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UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall was in New Zealand’s capital city on Sunday to talk about her work to make the world a better place, and was there.

The 80-year-old conservationist brought an inspiring message of hope to the sold-out event in Wellington, telling the audience: “I truly believe we will only see humans attain their full potential when head and heart work in harmony.”

As well as touching on the high points of her life with chimpanzees, Goodall talked about the issues facing the world today, as well as her work with the Jane Goodall Institute – which celebrated its 37th anniversary this year. All proceeds from the event went to the Jane Goodall Institute, raising over $30,000.

During her speech, Goodall talked about her early years, and how the support she got from her mother gave her the courage to take on scientists in an academic world biased towards men.

She also touched on how a scientific conference turned her into the conservation activist that she is today.

“These scientists weren’t prepared to admit there were striking similarities in personality and intelligence and emotions [between chimps and humans].

“I went into that conference as a scientist, but I came out as an activist – I wasn’t sure what I could do, but I knew I had to do something.”

Goodall went on to talk about how she established the Jane Goodall Institute, and how she aims to empower people around the world to better take care of all living things.

“It takes a long time to change,” she said. “But at least we’ve started.”

Goodall also talked about her Roots & Shoots initiative, which sees youth take action in their communities and give them the skills to prioritize the problems facing the world and develop solutions. The initiative started with just 12 high school students in Tanzania, and is now in 136 countries.

“Every day that we live, we make some sort of impact on the planet,” she said. "We get to choose what sort of impact we want to make. That’s the main message of Roots & Shoots.

“I’m always hearing that young people can make a difference – I’m telling you that they are making a difference! Their energy, their commitment, their dedication is awe inspiring.”

Goodall spoke at length about the harm humans are doing to the planet: "We’ve got planet Earth, and we’re destroying it very fast.

“We’re using up the natural resources of the planet as though they’re infinite – but they’re not. And there seems to be at the moment a grab by some of these big companies to get everything before it’s too late, before it is all gone, so that their shareholders will be proud and happy. But what about the future? What about our great great grandchildren?”

But it was Goodall’s message of hope for humanity that touched home for the audience.

“Is it wrong to make money? Some people are really good at making money. And it is fantastic to make lots of money… as long as you use it to do good.

“So many people say, ‘Dr Jane, do you really have hope? You’ve seen so much that’s gone wrong, you’ve seen so many atrocities.’ But my reasons for hope are very simple and the first is this energy of young people. You cannot spend time with them all around the world as I do, and not be filled with hope.

“And secondly it is the brain – the brain is being used to invent new technology that can be used to enable us to live in greater harmony.

“And then there is the resilience of nature. I think all of you have seen a place that has been destroyed, that nature has reclaimed. It’s pretty amazing.

“And the final reason for hope is the indomitable human spirit. The people who tackle seemingly impossible tasks. They can be icons like Nelson Mandela… or they can just be ordinary people around us, who have extraordinary lives – overcoming hardships, carrying on with their lives, smiling at people, or overcoming tremendous physical disabilities and leading lives that inspire those around them."

To find out more about how you can support the Jane Goodall Institute, click here.

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