Jane Goodall is to conservation and animal welfare issues what Meryl Streep is to acting. So how do you get an authority of that caliber to visit Bakersfield? You ask her.
That's just what Bakersfield anthropology professor Krista Moreland did, and after she had all but given up hope of enticing her personal hero to the city, the email came.
"I expected it to say 'no,' and the first sentence I read was 'Today is a good day!'" Moreland recalled.
An even better day arrives Tuesday, when Goodall will be the featured guest at two engagements in Bakersfield, where she will speak about her work studying chimpanzees and the natural world.
"I shall talk about, obviously, a bit about the chimpanzees and how I got to do that," Goodall said in a telephone interview from Vancouver, BC.
"Do that" is Goodall's characteristically off-hand manner of summarizing her 56 years of work, which has made her a heroine to conservationists and an international ambassador for environmental causes.
In late 1960, Goodall grabbed the attention of the world with her announcement that chimpanzees in the wild made and used tools to find food. The notion that chimpanzees, without human intervention, were doing what had been understood as a unique human behavior radically changed the way people thought about primates and humans.
Goodall further changed people's thinking by assigning names instead of numbers to the chimpanzees she watched -- something fellow scientists criticized as an impediment to maintaining objectivity. But Goodall's approach and her continuing studies of chimpanzees made people care about the primates as individuals, so much so that when one of Goodall's original chimpanzees died, obituaries marking the animal's passing were published in several newspapers. Goodall's lifelong work in what is now the Gombe Stream Research Center in Tanzania, numerous films, books, lectures and presentations, her work with children and young people and earnest advocacy for the preservation of wildlife and habitat have made Goodall's name synonymous with the environmental movement.
"I love it that so many people come and say to me 'Thank you for what you've done,'" Goodall said. "(They say) 'This is why I became a biologist,' 'This is why I became an environmentalist,' 'This is why I've changed my attitude.'
"And that's very special."
Goodall, who travels some 300 days of the year making public appearances, welcomes the opportunity to speak with Bakersfield residents, first at the Kern County Museum for a meet-and-greet reception at 5 p.m. That event will include a birthday celebration for Goodall, who turns 80 on Thursday.
After a media event at 6 p.m., Goodall will deliver her current lecture, "Sowing the Seeds of Hope," at Bakersfield College at 7:30 p.m. The title of the lecture is drawn from Goodall's latest book, "Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants," which will be published on Tuesday. Goodall will be signing books at the end of her lecture.
"(Bakersfield) will be the first place on the planet to be able to get signed copies of the book," Goodall said.
A childhood fascination with how animals behave, and the ability and patience to watch and wait, led a 23-year-old Valerie Jane Goodall from her country home in England to Kenya, where she met and worked with famed archaeologist Dr. Louis B. Leakey. Impressed with her abilities, Leakey sent Goodall in 1960 to what is now Tanzania to study chimpanzees in the wild.
"As a young girl, I wasn't allowed to go there alone, so my mother went with me," Goodall said.
"I went happily off into the hills every morning, which was my dream, leaving my mother in a primitive tent with the bugs and creepy crawlies."
"She played a pretty important part in all of my dreams, supporting me," Goodall said. "She was pretty amazing, actually."
Her work in Tanzania on chimpanzee behavior and her relationship with the animals she has observed have made Goodall an impassioned advocate for the natural world.
This is especially true when she discusses the topic of energy: If it could be said that Jane Goodall is hostile toward anything, it would be oil and gas exploration and conventional mining.
"Drilling for oil, fracking, mining the shale deposits in Canada -- they're destroying the land," she said.
"I was just in Peru, where they're destroying beautiful rivers with gold mining. They're putting arsenic in the water -- they're hurting the water, the land, the plants, animals. They're hurting people."
Goodall supports sustainable energy, such as the wind and solar projects in Kern County. When asked about potential environmental implications like habitat destruction and killing of birds, Goodall demurred.
"To give you a proper answer, I would have to delve more deeply into it," she said.
"It's problematic; there have to be ways to be environmentally friendly, but it's sustainable, so we have to do it.
"I guess the answer is, I think we have to acknowledge the problem, and work together. Not to deny there is a problem."
Goodall is certainly not into denial. A year ago, she and co-author Gail Hudson were accused of plagiarism in connection with the much-anticipated "Seeds of Hope," after a Washington Post book reviewer discovered several passages were actually taken from other sources -- including Wikipedia --without attribution. Goodall made a public apology and the book was delayed until changes could be made.
The book also lacked a bibliography -- an absolute must for any research publication. Stating that to be accused of plagiarism was "a bitter thing," Goodall took the criticism to heart and added 60 pages to the updated version.
"Once we got going, we decided to go ahead and provide citations for everything."
While Hudson has never spoken about the issue, Goodall has accepted the responsibility.
"Traveling as I do, some 300 days a year, I don't have that much time for writing," Goodall said. "(In writing 'Seeds of Hope') I called botanists all over the world; I have dozens of notebooks and computer research. I'm not a terribly organized person.
"It's a better book as a result; we were able to add a lot more information. In hindsight, I'm really happy." JANE GOODALL IN BAKERSFIELD
What: Primatologist Jane Goodall will appear at two events in Bakersfield Tuesday -- first at the Kern County Museum, 3801 Chester Ave., for a meet-and-greet affair, with hors d'oeuvres, wine and a birthday cake and later, at a lecture at Bakersfield College, 1801 Panorama Drive
When: The museum event is from 5 to 6 p.m.; the BC lecture, in the Gil Bishop Gymnasium, starts at 7:30 p.m.
Admission: The museum reception is $40, which includes admission to the BC lecture (or $25 for the museum event only); the BC presentation is $15; $10 for students with ID. Tickets are available at bakersfieldcollege.edu, or by calling 395-4326.
About the book: Jane Goodall's "Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants" will be available for sale and signing at the Bakersfield College bookstore, as will copies of Goodall's other books.