“We children know adults know the challenges and they know the solutions,” Felix Finkbeiner said. “We don’t know why there is so little action.”
That child right there is a German wunderkind that has been invited to speak to the United Nations General Assembly. Nothing big, right? Well, you might want to hear more about what he has to say.
In a child’s eyes, why would adults do that? He said three possible explanations- first is about the differing view of the future. “For most adults, it’s an academic question. For many of us children, it’s a question of survival,” he said. “Twenty-one hundred is still in our lifetime.”
Another explanation is simply the climate denial. Lastly, he cheekily described an animal parable about monkeys. It goes like this: “If you let a monkey choose if he wants one banana now or six bananas later, the monkey will always chose the one banana now.” “From this, we children understood we cannot trust that adults alone will save our future. To do that, we have to take our future in our hands.”
At the time of his speech, Finkbeiner had been four years into leading an environmental cause. Today, it has expanded into a global network of children activists fighting to slow down Earth’s warming by reforesting the planet.
Now at 19, his environmental group, Plant-for-the-Planet, together with UN’s Billion Tree campaign has planted more than 14 billion trees in over 130 countries, increasing the goal to up to a trillion trees. That’s 150 trees for every person living on earth!
Plant-for-the-Planet also prompted the first full-scale global tree count, helping NASA in a current study of forests’ abilities to accumulate carbon dioxide and their potential to better protect the planet. Published in Nature
in 2015, a two-year study inspired by that then-child found out that the Earth has roughly 3 trillion trees which is seven times the number of earlier estimates. The study also found that since the start of Earth’s agriculture (12,000 years ago), number of trees has fallen by half- that’s about 10 billion trees lost every year! Meaning, the group’s 14 billion trees already planted would not be much of a big deal.
“I thought they might be disheartened. They said, ‘Okay, now we have to scale up.’ They didn’t hesitate. They’re contacting billionaires all over the world. It is amazing,” says Crowther.
“We’re going to be the victims of climate change. It is in our own self-interest to get children to act,” Finkbeiner says. “At the same time, I don’t think we can give up on this generation of adults and wait 20 or 30 years for our generation to come to power. We don’t have that time. All we can do is push them in the right direction.”