The Fourteen-Year-Old Boy Who Has the World Planting Trees
At his young age, Felix Finkbeiner signs autographs and delivers eloquent speeches on reforestation.
At first sight, Felix doesn’t look like a celebrity: he wears thick-rimmed glasses, dresses more like a country singer than a pop star and sports a haircut radically unlike Justin Bieber’s lush wave. So how did this ordinary-looking boy suddenly become a chick magnet? It’s very simple. He is the head of the “Plant for the Planet” initiative, which has recently met its goal of planting three million trees in Germany.
Currently, Felix dedicates his time to spreading his message around the world. His organization has become international, with chapters in 131 countries, including a recently opened branch in the UK that promises to plant a million trees. Volunteers can choose between planting in a group, planting individually or donating; “Plant for the Planet” promises to plant one tree per donated euro.
The results are impressive. Thanks in part to their successful webpage, the children of “Plant for the Planet” have attracted the attention of celebrity philantropists like Brad Pitt and the Prince of Wales, who both joined Felix’s cause.
The project started out as a weekend homework assignment. Felix had to do research for a school presentation on climate change. His Google searches led him to Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai’s campaign. Maathai, a daughter of Kenyan farmers, received a scholarship to study biology in the United States, where she started her “Green Belt Movement” campaign in 1977, with the intent of empowering women in small Kenyan communities and educating people on the problem of land erosion.
After reading about Maathai’s life and work, Felix decided it was the time for children to become involved. His passionate class presentation on climate change took the school by storm. His speech was enthusiastically received and generated animated reactions, first from teachers and classmates, and later with companies as important as the German branch of Toyota, which injected the initiative with 40,000 euros.
The campaign went nationwide. Soon Felix’s words aired on a press conference broadcasted throughout Germany. From that point on, the boy was bound to take his message everywhere; the highlights of his career include speaking before the 2008 UN Children’s Conference in Norway, where he was elected into the junior board of the environmental program (UNEP), appearing before the European Parliament, and delivering a conference in South Korea.
Although Felix was the star of the Cancún Climate Change Conference last year, his parents don’t consider him a genius; instead, they assert that the day his activism interferes with his schoolwork is the day he will have to call it quits.
People’s fascination with Felix could seem perplexing: he is not a scientist with expertise on the subject, nor is his cause particularly revolutionary. But hearing him discuss climate change, it is not too hard to see why this teenager has had such sway over public opinion. Felix, like any good politician, is a great orator: he knows how to convince people and he knows how to recruit high numbers of participants to lend a hand in his cause.
The organization has a team of 12 people who raise money to plant trees, without discriminating against any potential donors. It is important to Felix to work with every type of business, because the problems the organization deals with are great and should be combated on every front.
The paradigm of “Plant for the Planet” is very interesting. We often hear that kids are our future but rarely do we get to hear what they actually think about it. This is an inspirational story about a boy taking action on an urgent matter.
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