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Environmentalist Jane Goodall to speak at Penn State


“I have a broken wrist, black eye and many bruises.” Exhausted from travel, and boarding a plane to Cincinnati for a lecture, renowned environmentalist Jane Goodall explained in a telephone interview on Sunday that she sustained several minor injuries after falling down a cellar.


However, she does not intend to let her injuries slow her down. Goodall, who is 76, has embarked on a global lecture tour celebrating the 50 years since she began her pioneering work with chimpanzees in eastern Africa.

The tour includes an appearance at Penn State at 8 p.m. Thursday in Eisenhower Auditorium as part of the Student Programming Association’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

Tickets are free to students and the public.

Goodall said she will focus part of her lecture on the problems humans have inflicted on the planet and what young people in 126 countries are doing to make the world a better place.

One of those human-inflicted problems, she explained, is the nuclear crisis in Japan.

She described the radiation in the atmosphere in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami as a disaster. She said she expects that the problems ahead will cause people to think more carefully about the use of nuclear power, an energy source that she believes to have had obvious negative qualities from the start.

“Our biggest problem today,” she said, “is that people think about so many things regarding the environment and its change, like with the Fukushima plant, but they conclude that there is nothing they can do about it. But in reality the more of us who do think about it, the more we’ll start to see the change we must see.”

Also in her lecture, Goodall said, she will outline her past and ongoing research efforts in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park.

At 26, Goodall began her groundbreaking study of chimpanzees in Tanzania and was one of the first to discover and witness their family structure and hunting and eating habits.

Goodall said she “hadn’t meant to get that close” to the chimpanzees, who often fled from her. In time though, she won over David Graybeard, a chimp she named as part of her method.

“He was the first chimp to lose fear of this peculiar white chimp,” she said.

Her study has turned into one of the longest-running on wild animals, expanding to incorporate subjects such as human evolution and disease transmission.

Goodall travels an average of 300 days each year, speaking about the threats facing the chimpanzee community, which has shrunk from about 1.5 million to fewer than 300,000.

Goodall said she is urging her audiences to recognize their responsibility to the planet and is hoping to inspire some change.

“My main message is to never forget that every day you live, you have a choice, and your decision makes a difference.”


by Wildamie Ceus, a Penn State journalism student.

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