BILL MOYERS: For those of you still with us, Jane Goodall and I discussed her program for young environmental activists all over the world, the organization she calls Roots & Shoots.

It began in 1991, when a group of local teenagers in Tanzania met with Jane Goodall to talk about a range of problems they witnessed all around them from the deforestation of their beloved mountains, to the welfare of animals both domestic and wild, including the threatened chimpanzees. With Jane Goodall's guidance the teenagers sought grassroots solutions and began educating their fellow villagers about the humane treatment of animals. Their small program established a model for future Roots & Shoots programs worldwide: youth-driven projects fueled by knowledge, compassion and action.

And why the name Roots & Shoots? Because, Jane Goodall said, "Roots creep underground everywhere and make a firm foundation. Shoots seem very weak, but to reach the light, they can break open brick walls. Imagine that the brick walls are all the problems we have inflicted on our planet. Hundreds of thousands of roots and shoots, hundreds of thousands of young people around the world, can break through these walls. We can change the world."

That was Jane Goodall. Some years ago Jane Goodall traveled to California, where dedicated conservationists from Roots & Shoots had taken on what seemed like an impossible task, a PBS film entitled Reason for Hope documented her visit. Take a look:

JANE GOODALL: One of the projects which now involves Roots & Shoots members is a fantastic one in California where thanks largely to the inspiration of one teacher, they had reclaimed a creek that was dead and it's now flowing with water and fish are breeding again.

KIMBERLY ILLIAN: As little kids in school you learn about endangered species and you learn "Hey you should go out there and help." I remember thinking so what can I do to help, but I could never find the answer, and this has been my answer.

MICHAEL GOLD: You actually see the baby steelhead actually darting around in the pool. I was down here on all the weekends after school planting trees, removing litter, capturing fish and bringing them back to our facility, actually doing the spawning and doing the real rewarding part of returning the fish actually back to the environment.

TOM FURRER: The kids have taken a stream that was virtually dead and given up on and through 16 years of really difficult hard work have literally saved this animal from extinction.

JANE GOODALL: It's a baby steelhead in here. I think what was particularly remarkable about that project is the incredible determination of the kids. They raise money, they built a hatchery, then it was condemned, it wouldn't stand up to an earthquake. So they were ordered to pull it down and there were tears and screams. And then one boy stood up and said, "but there's no point to being angry, we'll just have to raise the money to do it right." And they raised 500,000 dollars.

You have every reason to be very, very proud and to know that what you've done makes a difference, not only for the fish in the creek and the other creatures here but also will make a difference around the world. Other people will think they did it, we can do it too.

MICHAEL GOLD: Meeting Jane Goodall was a life changing experience. In the scientific field it's like meeting the pope.

TOM FURRER: It's not about the fish. It's not about the creek. It's not about the hatchery. It's about the turning and the changing of young lives and that they have been made believers.

Jane Goodall on Inspiring Young People

November 27, 2009

In her conversation with Bill Moyers, Jane Goodall describes her best hope for the future — the work her Institute does with youth around the globe in the Roots and Shoots program.

“[It] began with 16 high school students in ’91. And it emerged from Tanzania as a very new sort of thing at the U.N. — that was ’93, I think. And that’s when it started to grow. So that it’s now 114 countries, all ages. Preschool through university. And more and more adults are taking part in prisons, staff of big corporations and it’s basically two, three projects to make the world better: One for your own human community; two, for animals, including domestic ones; and three, for the environment. With a theme of learning to live in peace and harmony among ourselves, between cultures and religions and nations. And between us and the natural world. So, youth drives it. They choose the projects.”

Among the current Roots and Shoots projects addressing the environment are the following:

  • Tchimpounga Youth Campaign: The Roots and Shoots National Youth Leadership Council has worked with groups worldwide to raise awareness and the $50,000 needed to build an orphan chimp dormitory at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Sanctuary in the Republic of Congo.
  • ReBirth the Earth: The Trees for Tomorrow Campaign is helping Roots and Shoots members in Tanzania start five new tree nurseries while encouraging groups in the United States and other countries to take action by planting native trees in their own communities. Through the hard work and dedication of Roots & Shoots, to date the Earth Trees for Tomorrow Campaign has planted more than 3,000 trees and raised over $10,000 to support tree nurseries in Tanzania.
  • Reusable Bags: Without any special skills, time commitment or radical lifestyle change, anybody can make a difference for our environment by using reusable bags in place of disposable ones.
  • The Giant Peace Dove Campaign: Roots and Shoots members participate in the annual United Nations event designed to draw attention to the international desire for peace by planning group projects that promote peace and by “flying” Giant Peace Dove puppets made out of recycled materials.
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