Optimistic Vegan

Behind Schedule
April 6, 2011, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Lifestyle, Personal, Scientists | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve recently realized that many of our great scientists had their passion since they were children. The two I’ll discuss are Jane Goodall and Aldo Leopold, who were both young naturalists from the start and accomplished great things later in life.

As we know, Jane Goodall went to Africa and made important discoveries about the life of chimpanzees. She didn’t just decide one day that she wanted to spend her life outside and with animals; she had started making observations of the animals in her backyard at a young age. There was one story she told at the speech in Houston, TX about how her discovery of how chickens laid eggs. She described how she asked everyone around her where the egg came from but she was unsatisfied with any response. She decided to take matters into her own hands and observe for herself. After running into a chicken coop, she realized that frightening the chickens off of their roosts would not be the best way to make a discovery. She rethought her process and decided instead to hide in the coop and wait for a chicken to feel comfortable enough to lay. Four hours later, after being searched for in vain by her mother, she ran out of the coop with a huge grin on her face and her mother couldn’t help but be excited too. Jane fondly remembers how her mother could have reprimanded her, but how instead she listened intently to her chicken observations, and in turn nurtured the little naturalist in Jane.


Similar to Jane’s lifelong awareness of her love for animals and nature, Aldo Leopold also loved the outdoors from a young age. His parents were just as supportive and helped to instill ideas that would later influence the development of his environmental ethic. I watched a documentary about him last night called Green Fire (which is a decent film good for an introduction to Leopold) that described him as a young boy who loved to hunt and fish (a different way of appreciating nature that was more accepted in his time) and particularly to bird watch. The documentary explained that binoculars were uncommon for birdwatchers, as it had not developed into such as sport, so he borrowed his mother’s opera binoculars to study the birds near to him.


I both love and hate these stories. I love them because of how inspiring it is that they were able to make their childhood games their realities. I also love how flexible they were in when it came to living their dream. I’m sure Jane never expected to study chimpanzees for twenty five years but when she had the opportunity I know she snatched it up. I’m sure the same goes for Leopold; he may not have expected to become one of the most prolific environmental authors but he was open to possible opportunities and he ended up doing what he loved. I hate these stories (maybe not hate, that’s a bit strong) because I don’t have the extensive background that they do in naturalist studies. I’ve grown up around animals but I haven’t spent a significant amount of time bird-watching or observing chickens. It makes me feel like I’m behind schedule!

I think that as long as I continue to take advantage of every opportunity and embrace my passion more, I’ll get there eventually. I might not make the same impact as those before me, but I’ll make one in my own way. (Jane Goodall didn’t go to Africa until she was 26, so I still have time to catch up!)


Dr. Jane Goodall
April 4, 2011, 11:26 am
Filed under: Celebrities, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , , ,

This is long overdue, but I wanted to make it sound right. I actually turned this in with an application. Ask me any questions you might have about my experience!

On March 9, 2011, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. My dad and I took three days off from our busy lives to fly to Houston, Texas to see Dr. Jane Goodall give a lecture about her life with chimpanzees. “Dr. Jane,” as she is affectionately called, is one of the finest I’ve had the opportunity to see. She realized her childhood dream of visiting Africa by taking advantage of all of the opportunities that came her way, working hard and never giving up hope.

Her first 26 years with chimpanzees were spent in Africa researching and making discoveries about their behavior. You can tell how fond her memories are; she speaks passionately and lovingly of all her chimpanzee friends. She even gave us a demonstration of how chimpanzees greet each other, and gave her call to the audience. I was reading the introduction of her book, Harvest for Hope, and she talked about how nervous she used to get giving public speeches (even Jane Goodall gets nervous!). She said that the way she calms down is by people watching, because she sees so many similarities between our behavior and the behavior of the chimpanzees she spent so many years studying. That’s why she decided, in 1986, that she couldn’t just stand by while their habitat and chance of survival was being destroyed. Since then she’s spent three hundred days of every year traveling around the world, spreading awareness and a message of peace and hope. She’s one of the most optimistic and inspirational people I’ve come across. Although faced with much adversity, she maintains a serene composure and an unwavering optimistic outlook.

When she realized that the habitat in Gombe was disappearing, she knew she had to do something to try and save it. One of the main reasons their habitat was being destroyed was because the villages around it were chopping down the trees for themselves. The people near Gombe were very impoverished and there was no way she would tell them they had to stop cutting trees (and lose their livelihood, warmth, etc.) so her chimpanzees could live. So she found some people in the villages that were interested in working with her to improve their quality of life. While working on this Jane got an invitation to a fair trade coffee conference and she mentioned the coffee production that was going on near Gombe. Turns out their coffee is pretty awesome (Green Mountain Coffee) and it completely turned around their quality of living. They set aside some protected land for the chimps with their new surge of profit and now their prospering as well. I love this story because it shows not only how animal lovers are human lovers as well, but that the best solutions can be very innovative. It also shows Jane’s ability to take full advantage of all her opportunities.

Dr. Jane started a program called Roots and Shoots, which is designed to give kids the support they need to change the world. Her goal is to inspire the next generation to care for the planet in all ways, and she does this by convincing them that each individual can make a difference. One of the great bits of advice she gave was to experience everything and take every opportunity that comes your way. Through these experiences, ideas and opportunities to make a difference will begin to manifest. She’s an inspiration to everyone, and the world is a better place because of her. I hope that I can make a fraction of the difference that she has.


I’d like to add that Jane Goodall is also a vegetarian. She even wrote a book about it, Harvest for Hope.