Felix Finkbeiner is a German environmentalist and the founder of the international tree-planting and environmental advocacy organization Plant-for-the-Planet.
Starting in fourth grade, he attended Munich International School from which he graduated in 2015. After living in London for three years, he graduated with a BA in International Relations from SOAS, the University of London in 2018. Since September 2018 he is a PhD student of environmental sciences at the Crowther Lab of ETH Zürich, where he studies the most effective approaches to forest restoration under Prof. Tom Crowther.
In January 2007, when Felix was nine years old and in fourth grade, he gave a class presentation on global warming in which he suggested to classmates that children should plant one million trees in each country of the world. Together with many of his classmates, Felix planted a tree on 28 March 2007 and launched Plant-for-the-Planet. After three years, the initiative planted its millionth tree. At age 10 he spoke in the European Parliament and at age 13 at the UN General Assembly.
The organisation currently restores 22,500 hectares of forest on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico by planting on average one tree every 15 seconds. Furthermore, Plant-for-the-Planet leads the UN Billion Tree Campaign, as part of which 14 billion trees have been planted so far by contributing companies, organisations and governments.
Manthan Shah 00:03
Children are not often invited to speak to the United Nations General Assembly. But there stood Felix Finkbeiner, German wunderkind in his Harry Potter spectacles, gray hoodie and a mocked up haircut with a somber question about climate change. We children know adults know the challenges, but they don't know the solutions. He said. We don't know why there is so little action. Here's a clip of him speaking at the United Nations General Assembly.
Felix Finkbeiner 00:37
We can use this campaign together, I want to give a message to all children of the world. We children are the majority of on this on this wall, we can make a difference. And never forget. One mosquito cannot do anything against the rhino. But 1000 mosquitoes can make a rhino change its direction.
Manthan Shah 01:05
davia super glad to have with us the founder of land for the planet. But only 22 year old now. Mr. Felix Finkbeiner from Germany. Felix, thank you so much for joining me on this podcast.
Felix Finkbeiner 01:18
Thank you for having me.
Manthan Shah 01:19
It is just an honor to listen to you and your journey when you started this initiative and you're simply in the fourth grade. And now over, what 13 years it has grown to a target of a trillion trees. And we'll know your journey from the beginning until today in this podcast, as it follows. So my first question to you Felix is can you please tell us about your beginnings, like, Where were you born and how was it like to grow up in that region of Germany.
Felix Finkbeiner 01:53
So I was born in or I grew up in a small village of about 2000 people about an hour south of Munich. So in the very south of Germany near the Austrian border. And when I was nine years old, I was in fourth grade at the time, my teacher asked me to give a little presentation in my class about the climate crisis. And when I prepared that presentation, I found out about a woman from Kenya, called the vanguard de Maathai. And she's an incredibly inspiring woman. She did a huge amount of fantastic work in Kenya. And one of the things I found out about her back then, was that she had started a tree planting movement, a movement where she paid women in Kenya and laid off his tree planting as a tool for women's empowerment.
Manthan Shah 03:01
Felix Finkbeiner 03:04
Can you say hey, okay, when? Yeah, I can hear you.
Manthan Shah 03:08
When you said buckimion activists that inspired you just started by her name, and then our last device, please repeat.
Felix Finkbeiner 03:17
Okay. Yeah, thank you. And back then I found out about this woman from Kenya called Bengali muy Thai. She had done many incredible things in her life. But one of the things that I found so inspiring is that she had started a tree planting movement. And it was essentially very simple. She paid local women's small amounts of money, so that they would plant trees. And what's so incredible about this is that she essentially created a movement for for women's empowerment, because so many of these women participating in this program, this was their first independent income from their families. But you know, I was in fourth grade when I heard about her I didn't understand all these depths of her fantastic work. My own he understood the tree planting part of it and the tree planting trees helps fight climate change. And this is why I recommended to my classmates during that presentation I was giving in fourth grade that we would we should plant 1 million trees we children youth should plant 1 million trees in every country
Manthan Shah 04:29
of the world. That's a big vote of millionaires.
