There are few people in the world who are as universally respected, revered, and celebrated as Dr. Jane Goodall. Her groundbreaking studies of chimpanzees and work as an environmental activist have made her not just an inspiration, but a legend to people across the globe, from all different backgrounds and spanning generations.
It’s no wonder that both nights of her talk, entitled Reasons for Hope, at the Anthem in September sold out within hours of going on sale. I wasn’t lucky enough to get tickets to either one, but my luck came in a different way — an invitation to be part of a small press conference with Jane Goodall before the second show. (And as much as I’d like to be completely professional and cool about it, I can’t help but confess it was one of the biggest thrills of my, like, life! Okay, out of my system.)
The ask came from the Jane Goodall Institute and National Geographic, as the Nat Geo Museum here in DC will present Becoming Jane, an exhibition that explores Dr. Goodall’s life and work through immersive media, authentic scenes, and interactives that will appeal to fans and visitors of all ages — it opens to the public on November 22.
The timing couldn’t have been better for both the media event and Jane Goodall’s lectures, which took place just days after the Climate Strike and during the week of the U.N. Climate Action Summit. During both, she discussed her amazing journey to becoming a world-renown primatologist, from her love for animals early on in childhood to her work in the Gombe Forest. But the heart of her talk was about much more than her background and studies of chimpanzees. It was about the environmental crisis our planet is facing.
“We need to take action soon,” Dr. Goodall told us, “Not just acknowledge climate change, but to take action.” She suggested this action begins with everyday choices — being cognizant of how what we buy and what we do impacts the environment. (Side note: Look for upcoming blog posts that focus on ways to do this locally.) She also encourages action in groups and on a larger scale.
Her Reasons for Hope focused greatly on younger generations as the world’s future will be in the hands of our children. In response to a question about the student walkout for the Climate Strike, Dr. Goodall said, “It’s not enough to miss school. Why are you doing it? What are you going to do if you meet a politician?”
She then discussed Roots and Shoots, a community action programme started by the Jane Goodall Institute in 1991, designed to teach youth about conservation and leadership, and empower young people to affect positive change in their communities.
During the press event, I asked her a couple of questions about the exhibition coming to National Geographic. First about the collaboration process, which she explained really began over 50 years ago in the Gombe Forest when National Geographic documented her early work there. (Much of this footage is used to tell Dr. Goodall’s story in the wonderful and inspiring documentary, JANE.)
And in Becoming Jane, every element of the exhibition is based on Dr. Jane Goodall and her work. There will be a replica of her research tent, a hologram-like projection of her sharing memories of working with chimpanzees, a virtural-3D expedition to Gombe Stream National Park, augmented reality activities like matching the pant-hoot vocalization of a chimpanzee, and more engaging installations that highlight her life and work.
Next, I asked what message she hopes people, particularly children, will take away from the exhibition. Without hesitation she answered, “That every person makes a difference.”
And she does hope they will. The exhibit also includes a call to action to join her, the Jane Goodall Institute, and National Geographic in an effort to ensure a more sustainable future for us all as well as a pledge station where visitors can share what actions they will take to help Dr. Goodall in her mission.
Becoming Jane will be at the National Geographic Museum from November 22 through the summer of 2020. Admission is $15, $12/seniors & military, free for ages 5 and under. Museum hours are 10am – 6pm.