It all started with a school project and presentation in 2007. Back then, Felix was nine years old. As part of his report on climate change, the Bavarian schoolboy presented his vision of children planting a million trees in every single country of the world to offset CO2 emissions. This vision soon prompted action – and an amazing real-life project.

More than 100,000 impressively organized kids around the world are currently planting trees in urban spaces to show us adults that it’s high time for deeds, not words. There is still time to avert the impending crisis, but this requires immediate action, or so the organization’s spokespeople remind us. The required global change of mind and direction requires the already stated planting of trees, the use of electric cars in big cities and a comprehensive sustainability plan.

Planting in Lesotho
Planting in Lesotho, photo: Plant-for-the-Planet

“The children and teenagers at Plant-for-the-Planet would immediately implement a switch to alternative energies, thus halting all nuclear or fossil fuel-based energy generation at the earliest possible moment,” adds Felix, who does not mince his words. “We need truly sustainable politics.” According to him, all legislation as well as other official guidelines and frameworks need to be checked for third-generation compliance before they come into effect.

“Chief Shaw, a chieftain and Native American, told us that their elders thoroughly review any decision to check if the result will continue to benefit the seventh generation following their own. In order to get involved, we demand the right to vote at 14, at the latest. Starting in Germany, we expect many more countries around the world to follow our example. It is impossible to remain on the sidelines when adults destroy our future – while we are not even eligible to vote.”

Felix at the United Nations in New York
Felix at the United Nations in New York, photo: Plant-for-the-Planet
Special Event: 2011 United Nations International Year of Forests: Speakers include President of the United Nations General Assembly 65th Session, Mr. Joseph Diess; Professor Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Peace; Mr. Felix Finkbeiner (13 year old) & Friends, Plant-for-the-Planet Children Inititative. Pictured Speaker: Mr. Felix Finkbeiner (13 year old) & Friends, Plant-for-the-Planet Children Inititative.

Felix considers Germany a pivotal country in terms of environmental protection and change. According to him, the ball is in Germany’s court. “If we mess up the controlled transition to alternative energy sources – and this is very likely to happen if we carry on the way we do – then all other countries have “proof” and an excuse that it doesn’t work.” Furthermore, he has a no-nonsense message for all politicians and decision-makers: “The children and teenagers at Plant-for-the-Planet ask the government to make the switch to alternative energy its top priority. Even if this should cost 500 billion euros until 2050, it would be cheap compared to the alternative. To this end, we ask Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government to take out this 500 billion euro loan on account of future generations. We already know that we will have to pay for the debts accrued by today’s adults. So, please invest those funds into something constructive!”

German Chancellery Berlin children demonstrating
Children demonstrating in front of the German Chancellery, photo: Michael Setzpfandt

Democracy is a big deal to Felix and his fellow campaigners. Since 2011, the organization has set up an official democratic structure with a global board comprised of fourteen kids from eight nations. Just like their recent three-point plan, future goals arise from the democratic process. The above-mentioned plan, for example, is the result of several years of consultation among thousands of kids and teenagers from more than 100 countries. It was finally published as the “3-Point-Plan to save our future”. In particular, it pursues three crystal-clear goals:

Plant 1,000 billion trees.
This is simply about the preservation, protection and planting of trees in urban space. Over the past seven years, and with the aid of governments, companies and many adults, Plant-for-the-Planet has planted a total of 12.6 billion trees, i. e. 1.3 per cent of the envisaged total. “If every person on this planet plants just 150 trees, we will have reached this goal”, adds Felix.

UNEP Tunza International Children's Conference on the Environment
Felix at the UNEP Tunza International Children’s Conferenc on the Environment in South Korea. He had asked to come on stage all those who want to plant one million trees in their home countries. photo: Plant-for-the-Planet

Leave fossil fuels in the ground.
The organization’s aim: We absolutely need to get our CO2 emissions down to zero by 2050. And the technology for a CO2-free future already exists: With today’s engineering capabilities we can easily make the transition to 100 per cent renewable energy by this date, without the need for additional nuclear power.

Relegate poverty to the museum through climate justice.
This particular part of the plan refers to the total, but also per capita emissions of CO2 around the world. The children calculated an average consumption of 1.5 tons per person and annum. But what happens to those who consume more already – or who would like to consume more than their fair share? “That’s easy,” according to Felix. “Anyone who would like use more would have to pay and buy the emission rights from someone who uses less. To this end, the principle of climate justice relegates poverty to the museum because someone in, let’s say, Africa could invest in nutrition, education and medical care instead. Also, they could leap-frog our mistakes and skip straight from the bicycle to the electric car.”

Tree-O-Meter
Officially handing over the Tree-O-Meter, photo: Shane Doyle Photography, South Africa

While this initiative leaves us a little bit speechless, it highlights that the future of humanity and its cities lies in the hands of our children. If it was up to Felix, the metropolis of the future would boast excellent public transport and no ghettoization because poverty would have been eradicated. He makes it all sound really simple – and wonderfully achievable: We tip our hats to his enthusiasm, engagement and vision.

Well, not just his, but his organization’s because – although he might have kicked it off and pursued it with a passion – it is this collective jolt, supported by children and teenagers around this world, that has the power to make things happen. So, please accept our accolades – and carry on with the good work!

For more information on the initiative and its three-point plan, please visit www.plant-for-the-planet.org or http://www.facebook.com/plantfortheplanet.

The organization also welcomes donations and financial support. You can find all the necessary information here.

Text: Agi Habryka
header image: dpa, 24.04.2009