Felix Finkbeiner 04:34
No, not at all. I think that was just the the biggest number I knew. And I'm also pretty sure that I had no clue how many countries existed. So it was just, you know, a crazy number. But my my classmates, you know, they were all, you know, idealistic fourth graders. Like the idea, and this is why a few weeks later, we planted our first tree. Wow. And then fee when we were quite lucky because two local journalists reported about that tree. And this is how some other schools found out about it and planted some trees as well. And then we met a slightly older student who created a very simple website for us. And this website was essentially a simple ranking among local schools with perhaps the most treats and lots of schools whether to outcompete the neighboring schools. And this is how planned for the planet spread initially. And then after one year, we had planted about things you had planted about 50,000 trees. And after three years, it planted the first million trees, one that's essentially a plan for the planets.
Manthan Shah 05:43
Massively impressive, impressive that is, and that that campaign just grew from your school and colleges and schools in Bavaria and Munich, to like a global phenomena. And that was when you were just nine years old. And later, when you were 11. And later, when you were 13, you spoke at European and United Nations General Assembly. So how was that like to speak? Only what 13 years old and speak in front of 1000s of global leaders. So how was that experience?
Felix Finkbeiner 06:19
I was. Yeah, that was that was like a crazy day, a crazy experience for me. And I was so insanely nervous as never before. Never after. But of course, it was a fantastic opportunity for us that plants the planet, because at that time, we were still mainly a German organization, or in some other European countries. But this was this was a moment when people all around the world or many children, youth, in different countries around the world heard about us and started joining in as well. So it's a very important moment in history.
Manthan Shah 06:56
And we often see that in the global negotiations and international relations landscape. There is a lot of negotiation happening, and a lot of leaders just talk and transact and negotiate, but not a lot of action is done. And then you said this campaign in which you, like, put a hand on this global leaders face? Or maybe like in a gesture, which say something like, stop talking and start planting? So how did you come up with that?
Felix Finkbeiner 07:28
Yeah, so we started this poster campaign, as you described, where we, you know, find prominent people, famous people, and ask them, if we can take a very simple photo with them, which is essentially a young child, me and a lot of cases back then reaching up to cover the mouth of this, this famous person, and then add on that post that says, Stop talking, start panting. And we started this in the year 2011. quite early in the history of our projects, and we obviously didn't have access to any celebrities back then. But whenever we happen to come across anyone in any sort of public setting at conferences, we would just dare to go up to them and ask them, for instance, one of the earliest participants in this campaign was Harrison Ford. And it was like a pure coincidence, we got that photo. And we had a biodiversity conference in Japan at the time. And we were just sitting in the in the lobby of this conference venue, when there's a big group of people was walking past, you know, crowded around this one person. And then one of my, one of my friends from plants defendant who was there with me, said, I don't I don't know who he is, but he's important. So, you know, we ran, we ran up to him, and then asked him if we showed him an example of someone else that participated in this in this campaign and asked him if he'd be willing to take a photo like that. And he said, Yes, and on the spot, uh, we took that photo. And afterwards, we asked someone else in his entourage there who that was, you know, and it turned out to be to be Harrison Ford, and lots of lots of similar stories like that. That's how we spread magnificent.
Manthan Shah 09:14
And so unlike this, this is just one of those creative things that you have done. So I was in Madrid back in November. And that's when I kind of really heard of your work when I was working with the Ashoka team in in Spain. Right. And then we ate your chocolate. So what is like you came up with this bars of chocolate and whole campaign in which like, if fibers are sold, you plant a tree in Mexico. So could you please tell me about this innovative campaign about chocolate and how did that come around? And to be honest, another very delicious delicious chocolate.
