There is nothing more impressive than hearing a child express interest in topics that many adults assume are not interesting enough to children or shouldn’t be children’s concern. Young people are in the midst of becoming more politically active than ever before.The recent trend of seeing more children voicing and acting on their concerns about climate change should inspire us to stop and reflect on our planet’s future, and how we can support the work that young people are doing.
With young people like Felix Finkbeiner, we have much to be impressed by. Felix is a 9-year-old boy who, inspired by Wangari Maathai (who planted 30 million trees in Africa in 30 years) took a moment to reflect upon the present and the future of our planet. He noted that:
“Children could plant one million trees in every country on earth and thereby offset CO2 emissions all on their own, while adults are still talking about doing it. Each tree binds a CO2 intake of 10 kg per year.”
This is how The children’s initiative Plant-for-the-Planet was born. After hearing Felix’s impassioned words, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) became an official patron.
By 2009, the movement grew rapidly and became viral. To help the initiative become more known, the campaign entitled “Stop talking. Start planting” began, featuring photographs with famous sponsors such as Harrison Ford, apl.de.ap, Prince Albert of Monaco and Michael Otto.
Since this movement started in Germany, Plant-for-the-Planet academies have organized in Germany and around the world. These events are meant to help others do something about the environment, and take action against the climate crisis. This creates a cycle of children educating and encouraging one another to take on social responsibility and shape their future.
“At UNEP’s children and youth conference in South Korea, 800 children adopt a declaration for the climate summit in Copenhagen. In the end, Felix asks the audience who else will plant one million trees in their country. Within minutes, hundreds of children from 56 different nations come on stage to signal their support for the vision of Plant-for-the-Planet.”
In 2010, the one-millionth tree was planted in Germany. Hooray!
Are we leaving our future to the younger generations?
Felix is truly an admirable human being; he speaks out on behalf of himself, his generation, and those to follow.
“In 2011, Felix is invited to the UN headquarters. He urges the delegates to fight against the climate crisis not by talking, but through concrete actions. Felix calls the world to plant a Trillion Trees!”
A trillion trees sounds like a large number, however, divided among how many children are around the world, then this seems like only a fraction of the potential impact that Felix’s initiative could have on the world.
In 2015, Plant-for-the-Planet planted its first tree on the Yucatán Peninsula, , in Mexico. Further, each year, Plant-for-the-Planet will plant one million trees more than the year before. From the beginning this project was not simply an imagined solution to a fabricated problem: its strength is cientifically substantiated!
“In September 2015, the renowned scientific journal Nature published a study that the children had initiated. Dr. Tom Crowther from Yale University had for the first time researched the number of trees growing in the world (“Mapping tree density at a global scale”). There are about 3 trillion!
He also proved to the children that there is space for a further trillion trees that can be planted without competing with agriculture or settlements.”
The take up of the “Trillion Tree Campaign” which began in 2018, 30 representatives of companies, NGOs, and VIPs (like Prince Albert II of Monaco and Patricia Espinosa, General Secretary of the United Nations Climate Change UNFCCC), decided to sign the Trillion Tree Declaration.
Currently, the children involved in this movement are children between the age of 9-12, who pass on their knowledge at academies to other children and train others to become Ambassadors as well. These are children educating other children to save their future. They are not scientists, professors, or climate researchers. These young people are proof that revolutionary work can be done at any level of society, and that, if we create systems of support for young people, they will find lasting solutions for our contemporary problems.