Felix Finkbeiner is no longer 9 years old and you might find his story inspiring. He started in 2007. His website address is https://www.plant-for-the-planet.org/en/home. Right there in bold. We plant trees for a better world. Help us children to save our future.. He took time from his busy schedule to talk about his work, hopes and ideas..
What made you believe that you could make a difference in the world?
I was inspired by the story of Wangari Maathai. She planted 30 million trees in 30 years, together with many women in Africa. I thought: If they planted that many trees, why shouldn’t we children plant a million trees in each country of the world?
Some people believe/feel that trees are live and have a spirit? Does this feel possible to you?
Whether they have a spirit or don’t, they are simply awesome. They improve our health, capture CO2, produce the oxygen we breathe, give us wood to build homes and food to eat.
Have you had experiences or perhaps your staff or others you work with have expressed feeling a kinship with the trees?
On our reforestation area, the workers treat the trees like children. They help them to grow tall and live on their own.
Where did you get the name for your organization? Was it inspiration? Was it your intuition that guided you to make that choice?
When we thought about a good name, I discovered that in 2003 the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) had started a project for kids called Plant-for-the-Planet. For a long time nothing had really been done with this project – but WE wanted to do it and immediately! Plant-for-the-Planet – the name matched perfectly with our plans. Because everybody on earth has to work together, an English name for our organization made sense. It is the only way we could guarantee that people from all nationalities could come together. We children want our voices to be heard!
Would you say that you had or have a vision for clean air/for the survival of the planet?
Our vision is to save our future. We children and youth are threatened by the effects of the climate crisis. So we have to mitigate those effects.
Did you ever have any doubt about succeeding? Please explain.
It’s not about succeeding, because all we can do is slow down the climate crisis. We won’t stop it. But every single tree we plant is good. There was one moment that was really hard: In 2011, I spoke at a meeting in front of 350 chocolate producers from around the world. I asked the children’s favorite industry to donate 0.01 percent of their revenue to Plant-for-the-Planet as a “Future Fee”. In other words, one euro per ton of the chocolate luxury product. Not a single one answered. Saying “this is shocking,” I left the stage in tears. But anger became courage – and thus, in 2012 we children introduced our own chocolate onto the market. The market launch of the Change Chocolate was the most successful product launch of a fair trade chocolate of all time. It is produced in the same manner that we children envisage every product: fair trade certified and climate neutral. It is sold as “Die Gute Schokolade” in Germany and Austria.
What guides you when you feel frustrated/sad/depressed about climate change and/or the denial of so many people?
Of course we’re sometimes frustrated. But we have to move on. It’s about the survival of so many people and it’s about our future!
You must have strong convictions that your work has significance (meaning). Where does that come from?
We know that planting trees alone won’t save our future. We need to reduce carbon emissions. Trees just give us more time to do so. But as we are talking about the climate crisis for more than 25 years now and haven’t done enough, we now urgently need trees. Whatever the future will look like, it’s always good to plant trees. They improve our lives.
You inspire many people. What words do you use when talking with audiences, your staff to give them hope, encouragement?
We need to stay optimistic. Planting trees to help save our future makes people happy. That’s the best way to give hope.