Globally mindful. Locally active.

Posted by Kaavya Benjamin

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Dame Dr. Jane Goodall speak about her Roots & Shoots program at Kristin School. Her intense passion for science began when, as a little girl, she saved money and bought as many second-hand books as she could. One book, ‘Tarzan of the Apes’, which she still treasures, caught her attention. She fell in love with Tarzan, but what did Tarzan do? He fell in love with the wrong Jane. Heartbreak aside, Tarzan inspired her to grow up, live in Africa among wild animals, and write books about them. Seventy-five years later, Jane has realized her dreams and more. For 50 years, she has revolutionized the field of primatology and redefined species conservation to include the needs of local societies and environments.

Dr. Goodall, clutching her ever-popular handful of soft toys, began her talk by declaring that every person can make a difference, especially the youth. Announcing that young people are some of the most compassionate and creative solutionaries our world has seen. She founded Roots & Shoots, in 1991, to empower and encourage young people to pursue their passion, rally their peers and become the compassionate leaders our world needs to ensure a better future for animals, people, and environment (A.P.E.). Roots & Shoots started with 12 students in Tanzania and has grown to 150,000 groups helping develop skills for young people worldwide. The organizations’ mission is to promote respect and compassion for all organisms, further understanding of all cultures and beliefs, and to inspire everyone to act to make the world a better place.

Various Roots & Shoots projects are currently undertaken by Kiwi students, from kindergarteners planting gardens to attract bees and butterflies; to educating local communities near Mount Pirongia about endangered bats; and even the famous the ‘BAN THE BAG’ campaign. Students from the De La Salle College gave a presentation about implementing their ‘Our Stream, Our Taonga’ restoration project on a small stream that runs through their campus and flows into Otaki Creek. The land around the stream was open fields, saturated with weeds. Rain runoffs from the area, leaf litter and rubbish used to flow into the stream resulting in an unpleasant smell and an unhealthy waterway. The students understood that people had destroyed this ecosystem and they had to do something or else it would never change. A small group of students in 2015 took charge of the clean-up and started small. They pulled out debris from the stream, including tires, branches, and even a bicycle. Next, they cleared weeds from the creek banks and planted native trees to stop soil runoff, increasing oxygen levels, restoring carbon into the ecosystem and attracting birds and insects. Since 2015, 100 students and staff have maintained this project and planted approximately 3,500 native trees. The students continue to monitor, pH, and water clarity along with birds, fish, and invertebrate, who have all returned in numbers to the stream.

Dr. Goodall stated there has been a disconnect between our brains and the human heart and “only when head and heart work in harmony can we attain our true human potential.” The Roots & Shoots program is hugely beneficial and an excellent way of involving students to think about imparting positive impacts in their world, and encouraging them to work within their local communities to achieve a global goal.

You can join the Roots & Shoots Facebook group to see what other projects young Kiwis are undertaking

Find out more about the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand at

You can follow the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand @jane_goodall_nz on Instagram and @JGI_NZ on Twitter

Kaavya is a MSc student studying the spread of exotic insects into natural ecosystems in New Zealand, and is supervised by Darren Ward at the University of Auckland and Landcare Research.