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Jane Goodall Institute hosts the ‘Academy Awards’ of conservation

“Jane has been my hero for so many years. She was out there teaching us how important chimpanzees are and about our shared history with them; how important the web of life is to us all. We thought of ourselves as separate and she showed us we are not. She showed us primates made tools and had language. And now, of course, Jane is showing us what is going on in the natural world and the different systems that are in a state of collapse from deforestation and other problems. But there are ways to solve these problems. Jane is here to let us know that there is hope for change. Jane is my hero and always will be.”
Ed Begley, Jr.,
2009 Recipient of the Jane Goodall Global Leadership Award
for Responsible Activism in Media and Entertainment

“I am deeply honored to accept this award from Dr. Goodall. The thoughtful work of the Jane Goodall Institute has made a tremendous difference in conserving habitat and improving the lives of people around the world.”
Betty White,
2009 Recipient of the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Award
for Lifetime Achievement

Betty White and Jane Goodall at the Awards

From the menu that featured organic, local and sustainable vegetarian fare to a celebrity reception on the green carpet, the 2009 Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) Global Leadership Awards Celebration offered a progressive spin on the traditional big Hollywood awards gala.

Hosted by Jill St. John and Robert Wagner, with a special musical performance by Ben Harper, celebrity attendees included Rachelle Carson and Ed Begley, Jr., Jim Belushi, Craig Ferguson, Jordana Brewster, Frances Fisher, Betty White, and The Honorable Antonio R. Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles (also the winner of the 2009 Jane Goodall Global Leadership Award for Excellence in Public Policy).

2009 Awardees

  • Excellence in Public Policy: The Honorable Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles
  • Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility: Theo Chocolate
  • Responsible Activism in Media and Entertainment: Ed Begley, Jr.
  • Excellence in Education: John Zavalney Roots & Shoots
  • Youth Leadership: Erica Fernandez (California) and Shadrach Meshach (Tanzania) The Jane Goodall Award for Lifetime Dedication to the Conservation and Care of Chimpanzees: Dr. Virginia Landau
  • Lifetime Achievement: Betty White

    This article is an interview with Mary Norman, senior vice president for development at the Jane Goodall Institute in Arlington, Va. Ms. Norman and her team are the force behind the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Awards Celebration.

    Mongabay: Dear Ms. Norman, please offer Mongabay readers thoughts on the history of the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Awards Celebration and the goals of producing this program.

    Mary Norman: The Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Awards Celebration began in 2007. The awards were established to recognize and honor individuals and corporations that inspire change and compassionate action on behalf of all living things.

    Mongabay: What are your thoughts on the selection of awards categories and this year’s recipients?

    Mary Norman:This year we created the Lifetime Achievement Award to honor Betty White, who for years has stepped up for the compassionate treatment of animals.

    Ed Begley

    In addition, we recognized Ed Begley who for decades has really “walked the talk” for living a green life before it was considered fashionable.

    Back in August, Ed hosted our first-ever “Global Citizen’s Lunch Summit” for 20 “green-chip” companies at his home in Los Angeles. We had an opportunity to tour his house to see all the amazing energy-saving features that he has installed while educating the corporate attendees about the Institute and its programs. And Dr. Goodall even joined us via Skype! Ed is truly a great friend of JGI and the environment.

    I should also mention Theo Chocolate, the only certified organic and Fair Trade™ chocolate manufacturer in the United States. Theo pioneered the introduction of organic cocoa beans into the United States in 1994 and has been a progressive leader in the food industry for many years. We at JGI thought it important to acknowledge the company’s continued good work and commitment.

    And of course there are our youth leader awardees from Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program, including Erica Fernandez. As a high school student, Erica organized protests to stop the development of a liquefied natural gas facility that was going to be built off the California coast. Her efforts actually helped to halt the project as the proposal was eventually voted down. It just goes to show how young people can make a difference so we wanted to recognize Erica’s achievements.

    Jane Goodall with Youth Leaders Erica Fernandez and Shadrach Meshach

    We also honored Shadrach Meshach of Tanzania who helped organize a Roots & Shoots program at the Lugufu Refugee Camp. His efforts led to better relations between the conflict-torn residents as they found ways to work together despite their circumstances and cultural differences. These are a just a few of the amazing people and organizations that JGI awarded this year.

    Mongabay: There is strong focus at the awards on youth and education. Could you offer our readers your thoughts as to why youth groups have been a prominent focus for JGI?

    Mary Norman: For Dr. Goodall and JGI, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is terribly critical. We believe in empowering young people from preschool through college. If you motivate young people and educate them about the difference that one person can make, it’s amazing what they can and will do.

    We feel it is also very important to honor teachers who share JGI’s goals and who have empowered students in the classroom. This year we recognized John Zavalney of the Los Angeles Unified School District. John has worked primarily in under-served areas and focused on instilling an interest in science in his students. He has brought Roots & Shoots into the classroom and taught students who don’t normally have an opportunity to experience or interact with animals up close about caring for them in a compassionate manner. Roots & Shoots emphasizes the importance of compassion from an early age and demonstrates how this compassion can make a difference in the immediate community and the world.

    Mongabay:Last year’s Global Leadership Awards Celebration was on the East Coast. Why did you hold the event this year in Los Angeles?

    Jane Goodall

    Mary Norman: The Jane Global Institute Global Leadership Awards Celebration dates back to 2007. That year, we held back-to-back events in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles as it was also the 30th anniversary of the Institute. Why this year again in Los Angeles? Well, the Jane Goodall Institute began in California and it is important to stay connected to one’s roots. We have a large base of support throughout the state and find that our local entertainment industry connections enable us to educate a larger global audience about Dr. Goodall’s mission and messages, as well as the work of the Jane Goodall Institute.

    Mongabay: Could you relate the future goals of and thoughts about the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Awards Celebration?

    Mary Norman: Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of Dr. Goodall’s groundbreaking behavioral research of the wild chimpanzees of Gombe, Tanzania. Today it is one of the longest uninterrupted studies of a wild animal species. We feel it is a pivotal year for the Institute and our planet. Over the course of the celebratory period, we will be looking again to the entertainment community to help convey the importance of the ongoing work at our Gombe Stream Research Center in Tanzania and all that emanated from Dr. Goodall’s pioneering studies – from our understanding of what it means to be human to new approaches to conservation in developing countries, as well as to insights into the spread of disease.

      “Although I must admit that I feel much more comfortable in the field then at these galas, this event was very important because I felt that there was genuine interest from a globally influential group (the entertainment community) in regard to preserving our environment.”

      – Dr. Jane Goodall, October 30, 2009, Los Angeles, Calif., USA

    For more information on the Jane Goodall Institute and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, please visit and

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