Dr Goodall’s Public Lecture “Living in Harmony with Nature & Wildlife”

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[ 6 minute read ]

“Living in Harmony with Nature & Wildlife” is a public lecture and dialogue with Dr Jane Goodall DBE, the world-renowned conservationist and UN Messenger for Peace. It was the final event of the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore (JGIS) ConservAction Week in 2019. On the evening of 28th November 2019 (Thursday), the Cultural Centre of National University of Singapore (NUS) was abuzz with activity. Nearly 1700 people, including many children and youngsters, filled up the seats of the University Cultural Centre Hall for the insightful event.

Before the arrival of the guests-of-honor, the attendees were first treated to an excellent introductory video showcasing an array of activities by JGIS in 2019. The lecture was then officially opened with Welcome Remarks by Dr Andie Ang, President of JGIS, and A/P Audrey Chia, Director of Leadership Development Programme at NUS. Both ladies touched on the human connectedness to nature and vice versa. Dr Ang highlighted key programmes of JGIS, including Singapore Primates, stirring up the audience’s laughter from the audience when she pointed out that besides long-tailed macaques were sighted both in our nature parks, and people’s houses.

We are living in a climate emergency…. (facing) profound challenges to the survival of human, nature and our planet.
-A/P Audrey Chia

Following this, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr Heng Swee Keat, the guest-of-honor took to the stage for the opening address. He began by acknowledging the contributions of Dr Goodall, JGIS and its valuable volunteers, which garnered appreciative applause from the audience. He noted that the key objective of JGI is aligned to Singapore’s vision to become a biophillic city in a garden and announced new initiatives by the government to realise this common goal.

In Singapore, we are fortunate to have inherited an appreciation that human development and care for the environment can and must go hand in hand.

Efforts to manage our impact on nature must be built on the sound understanding of science, including human behaviour.

There is great power in the collective effect of many individual efforts.

The moment that all attendees were waiting for finally arrived. This was evident by the thunderous applause to welcome Dr Goodall. She was accompanied by her three stuffed animals, as she took to the podium and she did not have any script in hand. With her soothing voice, she shared stories from her personal journey spanning 60 years and her life journey from being a researcher to scientist to activist. In spite of the various challenges she encountered throughout her crusade to drive conservation and sustainability development, Dr Goodall clung unto the hope to influence the world about the importance of conservation of nature. She elaborated on her reasons for hope, beginning with the success of the Roots & Shoots programme all over the globe, which is a range of projects initiated by our children and changing the world with the positive difference each made to people, animals, environment and the planet. She listed our incredible intellect, the resilience of nature and the indomitable human spirit as her remaining reasons for the hope that all is not lost.

That was the tremendous advantage of my childhood – having a mother who supported me… and understood me, who is prepared to help her child to develop who she was, who she wanted to be.

We are not the only beings with personalities, minds and emotions. That we are part of and not separate from the rest of the animal kingdom.

There is the unsustainable lifestyle… (including) me I know, we mostly have far more than we actually need..

The biggest difference between us, chimpanzees and other animals is this explosive development of our intellect….

We got this one beautiful planet. How is it that the most intellectual creature that ever walk on the planet is destroying its only home? Seems to be that there is a disconnect between that clever brain and love and compassion of the human heart..

I still believe we have a window of time when if we get together, we can start healing some of the harm we have inflicted and at least slowing down climate change.

After Dr Goodall’s thought-provoking talk, a wefie with the audience was initiated. The JGIS volunteers and JGI presidents from Malaysia and Taiwan were invited to join Dr Goodall on stage for photographs!

The Q&A session was moderated by Dr Shawn Lum and enabled by Pigeonhole Live. Prior to addressing the questions, Dr Goodall introduced her three stuffed animals and encouraged the audience to Google for related videos such as “Pigasso” and “Five smart rats”. Dr Goodall answered some of the popular questions such as “Who is your favourite chimp and what is he/she like?”, “What is the role of eco-tourism? How damaging is its invasiveness or an important part of education?”, “What is the most effective thing that us human being can do to help slow down climate change?”.

Maybe flying can benefit the climate and it was tied into eco-tourism…. so many eco-systems are protected because of the tourists who get there from other countries by flying…. I feel that the message I have to give warrants flying.

When I plant a tree, I kiss a leaf… I want to give that tree the life force that enabled me to carry on doing what I do.

The first thing is to form some kind of bond with them. It is no good trying to get up here (pointing to the head), you got to get into the heart. And to get into the heart you need to tell stories…

One of the things is to eat less or no meat. Get your children involved in Roots N Shoots. Children are changing the behaviour of their parents… think about your own environmental footprint and if you can afford it please make donations to JGIS and join us or some conservation organisation. What do YOU care about?

As the evening ended with Dr Lum inviting Dr Goodall to leave the audience with a positive and hopeful note. Dr Goodall related how discussions and gatherings in some JGI programmes used to end with participants proclaiming “Together we can (save the world)!” to which she replied “Yes we can. But will we?” Thus, she galvanised everyone in the audience to get on their feet to shout with conviction, “Together we can! Together we will!” closing the night’s event with a cheery hooray!

Written by Eunice Leow and edited by Dr Sng Bee Bee