The Good Doctor Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall turns 80 today.

I met her once. More on that later. I have admired her for many years.

Back in 1960, at the age of 26, Jane left England to what is today Tanzania to enter the world of wild chimpanzees. She had a notebook and a pair of binoculars and not much more.

With great patience and observation she gained the trust of these initially shy creatures and came to understand their lives.

Nowadays, Jane Goodall is on the road more than 300 days per year. I was invited to a conference ten years ago in New York City for educators. I got into a line there for a hot drink and the woman in front of me was surprised and embarrassed to discover that you had to pay $3 for your coffee or tea. “Oh, my,” she said “I don’t have any money with me.” I offered to pay and only when she turned did I realize she was Jane Goodall.

She accepted my offer and then suggested we sit together with our drinks. I was starstruck. I knew she was the featured speaker that day. She was going to talk about her Roots and Shoots program. The Roots & Shoots program is about making positive change for people, animals and for the environment.  It involves tens of thousands of young people in more than 120 countries. Young people identify problems in their communities and take action. Jane truly believes that young people, when informed and empowered to realize that what they do truly makes a difference, can indeed change the world.

We drank out tea. I never said anything about her or her work. I didn’t ask for an autograph. She did all the questioning. She was interested in where I taught, what I taught and why I taught. She was very interested in my volunteer work for endangered species in my home state of New Jersey.  She thought that any work I was doing in my own local area was most valuable.

Her institute encourages lots of small local actions, including creating a sustainable home garden and building a habitat for local native wildlife.

Today, Jane’s work has gone beyond the chimpanzees and includes endangered species (that does include chimpanzees) and encouraging others to do their part. The Jane Goodall Institute works to protect the famous chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania, but recognizes this can’t be accomplished without a comprehensive approach that addresses the needs of local people who are critical to chimpanzee survival.

Dr. Jane is high on my list of the good people who live on our planet.

Today at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT you can join Dr. Jane Goodall for a live-on-YouTube Google+ Hangout birthday party. The program will feature will feature projects from Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots groups completed in Dr. Jane’s honor, birthday wishes from around the globe and a special message from Dr. Jane herself.  A YouTube box will appear at the top of the page and all you will have to do is click play to tune in. You can join the hangout by posting questions on Google+, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #80yearsofJane.

This Google+ Hangout on Air is hosted in conjunction with Google Earth Outreach and Connected Classrooms.


How About a Cricket Bar?

Humans have been eating insects for centuries. They are a plentiful and resource-efficient source of protein. And pretty gross.

Eighty percent of the world’s people regularly eat edible insects as part of everyday normal diets. In Mexico, chapulines are popular and on the table are stir-fried red tree ants in Cambodia. In Japan, inago (grasshoppers) and hachinoko (bee larvae) are eaten. Order some casu marzu in Italy and you’re getting insect protein.

Insects provide lots of protein, iron and omega-3 acids and are very low in cholesterol and fat. But there is that psychological part to get past.

It’s not that the average American needs more protein. We consume about twice as much protein as nutritionists recommend. But our sources of protein are pretty limited, and the sources are often unhealthy and inefficient to produce.

Our global population continues to expand from 6 billion in 2000 to 7 billion today and probably 9-10 billion within our lifetimes. That puts a lot of pressure on our land and even more on water resources.

To feed cattle, pigs and chickens we use tremendous amounts of water and land. It’s rather shocking to consider that 92% of all freshwater consumed is absorbed by agriculture. A hamburger has the same greenhouse gas impact as driving a Toyota Corolla for 10 miles. Our water sources are already laced with antibiotics, hormones and pesticides.

Soy and whey protein are two popular alternatives to meat, but they still rely on resource-intensive agriculture. For some people, they expose us to unhealthy levels of phytoestrogens and trigger dairy allergies.

i got exposed to the idea of protein/energy bars made from insect flour from a news article. Using insects (mostly crickets) in flour form gets rid of the crunching-a-bug part of the psychological block most of us have to the idea of eating insects.

The company that seems to be getting a lot of attention is Chapul Bars. They are not pure insect flour. They also have dates, peanuts, dark chocolate, a bit of agave nectar or lime, coconut and ginger. The bars come in peanut butter, chocolate and Thai flavors.

Chapul’s flavors are inspired by cultures where insects have historically been part of a healthy diet. They donate 10% of profits to water conservation projects in those regions.

Cricket farms are efficient as crickets need very little water to live and eat mostly agricultural by-products, like corn husks and broccoli stalks.

Pat Crowley is co-founder and spokesperson for Chapul, which is based in Salt Lake City. They launched in 2012. It is interesting that Crowley has a degree in hydrology and had worked in water management and conservation. he was inspired by a 2011 podcast about insects as nutritious and eco-friendly food sources. He was hit by the idea that insects convert grain and grass into edible protein as much as 10 times more efficiently than cows and pigs.

He recruited two friends to be the chef and run the business end of things, and they set out to create an all-natural snack made with cricket protein. They don’t farm the crickets themselves but use a cricket supplier from California. They used the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise $16,000 in 18 days.

They don’t hide the cricket factor – the bars’ wrappers have crickets and say “The Original Cricket Bar.” I found them in a store in New York City. If you didn’t know it was cricket, you wouldn’t flinch.

Right now they are in less than a hundred health-food types of stores, but the company is hoping to move into larger retails outlets like Whole Foods and Starbucks.