Felix Finkbeiner 09:52
Thank you. That was actually also quite a strange story. And it's it started in 2012 In Back then, I was invited to give a talk at this bigger conference in the chocolate industry. And it was this is quite an exclusive event where many of the audience members with the CEOs of the biggest chocolate companies, and for us, we saw this as a huge opportunity, because we wanted to convince all of these chocolate companies to help us plant trees. And we had a very simple idea that each company should donate one euro per tonne of chocolate, they produce the per tonne of chocolate, one euro, so we could find one tree per ton of chocolate. So he thought this was a very neat, simple idea. And we prepared this for months. And so I gave that talk at this conference. And later on, not a single one of these companies wanted to participate wants to support us. So we were very disappointed. And this is then when one of our young ambassadors, his name's Max, he, I think was 12. Back then said that I think joking, Lee, let's let's make our own chocolate. And of course, we laughed at first. But, but but we love the idea. And about six months later, we have the first bars of these chocolates in the store. To explain how we even evil to that, I think they were two lucky moments in those six months. The first thing was that about a month after that conference I just told you about one of these chocolate companies send us an email that they didn't read like the one euro per ton idea. But if there's anything else they can help us with, they'd be happy to talk, talk to us. And so we told them we'd like to produce, we'd like you to help us produce chocolates. And the second lucky coincidence was that we just got another invitation to speak at a conference. And this time, it was the conference of the German retailers. So the CEOs of the big German retailers, like you know, imagine like a German version of, of the Walmart, CEO and so on. We're in that room. And so we had a very simple suggestion for them, sell our chocolate without making a beat without making any profit, right? It's our chocolate with with barely any margin. So all the profit goes to us. And then you can help us countries that way. And at the end of that talk, we had the agreement from from 6000 stores, that they would sell our chocolate, this is how we were able to launch that program. Yeah. And so far, over those years, we sold more than 20 million bars of chocolate. And from each bar of chocolates, it's sold for one euro 20 cents goes to us, which allows us to find one tree with every five to five chocolate bars we sell. Wow.
Manthan Shah 13:01
I mean, this is just one of those innovative things, which is like, makes it makes everyone happy that eater has amazing chocolate and it goes and plants trees in in around the world. so impressive. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that story.
Felix Finkbeiner 13:17
Thank you. Sure.
Manthan Shah 13:19
So now, I'd like you eventually achieved your target of 1 million trees in each country. And then you wanted to look how to de escalate to the target of a 1 trillion trees around the world. That is, I mean, I had to count on my fingers. How many zeros are there in a trillion? And those are many?
Felix Finkbeiner 13:43
Yeah, it's quite an absurd number, actually, to be very, very accurate here. We didn't. We gave up on that goal of 1 million for each country. When we when we changed our goals. We didn't actually there lots of countries where we didn't achieve that. That goal. But you're absolutely right. We shifted to this. This, you know, 1 million per country was already a crazy goal. And we shifted to a way, way easier one. Let me let me tell you the story about that. Cincinnati when we achieved those that first million in in Germany, we started wondering what the next target should be. And in that process, we had two big questions. The first one was, how many trees even exist in the world? And how many additional trees to be planted? And we thought that these were like very obvious simple questions. And we were quite shocked when when we asked quite a bunch of ecologists and climate scientists and none of them could really answer that question for us. But we talked to some organizations and they were some back of the envelope calculations that no one had really made all that public, that we could be that in theory could plant about a trillion trees globally? That was the the number we heard. So we were quite quite bold as a young organization of, you know, 13 and 14 year olds and around 2011. So when we were invited to give that speech at the UN General Assembly, we called on the world to plant a trillion trees. And that's a, you know, insane number. And nobody really took us all that seriously. Because we have no scientific evidence to back up these claims. So one of the first things we started on after that is to get some academics to actually research this properly. And to find out how many trees exist and how many additional trees we could find. And soon after we met a great ecologist at Yale University back then, who then started a three year research project with with two other people. And in 2015, they published this big paper in the journal Science ads, sorry, journal Nature, which concluded that there are roughly 3 trillion trees on earth. And just to put that into context, they also found out that we used to have about twice as many trees, we used to have about 6 trillion trees globally. But then, you know, humans started cutting them down, starting about 11,000 years ago, and now we have about half that about 3 trillion remain. And didn't continue this Reacher's research at eth in Zurich, where the lead author Tom Crowder, is now professor. And in 2019, we brought out an even bigger paper that was then published in a journal Science, in which they concluded that globally, we can plant up to about 1 trillion trees. And when when this study was published, which you know, vindicated our our demands and claims from 11 years ago, or nine years ago, it received a huge amount of media attention from from all sorts of people, it was, yeah, it was published widely in the in the news media, and a lot of people jumped on board, this go for trillion trees, including Al Gore, who, who has been talking about it, and who then got Klaus Schwab, of the World Economic Forum, and the Salesforce is do to get on board and support the goal of a trillion trees. And then even the US president talked about the goal of a trillion trees at the State of the Union address. So obviously, not necessarily our our favorite ally, if I can put it that way. But we were quite impressed to see how this this whole that, you know, had previously only been called for by a small organization of children and youth has gone quite mainstream.
