Roots & Shoots USA Group ‘Forces of Nature’ at COP26

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Dr. Jane Goodall started Roots & Shoots in 1991 after hearing local students in Tanzania express their feelings of powerlessness to address the problems in the world around them. In the 30 years since, Roots & Shoots has grown into the world’s foremost youth empowerment movement, and millions of participants have worked around the globe to benefit people, other animals, and the environment we all share. Dr. Goodall knows that every person has the power to effect change no matter how large the obstacle may seem, and this belief has become more relevant than ever in the face of the worldwide climate crisis. 

The Roots & Shoots group ‘Forces of Nature’ centers its work on climate action, and some of its members attended the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in Fall 2021 to participate and make their voices heard. As members of the generation that will inherit our planet as well as the responsibility to steward it, these Roots & Shoots changemakers knew that it was vital for them to attend, engage in productive protests, and promote sweeping change. Comprised of Roots & Shoots members Will Charouhis (Miami, Florida), Lily Paden (Los Angeles, California), and Alexandra Blitch (Dallas, Texas), the group all come from different regions across the U.S. where they each have dealt with the weight and horrors of the crisis. “Giving the youth a voice is one of the most important things we can do right now,” said Lily Paden, one of the group members. “As we are graduating from college and entering the workforce, hopefully we are also educating our next generation of policy makers… It’s so important for future generations.”  

The members who attended had the opportunity to interview Dr. Goodall and interact with Anna Rathman, JGI’s executive director, as the conference came to a close. Highlighting the belief that grounds Roots & Shoots—that individual actions can collectively change the world—Jane drew parallels between her own experience growing up in WWII-era England and the seemingly insurmountable challenge of halting the climate crisis. “We were the only country standing up against the might of Nazi Germany,” she recalled, “and the belief that we would not be defeated is what led all the different workers to pitch in and do their bit.” The role of inspiring people and giving hope is critical, and it drives these ‘Forces of Nature’ to overcome the external systemic forces driving this existential threat, spread hope for the future, and implement the concrete changes that will drive further progress.  

About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Associate Director of Communications & Partnerships at the Jane Goodall Institute USA, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Jane Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission to create a better world for all by protecting the interconnections between people, other animals, and the environment. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and a minor in Biology, and is currently a Master's of Science Candidate for Environmental Science & Policy at Johns Hopkins University with a focus on Environmental Justice. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, now a D.C. resident, she has a varied background including nearly 10 years of expert communications and digital marketing in the social and environmental non-profit sector. Her intersectional approach to this work has been shaped by a holistic world-view, having traveled to Madagascar and Ecuador for conservation research projects, leading communications for youth social justice filmmaking programs, and as a part of several professional groups advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in environmental spaces. With skills ranging from conservation fieldwork, policy and advocacy campaigns, strategic communications, art, digital media, and design, Ashley believes in sharing information to empower and in the magic of storytelling to change hearts and minds. Through growing understanding, empathy, and justice, she is igniting positive change to create that better, more equitable world, every day.