On 2 February 2015, Dr Jane Goodall, a world renowned primatologist, ethologist and conservationist, gave a talk at SIM University (UniSIM) as part of the Service-Learning Seminar Series organised by UniSIM College.
Many turned up for the seminar, titled "Planting Seeds of Hope: Values in Action through Roots & Shoots", which was held at the Performing Arts Theatre at SIM HQ. The audience comprised UniSIM students and staff including Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, UniSIM President; Professor Tsui Kai Chong, UniSIM Provost; and Professor Koh Hian Chye, UniSIM College's Assistant Provost. Also present were representatives from various schools, National Youth Council and National Environment Agency.
Dr Goodall became known for her study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees when she discovered that chimpanzees live in complex social groups and are capable of making tools at the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. She has been honoured numerous times for her scientific and conservation efforts, with the United Nations appointing her a Messenger of Peace, England naming her a Dame of the British Empire, and Japan awarding her the Kyoto Prize.
Starting her speech with a chimpanzee greeting, Dr Goodall then briefed the audience on her experience studying chimpanzees. She explained that each chimpanzee has a different voice and that it is important to view them as individuals so as to be able to truly understand their behaviours. Dr Goodall shared her observations that chimpanzees form close bonds with one another, particularly between mother and child, and recounted fondly how her mother fully supported her dream to travel to Africa to live with and write about animals.
Dr Goodall then talked about how the destruction of the chimpanzees' natural habitat led to her founding the Roots & Shoots programme that focuses on protection efforts. Started in 1991, the programme aims to let youths lead community action to improve conditions for people, animals and the environment. To date, the programme has attracted more than 150,000 members in 130 countries.
Dr Goodall believes that the best thing one can do to save the environment is to raise awareness among the public on the role that each has to play. "It is often said 'think globally, act locally'. But if you think globally, all the bad news about the world may be overwhelming. So, make a small difference in your surroundings. And when more people do it, it would make a huge impact," she said.
Commenting on environmental destruction and its effects, Dr Goodall said more needed to be done to stem the effects of climate change. While it is difficult to tackle big projects that harm the environment, consumers can start by questioning their purchase decision and ask if what they buy will have a negative impact – socially or environmentally – on the world.
Also speaking at the seminar were Mr Siva Gopal Thaiyalan, Senior Specialist, Character & Citizenship Education at the Singapore Ministry of Education and Ms Tan Beng Chiak, Roots & Shoots Coordinator, Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore). Mr Siva explored how we could use "Values In Action" to inspire young people to take ownership, discover how they can contribute to the community and eventually become socially responsible, while Ms Tan spoke on the details of Roots & Shoots programme, highlighting its core values and learning model.
The audience enjoying a pre-presentation video which tells the story of young Dr Jane Goodall and her toy chimpanzee.
Dr Jane Goodall speaking at the event.
Mr Siva Gopal Thaiyalan talking about the ways to contribute to the community to effect positive change.
Ms Tan Beng Chiak introducing the Roots & Shoots curriculum-based service-learning programme.
Professor Cheong Hee Kiat presenting a garland of jasmine flowers to Dr Jane Goodall.
Dr Jane Goodall obliging a young fan's request for an autograph.