Manthan Shah 17:56
Wow. I mean, the scale at which it has grown over the years are just massive. And now when I was just checking, so out of the 1 trillion target, you have achieved 15 billion already. Is that true?
Felix Finkbeiner 18:14
So the number so what we did is many years ago, we set up this global tree counter, after the UN, a billion tree campaign was handed over to us. And in this industry counter, we allow governments, companies, organizations, anyone really who plants trees around the world, to report to us how many trees they've planted. And that number of trees that have been reported to us in those years adds up to 13 billion trees around the world. So yes, that number is true. But it's obviously very important that these trees weren't planted by children use just a very small part of them, were planted by our members, but rather people all around the world have been planting trees, everyone from the from the Chinese government, to individuals planting a single single tree that have been reported to us there. And the the real tragedy, though, is that at the same time, we've, we've lost Far, far more trees. And we have found, on average, we use about 10 billion trees every year.
Manthan Shah 19:18
Oh, that is unfortunate. That really is. And you mentioned, the anecdote that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go with the team. So you have been clearly a leader in terms of uniting people from around the world to achieve this target. So what are the things you learned in you know leading so many children from around the world and being the face of this campaign? What are your like top three or top one insight that you've gained?
Felix Finkbeiner 19:55
One of the main things I still obviously wrestle with, but Learn is that it's, it's quite difficult to be able to simplify this. So complex message, restoring ecosystems, so you can have a better impact on the climates. And we can protect biodiversity in two very simple messages, so that we can get large crowds behind it support it. And I think part of the reason we were so successful is because we managed to convert something as complex as global ecosystem restoration, to planting trees. And we figured out that it's much more effective than to call for the restoration of a billion hectares, to call 4 trillion trees. Because these are just more vivid concepts that people can imagine. And of course, you lose a bit of precision, when you call for a billion trees instead of the a trillion trees instead of the restoration of a billion hectares of all types of ecosystems. And it can sometimes lead to, you know, criticism from from experts, who obviously, rightly say that it's all more complicated than that, which is absolutely true. And we obviously, no one understand, but for for messaging, it obviously has to be a lot simpler. So finding that balance always between, on the one hand, having a simple message that can be easily repeated and remembered. And at the same time, that scientific rigor, and the complexity is always something difficult and something we wrestle with. But I think at the same time, we've done quite a decent job of making that work
Manthan Shah 21:46
you have you absolutely have. And like, one thing that I was super curious about was, you started this campaign this mission when you were at a marriage of nine, and now you must be 2122, please correct me if I'm wrong. So over the years, see what has changed? Like what is, what, nine year old, you would have seen the world as? And after seeing all of this over the last 12 years? Like, is there a difference in your outlook towards the world, your own principles? Or is it something that hadn't been changed?
