Roots shoots for alternative to scout program


    The Malibu chapter of Roots and Shoots, an environmental and humanitarian program first established by world-renowned philanthropist Dr. Jane Goodall, is being embraced by many Malibu families in lieu of the Boy Scout program, offering different varieties of community service to people of all ages.

    Established two years ago and led by Malibu mom Gloria Van Santen along with co-organizer Diane Malcha, Roots and Shoots of Malibu works through other organizations to help local canyons and surrounding communities.

    Goodall, whose in-depth work with African chimps brought her global fame, founded the Roots and Shoots program in 1991.

    There are presently 1,400 Roots and Shoots groups in 50 different countries. The organization remains committed to enforcing and raising awareness for the care and concern for the environment, animals and the community.

    The program, since its origin, has been primarily targeted at children and young adults, and though this remains true for the Malibu chapter, Santen says that they embrace people of all ages.

    “Anyone of any age can do most of our outings,” said Santen, adding that some activities are unsuitable for children 5 years of age and younger, for example, working with poisonous plants .

    One of the main catalysts that led to the establishment of the Malibu chapter was Santen’s disapproval of the Boy Scout program of America, which recently declared in court its anti-homosexual policy. Other members of Roots and Shoots joined for the same reason.

    “I chose Roots and Shoots as an alternative to the Boy Scout program because of their politics,” said new member Janet Ettenger.

    This democratic organization holds monthly and often cost-free outings, which are the only opportunities for the group to meet.

    “We keep the talking down and the activity up,” said Santen.

    In the past two years, the Malibu organization, called Zumers, focused on the protection of Zuma Canyon, in addition to sponsoring a clothes drive for children living in the San Fernando Valley, and working at the California Wildlife Center. The organization has helped out at past Dolphin Runs, as well as contributed to a Rotary Book Drive that benefited children in Mexico. Though Santen says the group tries to stay in Malibu, it will commit its time to other causes that are brought to its attention.

    One of its more notable achievements has been its previous work with Save Open Space, a local environmental organization. During February 2000, Roots and Shoots joined S.O.S. in protesting the Ahmanson Ranch project development at a public hearing at the Calabasas/Agoura Hills Community Center. The project proposed the construction of 3,000 homes, and the guarantee of more traffic and more dust into the Malibu Creek.

    Santen’s daughter, Kiri Van Santen, who is now a 7th grader at Malibu High School and the president of the middle school Solutions Club, spoke directly to the council on the subject.

    There are presently 40 members on the Malibu Roots and Shoots mailing list, who receive two to three newsletters each year. Out of these 40, only 20 are active members. Santen says that one of the most prominent obstacles as of yet has been getting a dedicated base.

    Roots and Shoots is planning to meet Jane Goodall on June 2 at a Roots and Shoots festival in Huntington Beach, where the Malibu chapter will have a booth and share its accomplishments with fellow chapters. Though it is easy to get involved, Santen urges people to call the Malibu chapter to sign up prior to coming to an outing.

    In a couple of years, Santen hopes to take a limited group of families to Africa to see the chimps that Goodall has helped protect.

    The Malibu chapter of Roots and Shoots and coordinator Gloria Van Santen can be reached at 310.457.1621 for more information.