It’s not often that we ask fourteen year olds to speak at T&D. And it’s not often that these fourteen year olds can boast to have been involved in getting a million trees planted.
Actually the number is 12.5 billion. But then we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Felix Finkbeiner was working on a school assignment about climate change when he was nine. His research led him to Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai and her campaign to plant 30 million trees in Africa. That inspired him to plant his own tree in his school in Bavaria.
It’s been five years since that first tree was planted, and now his campaign has gone global. Since then he has spoken in front of the United Nations (his biggest challenge so far according to him), and with his team has conducted 112 "academies" (workshops run by Plant-for-the-Planet) in 16 countries. The entrepreneurial youngster even has his own new retail product, Change Chocolate, coming up this year.
He does what he does because, in his own words – “the year 2100 is within his lifetime”. The future which is abstract to many adults will be a reality for his generation (and ours!). And it’ll be too late by the time he’s an adult.
At the moment, he already has twelve and a half thousand children with him. His goal for 2020 is for a million people worldwide planting trees with him, and to even create the world's first global political party. “When people work together, they have power – and enough to make our own revolution if necessary."
His dad, who was there with us, shared (rather candidly, and in good humour) that he doesn’t think that he’s all that special (his words!). He just reckons it’s in Felix’s personality to be speaking about these things. But as Felix mused, all this could not be possible without his family – his father to travel around with him, and even allowing the first employee of Plant-for-the-Planet (Felix’s organization) to use their house as an office.
Despite having the facts about climate change at the tips of his fingers, and (from what we understand) a fairly substantial young female fan base, Felix is humble. Upon being asked why he thinks adults make the bad decisions he’s fighting against, he just shrugs his shoulders and says frankly “I don’t know”.
But don’t take him too lightly. Just a few days ago Felix gave a presentation to a business conference. Usually the applause and the standing ovations come at the end. This time it came in front, and not just any business conference – two thousand CEOs stood in applause as he walked into the room to give his speech.
During the evening, he also said that there are always people who don’t take you seriously. But then, there are always people who don’t take the issues seriously too. Neither should stop you from doing what you do.
So thank you, Felix (and dad), for an inspiring evening – a night with a fourteen year-old who has planted so many trees, and who we reckon will inspire many more over his lifetime.