Felix Finkbeiner 22:29
Absolutely. The organization has evolved hugely in those 13 years. And a part of it is of course, you know, we aging in general in our organization, or our members aging, and having more complex understandings of the world. And it's hard for me, obviously, to to really disentangle that. myself, because I mean, obviously, I, I grew from a nine year old to 22 year old and things naturally change hugely in the way you view your world. At that in between those ages. But of course, we've grown from an organization that was mainly based around children, youth planting trees in their in their local communities, which is still something we do to an organization that's is called on to the world of restoring vast areas of the global ecosystem. And now that we feel like we've been quite successful in getting that message out there, we're trying to now are very actively transitioning into a world that events an organization that actively contributes to professional, high quality reforestation around the world. And we do that in two ways. First of all, through our restoration project in the Yucatan Peninsula, in southern Mexico, where we now employ over 100 people, that plant on average one tree every 15 seconds. So that's a major part of what we do today. So that's about about 2 million trees, over 2 million trees we planted there last year. That's the one part of it. And the other part of how we're trying to make this work is through our plant for the planet app, which has the goal of bringing transparency to tree planting projects all around the world. And making it as easy as possible for anyone around the world supports tree planting projects. So the first version of this app is already available for Android phones and iOS phones. And what it allows is that you can discover a great tree planting projects from all around the world and for each project, see where they're planting trees, what type of trees they're planting, and, and why they chose these locations and lots of other important information and also the the cost To trees for each project. So, for each project you will see in this project, the single tree costs one euro 50 or 20 cents. And then you can select your your favorite project, and then donate directly to them to this app. And what's incredibly important is that we don't take a single any cut any of this money, but 100% of your money goes directly to these tree planting organizations. And we essentially just want to make it easier, especially for small tree planting projects, get an audience and there's to be discovered by people that can support them. So yeah, I want to encourage everyone to download the app and support their favorite project. And there are lots of other tools in there to make tree planting a bit more fun, like competitions, you can compete against your friends or your colleagues or whatever in coupons, the most trees and lots of other stuff like
Manthan Shah 25:56
that. Wow, it is really fun. Actually, I downloaded the app myself. And you can basically just like putting a target, you can change like insert how many trees you've planted, and how close you are to achieve that target. And you can have friends, friends, who can you can you can compete with it, you can give people trees on their birthdays, and it is just fun. So I'm going to give the link to the app and plan for the trees and the trillion trees. All the websites in the description below. Now, Felix will tell us how big his organization become, today, how many members? How many employees and how many countries does the plant for the planet family have.
Felix Finkbeiner 26:37
So one of the major important parts of our work our appsense, the academies where we bring together at each Academy, about 100 children, youth from different schools, mainly between 10 and 14. And they come together for a Saturday and learn about the climate crisis and why it's important to plant trees. And they plant trees, of course, and make plans of what they want to do to help fight the climate crisis. And we've had over 80,000 participants at these academies so far all across the world. Yes, that's a very important part about of these academies is that thank you for bringing this up is that you don't actually learn from teachers during that day, but you learn from someone else, roughly your age. And these academies open with someone else in about your age range, giving a talk about these topics. And that's very important. Because the message you're taking away is not that you know, when I'm when I'm a grown up, I can be involved as well. But rather I can do something now because this person in basically my age, is doing all these things. Yeah. So we've organized these academies in 71 countries so far, since 71 countries children youth have have joined in an hour. And it's in regards to the other part of your question, we have about 140 employees all around the world 100 of which are in Mexico, and most of them are involved in in pre funding every day. And then we've got a few people in various offices, mainly in Germany and in Spain, in a few other countries.
Manthan Shah 28:23
That is large, and that is quite a feat to have achieved at a very young age. And now let's let's head into knowing Felix as a person. So Felix, were you were you a good student when you were growing up?
Felix Finkbeiner 28:39
I often put less effort into my, into my schoolwork than I should have. I was I was doing fine.
Manthan Shah 28:51
Okay, and then you went on to University of London to do a Bachelor's. So how did that go around? Like with all this work? Did you have a college life? Or is this something you regret of like being so busy that you didn't enjoy college enough?
Felix Finkbeiner 29:07
I think it's very important to understand plants the planet is that it's of course, not just me. But we have a fantastic staff, a fantastic team who showed a lot of that responsibility for the organization as well. So I was able to obviously I spent a lot of my time during my college years as well, focusing on plants the planet, but I was I was also able to have a great time at University at the same time. So I don't I don't regret any part of that. Okay,
Manthan Shah 29:39
so you did a BA in international relations from SOS University of London in 2018. And now you are a PhD student in environmental sciences in ETH Zurich. That's where you're speaking from, and you're doing a effects like a study on most effective approaches. The forest restoration can take under Professor Tom Crowder So how is that PST going on for you?
