A million trees and counting – German boy activist fights climate change

Felix Finkbeiner, a speaker at DW’s Global Media Forum, was nine when he came up with the idea of planting trees around the world. He’s now 12 and his idea has snowballed into a green student movement in 70 countries.

It all began with a presentation in English on climate change that Felix had to give at his school near Munich in January, 2007.

During his research, Felix came across a website with information on Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan activist who, together with other women in her country, had planted more than 30 million trees to fight deforestation and soil erosion.

Inspired by Maathai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, Felix highlighted tree-planting in his presentation as a way to tackle climate change.

"At the end of the presentation I said ‘let’s plant a million trees in every country of the world," the 12-year-old told Deutsche Welle.

‘We feel cheated’

Felix’s class teacher was impressed and helped spread the word. Soon, Felix was sent to other schools in the area to talk about his ambition. Two months later, Felix’s school – the Munich International School in Starnberg in southern Germany – organized the first official tree-planting drive.

The local media took an interest, other schools in the area began similar tree-planting events and Felix’s idea snowballed into a local green movement. Three years later, the initiative achieved its one- millionth-tree in Germany and the group "Plant for the Planet" was born, making Felix Finkbeiner Germany’s youngest founder of an environmental organization.

Today, the group is financed through donations and operates projects in 70 countries around the world.

Felix insists that the initiative isn’t just about planting trees. It’s also about children exchanging ideas and experiences of climate change.

"We children feel really cheated because such a lot was done for Copenhagen and at the end, what was really achieved there?" Felix said.

Wise green words

With his silver-rimmed spectacles and boyish face, Felix certainly looks his age, but he sounds somewhat older. He says that as an adult he and his generation will have to live radically different lifestyles from those of his parents’ generation, if global warming is to be curtailed.

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