Plant For The Planet, a global tree-planting movement sparked by a nine-year-old’s school project, has joined forces with the UN’s Billion Trees Campaign. They aim to encourage the planting of at least one billion native trees each year worldwide. In the first five years of the campaign 12,585,293,312 were planted and they are still going strong.
Felix Finkbeiner set the challenge to plant a million trees in his home country of Germany when he was nine years old, inspired by founder of the Greenbelt Movement Wangari Maathai, who he learnt about during a school project. Felix planted his first tree outside the gates of his school in 2007 and by the time he was 13 his message had spread and he was speaking at international conferences. That year, in 2011, the one millionth tree was planted in Germany.
The charismatic Finkbeiner, who is now studying at university in London, has inspired a generation of young activists to believe in their ability to influence change.
“I knew he was this legendary kid,” says Aji Piper, a 15-year-old tree “ambassador” in Seattle who met Finkbeiner in 2015. Piper, an activist and plaintiff in a children’s’ lawsuit against the United States government over climate change, regards Finkbeiner as a role model.
“We saw he was doing speeches. He was so young. Very impressive. That’s the skill level I want to get to.”
The campaign also prompted the first global tree count, carried out by NASA, which showed that there are around three trillion trees on the planet, over seven times more than was previously estimated. However, with deforestation occurring at a rate of 10 billion trees per year, the coalition realised that they needed to up their goal from a billion to a trillion trees planted… and they took on the challenge, adding their weight to other tree-planting initiatives around the world.
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