Friday, April 10, 2009

Jane

Last night Karyn and I attended a spectacular event. Jane Goodall visited Boise for a fundraiser for the Boise Zoo. Not willing to pay the $500 for the zoo event, we instead attended her evening talk at the Qwest arena. It was a very special presentation.

I was quite surprised to see a near capacity event. When we arrived there was a long line of people buying tickets. Who knew that there were so many people in Boise interested in science and conservation!

After a brief introduction by the mayor, the director of Zoo Boise took the stage. He highlighted the results of a program which was invented in Boise. A $0.35 charge on all Boise Zoo admissions which goes directly into a conservation fund. A fund to protect animals and habitat in the wild which are represented in the zoo. The program has been replicated across the country by other zoos generating millions of dollars in conservation funds. What a great program.

It was then time for the main event. The near capacity crowd welcomed Jane to the stage with a long standing ovation. Having already read her book Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey, I was familiar with her life story and the impact she has had on science, our understanding of animal behavior, and our definition of the human species. It is still remarkable to hear her tell the story first hand. Her interest in science as a kid, her challenges to fulfill her dreams without any money, her challenges against the scientific establishment when she didn't have a degree and was a woman, and lastly her challenges against the long standing belief of the definition of man. Her impact on the world is truly remarkable. What an inspiration.

One of the areas that she discussed dealt with human nature or more appropriately animal nature. One of the important discoveries in the study of chimpanzees is their deep compassion balanced with their tendency for violence. If chimpanzees use violence in many of the same circumstances as humans, then it is likely our common ancestor behaved this way as well, or we evolved this ability through convergent evolution. If our common ancestor had it then violence is in our nature. But so is compassion and intellect. We have the ability to analyze ramifications and options, we have the ability to choose peace. What a message!

The later parts of the talk was focused on the challenges facing wildlife in the world. Things we generally know, but she has such an eloquent way of painting a picture for the audience. It was very moving. Lastly, she discussed her reasons for hope, why it may be too late for some species, but it is not too late for the planet. How our intellect made us the most dominant organism on the planet, but can also help save it. How the human spirit has brought us through difficult times. I highly recommend attending this event if her tour comes to your area and I strongly endorse her book.

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