The Jane Effect

Last month, hubby and I went to a Jane Goodall lecture.

Some of my friends will be shocked that I would even go hear Goodall, because her worldview is so different from their own. Other friends will be envious. Some wouldn’t care either way.

I’ve never been of the opinion that friends must agree on everything, or even most things. Really, all that’s required is common courtesy and respect. I actually enjoy discussing things we disagree on. Sometimes, I learn where I’m wrong about something. Sometimes, I’m able to help someone else see something in a new way. Often, we just agree to disagree, and that’s okay, too. At least we can understand one another a little better. That will never happen without some discussion.


Here’s an example. After the lecture, I heard a man and a couple of women discussing Dr. Goodall’s remark that humans and chimpanzees are “closely related.” The man said something along the lines of, “Sure, we’re related; God is the father of us all.” Both ladies were explaining why he was wrong – but one from the point of view of evolution, and the other from the creationist’s point of view. I don’t know how the conversation ended, but at least they were talking about it, listening to different perspectives – that maybe they wouldn’t have heard without the springboard of Dr. Goodall’s lecture.

One thing that struck me throughout Dr. Goodall’s lecture was the importance of mothering – good mothering, to be specific. She emphasized this throughout, with her experiences as both a daughter and an observer of chimpanzee society.

First, what constitutes “good” mothering? Support, not squelching curiosity because it happens to be inconvenient or uncomfortable, protection but not over-protection, and, of course, love and nurture.

Dr. Goodall reiterated that she could never have done what she did without having received these from her own mother. From the time she was a very young child and brought worms to bed with her – her mother calmly explained why they wouldn’t be able to live there, and helped her gather them up and take them safely outside – to the time she couldn’t get into Africa without a chaperone – her mother packed up and went with her – Dr. Goodall stressed the importance of her mother’s support in being able to achieve all she has. If her mother had gotten angry when she disappeared for hours to see where an egg comes from, instead of listening to the eager girl explain all about it, maybe some of that girl’s curiosity and enthusiasm would have been dampened.

Not that her mother was able to pave a smooth road all the way. The message to her daughter was, If you really want to do that, you’re going to have to work very, very hard and take advantage of every single opportunity that might move you closer to your goal, and never give up – and then you might find a way.

Dr. Goodall observed the same kind of support and encouragement from the mothers of chimpanzees who did well socially within their communities. A chimp’s standing within the tribe almost always had a direct correlation to the support of the chimp’s mother. I thought that very interesting.

Another thing I took away from the lecture was what it really means to have conviction.  We often hear about standing up for principles, but don’t usually see it played out in the long term.

We all know Dr. Goodall loved her research in Gombe. She describes the life she was leading as her dream come true, the perfect life that she loved and couldn’t imagine not living. But she gave it up in an instant, when she felt a conviction that she should be doing something else.

That happened in 1986. She flew to Chicago for a convention of scientists who were studying great apes (possibly only chimps, I’m not sure) in different fields. Upon hearing of the decline in their numbers, combined with the treatment they were receiving in medical research and other facilities, she felt a conviction to work more toward their protection. On the way home to Gombe, she looked out the airplane window and was horrified at the deforestation around the preserve. She had known it was happening, but until she could see the extent of it from above, it hadn’t really sunk in. She said that went to that conference a field-researching scientist, and returned home an activist. She never went back to the field work she loved so much, and since that convention, she has never been more than 2 weeks in one place. Now there’s conviction for you. Instead of remaining in Gombe, she travels the globe telling people of the urgent need to protect the environment so that chimpanzees, and other endangered species the world over, will not cross over the brink to extinction. She also advocates for humane treatment of animals in research facilities and other places they are held in captivity.


Dr. Goodall ended her lecture with encouragement to each one in the audience to think about the choices they make every day, and the long-term effect those choices will have on our health and our environment. She left everyone inspired to do what they can, no matter how small it seems, to make a difference. And that’s what’s known as The Jane Effect.jane2


#janegoodall  #thejaneeffect


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Frieda on January 20, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Ive seen Jane too. I love her devotion to all life.


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