Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots North America Training Summit

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 11:23am

When not filming in the field, Bill Wallauer, the Jane Goodall Institute's (JGI) wildlife cameraman and research videographer, speaks with a variety of audiences about JGI and Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots, JGI's environmental and humanitarian youth program.  Below, Bill recalls a lecture he gave last fall at Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots North America Training Summit.


Last fall, I was lucky enough to give a keynote address at Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots North America Training Summit in New Orleans.  It was an inspiring event during which I met some amazing teachers, leaders and mentors.  The purpose of the summit was to: teach educators new skills to help start and mentor Roots & Shoots groups; discuss new concepts in environmental education; and share ways to get students involved in their communities.

On the flight and subsequent drive into the city, I was blown away by the beauty of the place.  Miles of largely uninhabited wetlands surround the city.  Occasionally, cabins set high on stilts can be spotted throughout the landscape.  No doubt, the swamps of Louisiana contain completely isolated areas of land.  I arrived in New Orleans in the evening and was treated to a fantastic sunset view of the Superdome. 

The fact that the summit was in New Orleans, a city I’ve never visited, was a huge bonus.  The sights, sounds and smells were all new and very different from my relatively solitary life in Gombe National Park in Tanzania.  New Orleans has a different feel from other cities I have visited.  It was awake all night and the lively nightlife had a way of drawing you in.  On the streets, musicians, from soloists to small bands, serenade visitors in the French Quarter from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.  Bourbon Street, which never sleeps, was only two blocks from our hotel.

On the first day of the summit, I was excited to learn that Tim Duggan, landscape architect for the Make It Right Foundation, was going to speak.  Tim gave a totally awe-inspiring talk about building hopes and dreams one home at a time in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.  The Lower Ninth was totally devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to the dedication of a handful of people and a willing community, this neighborhood is destined to become one of the greenest in the nation. 

Tim spoke eloquently about how people in the area have been transformed because of the availability of affordable long-term solutions.  Not only is the Make It Right Foundation using appropriate and sustainable technology to build affordable, new homes that will likely survive the next man-made flood disaster, the organization is also establishing wetlands, rainwater catchments, organic gardens, and native plant landscapes.  It is so inspiring to learn about people who have dedicated their lives to doing great things.  Thank you Tim for all that you and Make It Right are doing.

The individual sessions throughout the summit were also inspiring.  There were great talks about best practices for getting students of all levels involved in Roots & Shoots, as well as talks about how to launch composting projects, how to support great apes in the wild and in captivity, and so much more.  I met teacher after teacher whose lives, like mine, have been changed and improved by the leadership and heart of Jane Goodall and the Jane Goodall Institute.

Despite some initial technical issues, I was able to give my talk and had a blast doing it.  The audience was wonderful and very involved and it was a true delight to show footage of my experiences in the field with the Gombe chimps and with Jane.  I also put together some short films highlighting the work of the Jane Goodall Institute across Africa. Roots & Shoots began in Tanzania in 1991 and is now in more than 120 countries.  It was fun to share my stories and footage of the founding Roots & Shoots members and their many protégés. Roots & Shoots has grown throughout the continent and the world. Thanks so much to the Roots & Shoots team for inviting me to the summit.


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