January 31, 2023

The Book Club of Hope: Jane Goodall and her Legacy

This past week, Wild Virginia hosted a book club led by Bette Dzamba on Jane Goodall’s memoir The Book of Hope. While the event started as a general discussion on Goodall’s writing and legacy—spanning her long life, from a young, twenty-something activist with a passion for animals to a UN ambassador and global champion of the environment—it quickly turned into a broader discussion about how her life and works could serve as a well of inspiration for the lives of everyone at the book club and beyond.

​Jane Goodall began her career with no college degree and very little funding, working her way toward fulfilling her lifelong passion along a path that many, even today, would regard as highly unusual. After working briefly for a local natural history museum in Kenya, she was tapped by a prominent paleoanthropologist to embark on an expedition in the Gombe Stream Game Reserve to study chimpanzees from a non-traditional perspective—as someone without a college degree, she and her sponsor hoped that her lack of training in traditional methods would allow her to approach the subject from a more organic viewpoint. Working closely with and studying the apes allowed Goodall to gain insights and information about our close relatives that had never before been discovered, and from that moment on her work ballooned in scope and influence. Now 88, Goodall still travels constantly and works to promote conservation and climate activism across the globe.

​Goodall’s story, expanded and crystallized in The Book of Hope, is one that is familiar to many, and at the book club event several of the participants remembered even the earliest days of Goodall’s famed career, recalling fondly how hearing about this revolutionary woman inspired them at a young age. As a woman who has worked for so many years to champion many of the same principles now heralded by Wild Virginia and many other organizations, Goodall’s legacy has been one of continuous inspiration for those who are now picking up her torch. The book club discussed these and other elements of Goodall’s legacy, including her ongoing commitment to fighting for change with a generous and loving spirit—Roots and Shoots, the youth action branch of the Jane Goodall Institute, follows the mission statement of “Be bold, be kind, and do good.”

​The book club discussion continued on from Goodall’s personal legacy to how her message of hope can apply to us now, and how it impacts our daily lives and work. Many of the attendees were drawn to Goodall’s emphasis on hope as only one critical piece of the puzzle—change, according to Goodall and the book club participants, is a result of both hope and continuous, hard work. In addition to embracing whatever optimism and hopefulness you can find in a difficult situation, the next step must always be to energize and use that forward momentum to push toward action. 

At the end of the general group discussion, participants were able to split into breakout rooms and talk about specific elements of The Book of Hope before returning to share their thoughts with the rest of the group: topics and ideas ranged from the power of youth to “the general tenacity of ducks,” and by the end of the session the impression of the book’s impact was one of communal inspiration and joy. Before signing off, the book for next month’s meeting was announced to be Suzanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree: an account of the discovery of communication methods between trees, and the impact that discovery had on the scientific community. To sign up for the book club meeting (finishing the book is not required for participation), or attend any of Wild Virginia’s upcoming events, visit their events page for more information.