Felix Finkbeiner is a young man in a hurry to get the world to plant trees. The 19-year-old from a small Bavarian village near Munich, now studying at a university in London, has founded a global youth movement, Plant For The Planet, which has spearheaded the planting of over 15 billion saplings, signed up 75,000 children as climate ambassadors.
Alongside setting up Change Chocolate, a successful fair-trade chocolate company to raise money, the tall, spectacled teenager has joined with three of the world’s biggest conservation charities to launch the most ambitious reforestation project in history.
The Trillion Tree campaign aims to get the world to plant 1 trillion trees in the next 30 years. To put that into context, scientists calculate there are currently 3 trillion trees growing worldwide.
Each mature tree absorbs about 22 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, Finkbeiner says, “so one trillion could capture 25 percent of all human-made CO2 emissions and help to keep global temperature rise below the crucial 2-degree C limit. It does not replace the need to avoid carbon emissions, as agreed in Paris, but is a necessary addition.”
Finkbeiner thinks big. He has spoken at the United Nations and European Parliament, and reels off numbers like the politicians, who he says have mostly failed to act.
No one paid him much attention back in 2008, when, at age 9 and inspired by Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner and tree-planter Wangari Maathai, he announced at his primary school assembly that he intended to get children to plant 1 million trees in every country.
But his motto, “Stop talking, start planting,” went viral. Competition between schools, “pester power,” and slick social media saw the million-tree target reached within two years.
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Originally published on the Huffington Post.