Felix Finkbeiner 30:03
Yes, about two years ago, I started my PhD research. And what I'm really trying to figure out here is, to what extent there are novel strategies in which we can make these restoration programs, these three programs more effective. So we're running a couple of experiments in. And one of the things we are trying, for instance, is whether transplanting microbiomes, from old growth forests into new tree planting areas can actually increase the survival rate, the success rates of planted trees. So lots of really interesting fun stuff that I'm very curious about. But the you know, the difficulty with with ecology experiments is they often take take quite a long time, until you get good data that you can then interpret. So I can't make any conclusive statements about any of these questions. I'm asking my research.
Manthan Shah 31:04
Yes, unfortunately, no, that's perfectly all right. But that's quite impressive. It's quite impressive that only 22 you're doing a PhD, and only two years into PhD. So that is quite a benchmark you have set for everyone.
Felix Finkbeiner 31:19
Well, I was very lucky and very grateful for having gotten that opportunity to do it. But yeah, it's a it's a huge challenge for me.
Manthan Shah 31:29
You're super models, to be honest, you're very like, humble to speak to. And so how can you describe a day in your life? How does it look like now?
Felix Finkbeiner 31:42
Well, right now, I'm working from home. But normally, I live about 20 minutes away from my university here in Zurich, Switzerland. And I spend my day working on the university campus. And I spend most of that time focusing on my research around 60 70% of that time, focusing on my research, and the rest of the time, working on all kinds of plants, clinics, projects. And, of course, I'm a board member that plants the planet, but I, I share that role with some other great, fantastic plants, the planet members. So all of that is only possible because we're collaborating in that way.
Manthan Shah 32:23
Wow. Okay. We're recording this podcast in July 2020. And right now, like I'm speaking from India, urine Zurich, and the world is under Coronavirus pandemic. So what are your thoughts on climate change? And like, how does Corona affect climate change? And the second part of the question is like in the post Corona world, how do you think we should tackle or we as youth should approach climate change and what our actions should be?
Felix Finkbeiner 32:56
Think the virus has some very severe consequences on climate change, first and foremost, because it has supplanted climate change as the biggest challenge on government's radars. And whereas before the virus hits that we had about a year in which in many countries climate change was on the top of the political agenda. And there was some hope that this would force governments to towards more severe action in tackling the climate crisis. Now Coronavirus has taken over that spot. And that has severely delayed in many cases action on climate change that that on the one hand, that makes me quite pessimistic. On the other hand, I do think that in as part of this pandemic, we're seeing how much governments are able to do when a crisis hits that how many resources governments can Marshal to tackle these unprecedented challenges. So I hope that as a result of seeing that citizens become more demanding of our governments to begin equal levels of mobilization to tackle the other biggest challenge of our time, which is, of course, the climate crisis. So I hope that our expectations as citizens, as voters, will will just increase as a result of this, the scribers in regards to what governments must do to tackle other challenges, like the climate crisis as well. Okay, okay.
Manthan Shah 34:39
Okay, great. And before we get into the lightning round, we have a perspective of what does the future like next five or 10 years of plan for the planet look like? When do you think you'll be able to achieve the 1 billion target mark or what are your next targets
Felix Finkbeiner 34:58
so our wishes One very specific goal for our work in Mexico is that we want to plant 100 million trees there within a decade. So we, you know, we want to vastly increase the size of the forest and in southern Mexico that way, that's one very concrete mission. And at the same time, we want to, like push governments, companies, organizations all around the world, to get much more ambitious in regards to ecosystem restoration. So we have huge goals over the next years.
Manthan Shah 35:35
Brilliant, and we wish you all the luck for this, all these targets that you've stated for the future. Now, let's quickly get into the lightning round. So firstly, let's get into the basics and then a more personal one. So what is your favorite book?
Felix Finkbeiner 36:00
I just finished this book called legacy of ashes, the history of the CIA by a New York Times journalist, which is absolutely fascinating. And another book I truly love the fiction book I truly love is called perfume.
Manthan Shah 36:17
Oh, perfume I wrote about this one.
Felix Finkbeiner 36:21
It's a deeply, deeply creepy book about 19th century French men with a extreme sense of smell.
Manthan Shah 36:32
Interesting. So if what is your favorite music or like artists or a song? Or what are the songs that you are listening on a loop right now?
