Admittedly, I have been more than fortunate enough in this regard, having had the opportunity to be face to face with noted environmentalists such as Dr. David Suzuki and Nobel Laureate Al Gore in the past. While it often goes hand-in-hand with my work, it’s also something that never gets old and still leaves me a little star struck at the end. Such was the case again on September 19th when I found myself face to face with British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, environmentalist, humanitarian and UN Messenger of Peace, Dr. Jane Goodall.
Dr. Goodall was in Burlington, Ontario, about 30 minutes west of Toronto to deliver a keynote address in conjunction with the 2012 Burlington Green Eco Awards. I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to attend courtesy of Ford Canada, who were one of the lead sponsors, and were on hand to show off new eco vehicles in their model line up such as the new Ford Focus Electric, the newly designed Ford Fusion Hybrid and the all new Ford C-Max Hybrid.
Dr. Goodall spent a full day in Burlington, as she also addressed some 700 students from the area during an afternoon youth event. Dr. Goodall has a deep rooted passion when it comes to educating and inspiring our youth. Her Jane Goodall Institute created Roots and Shoots which is designed to inspire youth from around the world to take action and make the world a better place. Given that most of my own volunteer work as a presenter with The Climate Reality Project Canada as well as many presentations I give through my own outreach as Envirodad is spent speaking to youth from across Canada, I clearly identified with the importance Dr. Goodall placed upon inspiring our youth to be the agents of change for tomorrow.
The awards ceremony, honouring some of the top eco-leaders from business and the community in Burlington was an impressive affair which Dr. Goodall was happy to be a part of while approximately 700 appreciative spectators looked on. The line up that snaked its way all around the concourse following the event of those waiting to meet Dr. Goodall and have her book signed showed the true drawing power and celebrity status that this 78 year old has earned.
My chance to speak to Dr. Goodall happened during an impromptu private media scrum. I was only too pleased to be told that Dr. Goodall would be happy to spend a few minutes with the half dozen or so media on hand prior to her book signing was to begin. With only a few minutes available I had to be selective with the questions I asked, and I lead off by asking a question that I’ve asked both Al Gore and David Suzuki before:
EnviroDad: “Dr. Goodall, with respect to the current situation regarding climate change, the environment and sustainability in general – do you feel we have reached the Tipping Point yet?”
Jane Goodall: “No, not yet but we have a very small amount of time left before we do. We owe it to our children to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Following her answer, I briefly mentioned how I often speak to students as well regarding climate change and how as a father of 4, I always remember the words of the Native American proverb that “We haven’t inherited this planet from our ancestors, rather we are only borrowing it from our children”.
Her reply to that statement was perhaps the most surprising, as well as the most memorable and inspiring moment of the entire evening. She replied with the following:
Jane Goodall: “I actually disagree with that statement. I do not believe that we are only borrowing this planet from our children. Instead I believe that we have actually stolen this planet from them, and that we must inspire our children to fight and take it back.”
The poignancy of her statement resonated with me during the entire one hour drive home, and literally kept me awake for some time after going to bed. She was exactly right. To borrow something means we fully intend to return it in at least as good a condition as it was when it was given to us.
Our current generation is doing no such thing.
We are using convenience, politics, apathy and a self-gratifying gluttony to ignore our responsibility as stewards of this planet – as borrowers and not benefactors – to steal away from our future generations what they rightfully are entitled to. And while it seems that those with the greatest ability to report the theft – to punish the worst offenders and rehabilitate the rest, are completely unwilling to do so, we need to remember that there is great potential to solve this dilemma through inspiring our youth.
The message of Dr. Jane Goodall is that our children are a resource abundently rich with potential. While we must continue to fight for change with the current leaders of governments, corporations and society at large – we must also do all we can to ensure that the next generation is armed with the inspiration and knowledge they need to right the wrongs we either couldn’t, or wouldn’t do.
It can be honestly stated that I have never lacked for inspiration when it comes to teaching and inspiring both my children and the children that I’m fortunate enough to speak to. However after being struck with the blunt force of what is a despicible reality through the words of an environmental hero, my motivation resevoir suddenly became that much larger.
For every other parent or influencer of youth that may read this, I only hope that the poignancy of Dr. Goodall’s words struck you with the same impact as it did me. After all it needs to be reiterated theft is illegal and destroying this planet for our own gratification is immoral.
This is NOT the legacy that I want to leave behind. Do you?