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Public Conference


United Nations Messenger of Peace
and Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute

Nature's wake-up call: Why we must heed the warning

Wednesday, 26 May 2010 | 4:30 p.m.
Palais des Nations; Assembly Hall
To watch the video archive of the lecture, please click here

To read Dr. Goodall’s biography, please click here

World-renowned environmental advocate Jane Goodall shared her reasons for hope at the 4th edition of the Geneva Lecture Series

Dr. Jane Goodall, the keynote speaker of the 4th edition of the Geneva Lecture Series that took place on 26 May at the Palais des Nations, urged the current generation to stop borrowing from the future generations and to change its ways before it is too late. Pointing to the sometimes pessimistic attitudes among youth, Dr. Goodall explained, “When I think about how we have harmed the planet since I was their age, I feel this desperation and shame. We have compromised their future. But it’s not true that there’s nothing that can be done about it”.

Jane Goodall commonly referred to as “Dr. Jane” sees her work with children and youth as one of the main priority areas. She struggles to instill hope and to make them believe that they can contribute to making the world a better place. Through its youth programme “Roots and Shoots” currently present in 120 countries, the Jane Goodall Institute demonstrates in practice how each child can make a difference for his local community, animals and the environment. While delivering her lecture, Dr. Goodall noted that this was her faith in youth that gave her the energy to travel 300 days a year to spread a message of hope and to contribute to “raising new generations to be better students than we are”.  

2010 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Goodall’s arrival on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in what is now known as Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, and the beginning of her career as a field researcher. The revolutionary scientific discoveries that the now world celebrated primatologist made at that time, including findings that chimpanzees make and use tools, engage in warlike activities and are capable of altruistic acts, are believed to have profoundly altered our understanding of the relationship between humans and nature.


Dr. Goodall became a vocal environmental advocate in the 1980s, in response to alarming deforestation rates and decreasing populations of endangered species. A holistic approach she initiated and continues to apply to her community-based conservation programmes helps to promote sustainable livelihoods among local people through empowerment of women, micro-credit schemes, education, health care, family planning, HIV awareness, etc.

The session entitled “Nature’s wake-up call: Why we must heed the warning” and introduced by the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze, and Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Mr. Carlos Lopes, featured a lively debate with Dr. Goodall’s participation. The debate was moderated by the TSR journalist Mr. Xavier Colin. The questions addressed by the general public on this occasion varied from the importance of the preservation of biodiversity, the future of ethology, to the impact of the fast growing populations on the environment. Dr. Goodall clarified that the population growth associated with developing countries should in no way be considered as solely responsible for the damage. Recognizing the importance of family planning in so-called developing countries, she emphasized that the ways of life in rich countries with less individuals often have a greater impact on the degradation of the environment. Dr. Goodall also called on humans to recognize the right to life to other species as such, and to abandon human-centric reasoning and to acknowledge the need to preserve the biological diversity of our planet.

This was the 4th in a series of lectures jointly organized by UNOG and UNITAR and inaugurated by the United Nations Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon. The Geneva Lecture Series aims to bring awareness of global challenges to the public by engaging prominent political, civil society, business and intellectual figures in a process of reflection on what can and should be done to address pressing issues of global significance. The previous editions included as speakers Nobel Prize Laureates Shirin Ebadi, Wole Soyinka and Mikhail Gorbachev, and covered such global challenges as Millennium Development Goals, human rights, and nuclear disarmament.

To download the preliminary programme of the Lecture, click here .


Dr. Jane Goodall © Jeff Orlowski


Dr. Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE

Dr. Goodall is an internationally renowned primatologist whose ground-breaking contributions to chimpanzee behavioral research has inspired an entire generation of scientists around the world and has resulted in a wealth of scientific discoveries, as well as a number of best-selling publications including "In the Shadow of Man”, “Through a Window”, “Reason for Hope”, but also books for children. Recognized as one of the most influential women of our time, Dr. Goodall is equally famous for having pioneered innovative conservation approaches that seek to promote environmentally and economically sustainable local communities.

To read Dr. Goodall’s biography, please click here




Background documents

What the experts say

What the media say

Useful links



Background documents

Preserving Biological Diversity

Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992

UNEP Press Release: World governments fail to deliver on 2010 biodiversity target, 29 April 2010

Global Biodiversity Outlook

Connecting biodiversity and climate change mitigation

"Connecting Biodiversity and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation" Report of the Second Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Biodiversity and Climate Change


What the experts say

The responsibility for opinions in the documents cited on this page rests solely with their authors. The citation of these documents does not constitute an endorsement by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research neither by the organizers or sponsors of the Geneva Lecture Series.


Preserving biodiversity

Jane Goodall BBC interview on the future of gorillas-- BBC HARDtalk by Stephen Sackur, 25 June 2009


Linking biodiversity and climate change mitigation: Helping local communities in preventing deforestation

Trickle Effect -- Newsweek interview with Dr. Jane Goodall, by Daniel Stone, 16 December 2009


What the media say

The responsibility for opinions in the documents cited on this page rests solely with their authors. The citation of these documents does not constitute an endorsement by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research neither by the organizers or sponsors of the Geneva Lecture Series.

Coverage by media partners and other newspapers

Radio Suisse Romande

Tribune de Genève: "The Geneva Lecture Series: Nature's wake-up call" (French version)

Tribune de Genève: "Nature is in danger: Jane Goodall is coming to Geneva to make us listen to the Nature's warning", by Alain Jourdan, 10 May 2010 (French version)


Tribune de Genève: "The picture of the harm humans are inflicting on the planete is frightening", Interview with Dr. Goodall by Alain Jourdan, 17 May 2010 (French version)


Swisster: "Goodall urges us to listen to Nature's wake-up call", by Marcus Berry, 18 May 2010


Thematic press review

Scitizen: Google, Jane Goodall, forests and the cloud, 28 December 2009


Post-event press review

Radio Suisse Romande: Interview with Dr. Goodall by Virginie Matter, 27 May 2010

World Radio Switzerland: Interview with Dr. Goodall by Alex Helmick, 27 May 2010

Tribune de Genève: "I feel ashamed for the way we harmed our planete", Jane Goodall calls for more public awareness, by Alain Jourdan, 26 May 2010

La Liberté: "Dr. Jane, the champion of chimpanzees", by Francesca Sacco, 1 June 2010 (French version)

Le Temps: "Animals as Toolmakers", by Lucia Sillig, 26 June 2010 (French version)


Useful links

 Jane Goodall Institute