Jane Goodall Retrospective

It’s a funny coincidence that this should be up now, since I’m currently reading Jane Goodall’s book Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating–a book I received as a present some time ago, and only got to now–but I noticed on Boing-Boing’s Twitter feed regarding a link to a retrospective on her career and discoveries–titled “Being Jane Goodall”–at National Geographic, as well as a lovely cache of the photos contributed by her to the magazine.

Both the article and the photos are worth your time, so go and check them out.

The thing that’s fascinating to me about the book, having now reading the article at National Geographic, is how Goodall mentions all of the things she (very crucially) discovered in her first few months of research–before any scientific training, mind–but she mentions them primarily as support for her argument about culture and the nature of humans and the importance of food in culture. She only very briefly notes the significance of one of those discoveries, even though several of them shocked and rocked the world of primatology and forced scientists to rethink what they “knew” about chimps and about humanity.

Gotta respect someone who can change the world, mention the changes as important, but refrain from bragging or taking credit for having wrought those changes in the face of an establishment, without any professional training or background.

As for the rest, well, book’s not bad so far, though anyone who is widely traveled enough to have eaten food in Asia or Africa, and happens to know something about primatology or human evolution, will find the first few chapters contain few stunning revelations. (Though I am still pretty surprised by the section on geophagy. Yeah, “Go eat dirt,” actually does refer to actual–and widespread–cultural practices, though they’re mostly forgotten in a lot of places today.) I’m looking forward to the chewier portions of her argument. (I wrote, originally, “the meat of the argument” but that’s pretty inappropriate given some of what is surely to come in the book.)

I should note that while the translation was published a year ago, this book is one of those I still see on display tables (the Korean translation of the book, I mean) in bookstores all over the place, which is cool. While it alarms me how unpopular fiction is here, and how popular investment and business-related books are (followed by self-help books), I am happy to see that Goodall’s book is still noteworthy enough to be out on display tables.

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