess, there’s no question about it,“ she says, “but my biggest reason for hope in the future is the imagination we possess to find solutions to the problems we’ve created.”

Travel can change the world

When asked if travel can play a significant role in preserving our planet, Dr Goodall underlines the importance tourism plays in achieving conservation goals. With more and more people choosing styles of travel that bring them closer to wildlife in remote destinations, we know that, increasingly, travellers are interested in seeing the natural world, and therefore, in protecting it.

When natural environments are valued, people at all levels are more invested in protecting them—and conservation efforts are more likely to be met with support. At the same time, tourism empowers local communities by creating new economies and income-generating activities. In this way, tourism offers the best of both worlds—it creates jobs for local people in struggling communities while mitigating damage to the natural environment.

The Jane Goodall Institute

Today, the Jane Goodall Institute supports a range of global projects including community-based conservation initiatives, chimpanzee sanctuaries, primatology research, a youth empowerment program called Roots & Shoots, and micro-credit programs to support sustainable businesses founded by women.

Goodall speaks passionately about the urgent need to have a positive impact, regardless of its scope or scale. “Many, especially young people, feel hopeless and helpless because they have lost all hope for the future,” she says.

Goodall may be turning 80, but through her non-stop tours, she serves as a powerful reminder that, regardless of age, travel—and travellers—can make a difference.

“It’s simply not true that we can’t do anything about [the state of the world]. If you care about the future, then discover your passion, get off your stump, and make the world a better place.”

Learn about programs and volunteer opportunities at the Jane Goodall Institute.


Dr Jane doesn’t want presents for her birthday; just your promise for a more sustainable future by helping advance the projects set up by the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada. Send her a birthday wish here.

4 Comments »

  1. David Bentworth April 3, 2014 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Top lady. She’s up there with Dave Attenborough in the very short list of people that have inspired me.

  2. Kathy Rymes April 3, 2014 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    I will never forget the first time I saw you speak after years of teaching my biology students about you and your work. I was so overcome with emotion, I could barely speak. I managed to say, “I have waited so long to meet you” and you held my hand and said “And now you must help us.” That moment remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and rivaled only when I received not one, but two personal mailings from you in response to a card and letter I left for you. Thank you for being such an inspiration to so many woman and future scientists. You are the wind beneath many, many wings.

  3. Brianna April 4, 2014 at 7:23 am - Reply

    Dr. Goodall has always been one of my personal heroes.

  4. Monnette April 4, 2014 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Wow! She’s 80 and yet she travels a lot!

Leave A Response »