Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 Hope from Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall in the Gombe Reserve, 1965
I have given too much thought, perhaps, to the assertion by Henry Mitchell that "all anybody needs to know about prizes is that Mozart never won one." This started because I must have heard the quote not long before the only time (so far) I was in a room with Jane Goodall.

My one chance at a photo -
dim but magical!
I was in my hometown (Washington, DC) in the historic Wardman Park Hotel, where my brother, father, and both grandfathers had worked in various capacities. We had brought our EarthView globe for the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers.

While we were there, we learned that she would be speaking as the first recipient of the Atlas Award,: a new prize that professional geographers in North America were to begin bestowing on people from outside the profession who had made a profound lifetime contribution to our discipline.

As hundreds of geographers sat in rapt attention as she spoke to us so eloquently about the planet we study, I realized that she was doing us a favor by coming to receive this award, not the other way around. As I look at her Wikipedia page a decade later, I see that the Atlas Award is not even included among her prizes (I'm trying to fix that). Unlike Mozart, her good work has been recognized with gratitude and admiration in her lifetime.

So it was once again with rapt attention that I listened to her March 20, 2020 message about the crisis currently gripping our planet. Her hope is not a glib or shallow one -- she does not hesitate to point out how dire the Coronavirus pandemic has become. But she is clear about what we must do now and highlights the lessons those who survive this must take forward.


Lagniappe

I was also fortunate to be in a room in New York City when Dr. Mary Robinson became the second recipient in 2012. In that case, the acceptance speech -- a video of which is still on my blog -- served not only as my introduction to the concept of climate justice, but as the essential outline of an honors course I was to offer several times in succeeding years. I have not been present for any of the subsequent ceremonies, though Noam Chomsky did speak at my church once. Inexplicably, the AAG web page lists at least some of these awards with the wrong dates.

April 26 update: some good news...

During the blessing of the animals service (online) at my church today, I learned that Jane Goodall's main web page is simply a channel for encouragement. Have a look at her Good for All News for a bit of hope every day.

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