Jane Goodall says Expo City Dubai centre will 'make a difference to the planet'

Renowned conservationist to open first office in the region where students will take on environmental projects

Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots opens in Expo City Dubai

Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots opens in Expo City Dubai
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Acclaimed conservationist Jane Goodall has said her planned office in Dubai would empower young people to “actually make a difference to the planet”.

She announced plans on Monday to open the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots programme at the Sustainability Pavilion, otherwise known as Terra, at Expo City Dubai.

Speaking to The National on Monday, Dr Goodall said it would help young people to better understand and address environmental challenges.

The centre will be the latest addition to the other environmental, animal welfare and youth outreach initiatives she has launched in 70 countries.

“It’s about hope. Every individual makes an impact on the planet every single day and can choose what sort of impact they make,” she said.

“It [the centre] will give them values that they take with them when they move out and beyond from Roots & Shoots.”

The programme began in Tanzania, where it grew from just 12 high-school students and now has community engagement from across the world, welcoming people of all ages to address environmental and humanitarian challenges.

Members range from kindergarten pupils to university students and staff in multinational corporations.

Fragile desert

The prominent primatologist said it was critical for people to safeguard the desert’s fragile ecosystem.

“I know that it looks like miles and miles of sand dune, but there is actually vibrant animal life, little creatures that live under the ground in the daytime and come out at night,” she said.

“Sometimes people destroy that fragile ecosystem. So if something is beautiful and not very well known then it’s very important to preserve it.”

She said it was important for young people to follow what they are passionate about.

“The message I would like to give all the children is follow your dreams and even if people laugh at you, just hang in there,” she said.

“But on the other hand if it goes wrong and you find that maybe this wasn’t quite what you wanted to do - don’t feel that it’s bad to change direction.”

She said her mother supported her childhood dream of travelling to Africa and living with wild animals.

Her imagination was roused as a young girl reading books on Tarzan who she describes as the “glorious lord of the jungle".

Dr Goodall’s mother then told her she could achieve this with hard work by seizing every opportunity.

“When I was 10 years old I fell in love with Tarzan,” she said earlier in a press conference at Expo City Dubai.

“That was my dream, to grow up, go to Africa and live with wild animals and write books about them.”

Her work in Gombe National Park in Tanzania 60-plus years ago is widely regarded as having shaped our understanding of apes.

Landmark research

She spoke of how she saved money and at the age of 26 reached Gombe Chimpanzee Reserve.

Her landmark research on wild chimpanzees making and using tools challenged the conventional thinking of the time.

Dr Goodall’s study broke down an imagined line that science had once maintained separating humans from the rest of the animal kingdom.

When defending her findings at Cambridge in the 1961, she proved wrong academics who questioned her logic in naming the chimpanzees and attributing emotions and intellect to them.

“The very first thing I realised is how like us they are in so many ways with kissing, embracing, holding hands, the males competing for dominance and swaggering, the long-term bonds between family members,” she said.

“At Cambridge, I was told I had done everything wrong – that chimpanzees shouldn’t have names and I couldn’t talk about them having personalities, minds, emotions, because those are unique to humans.

“So I got my PhD in spite of the professors.”

Her work extended to not only protecting the chimpanzees but also the poor forest communities who cut trees for money to feed their families.

“That’s when it hit me that if we don’t find a way to help these people to find a way to make a living without destroying the environment, we can’t save the planet,” she said.

“My best days were in Gombe with the chimpanzees out in the rainforest having a real connection with the beautiful ecosystem, learning how every little species has a role to play.”

Reasons for hope

Dr Goodall said she often tells young people that it is not too late to act to protect nature.

“For me the most urgent thing I have to do with the last years of my life is to grow this programme,” the 89-year-old said about the Dubai centre.

“If we don’t have hope we are doomed. My reasons for [having] hope are young people and the resilience of nature.”

Roots & Shoots UAE will offer workshops on tree-planting, beekeeping and conservation within the Expo City site and in schools, and provide resources for teachers and the community.

Marjan Faraidooni, chief of education and culture at Expo City Dubai, said the collaboration was key to growing the area as a hub for climate solutions.

“It will empower youth in the UAE to become environmental stewards with exciting learning opportunities outside the classroom,” she said.

“Roots & Shoots UAE will be a hub for co-operation, enhancing the aim of the wider global initiative to reach even more youth across the environmental and animal welfare field.”

Updated: March 28, 2024, 11:59 AM