Felix Finkbeiner 36:41
I just discovered the musical Hamilton I'd never previously really enjoyed or, you know, gotten into listening to musical and enjoying them. But I've, I've loved that one. So I'm very much re evaluating that kind of stuff I listen to right now.
Manthan Shah 36:59
That is exquisite, for sure. What is your favorite travel destination?
Felix Finkbeiner 37:06
I am super lucky to be able to go to Mexico for work all the time. And I absolutely love it there. So whenever I am there, working on site there, I try and find some time to go to nearby beaches. Well,
Manthan Shah 37:20
okay. Who is your one inspirational figure and why?
Felix Finkbeiner 37:27
My most inspiring figure in my life has been banggai Maathai for a very long time. Because they find it so deeply fascinating how from a position of poverty and as a woman in the 1960s 1970s. In Kenya, she managed to become such an influential transformative figure for her country and and for the world. I'm also a big fan of the American journalist as recline.
Manthan Shah 37:57
And you have followed her footsteps. And now basically, you've raised the whole target to basically make it your life's mission. So that is, and I think you are the most inspiring, inspiring person for a lot of us.
Felix Finkbeiner 38:12
Manthan Shah 38:13
So the next question is, who is sorry? What is one object from your childhood that you still have you never throw away?
Felix Finkbeiner 38:21
So podiums means I got so passionate about climate change back then was because I have my favorite animals since I was five with the polar bear in that was very simply because my auntie gifted me this, this huge polar bear. Like, you know, cuddly like polar bear that I had in my bed, which was bigger than I was when I got to when I was five. So I still I still own that polar bear.
Manthan Shah 38:47
Oh, wow, that is sweet. Do you have I mean, it seems like you read a lot. So do you have like a favorite piece of literature or poem that you've memorized or you really love? And if so, would you like to share that with us?
Felix Finkbeiner 39:02
Not really, to be honest, I don't really spend time reading poetry, which I think is probably a mistake. Okay, okay.
Manthan Shah 39:11
Let's let us pass that one. So, what is your single greatest achievement in your life?
Felix Finkbeiner 39:27
I don't know. I never actually thought about that. Well, maybe maybe that's the maybe that first tree that I ever planted was the most valuable thing I ever did.
Manthan Shah 39:40
For sure. I mean, that was the footsteps but like, what is maybe a title or award or maybe like a memory or a compliment that you received from one has like engraved in your memory as like the biggest achievement that you've had. That's holy, we're proud. Hello,
Felix Finkbeiner 40:07
yeah, I'm here, just thinking about your question. I wouldn't I honestly wouldn't know if there's a particular thing I'm proud of. And I understand that from the outside, you know, it looks like I've had this crazy life of major achievements. But of course, from the inside, it very much looks like history of a lot of, of a team effort that resulted in some things that look quite shiny from the outside. So I wouldn't, you know, I wouldn't be able to point two is something that I'm particularly proud of in that regard.
Manthan Shah 40:40
Okay, sweet. And maybe On the contrary, what is the greatest single embarrassment in your life?
Felix Finkbeiner 40:53
What are the most embarrassing moments I ever had, this was still when I was quite young. I was like, 10, or 11, or something, and I gave a talk at the, at the European Parliament. And back then I, I wasn't that great at reading properly, yet. You know, reading fluently, so whenever I gave speeches, I always, you know, you know, memorize not memorize them, per se, but you know, remember the, what I was gonna say didn't have any notes. And I was giving that speech in the European Parliament and the host of that, that event asked me beforehand where my speech notes were, and I said, I didn't have any I didn't need me that I was, like, at the beginning of my speech, he said, Felix, and you'll be talking without any notes. And then about a minute, and I totally forgot what I was gonna say next. And I was so so shocked and so nervous that I didn't say anything for the next month. Until I could remember. But I was gonna say next. Oh, God.
Manthan Shah 41:59
But I mean, he was 10 or 11. I think people might have sounded like exceedingly cute or something. I mean,
Felix Finkbeiner 42:05
maybe, but it was also a very, I think, the nervous atmosphere in which this room full of people were staring at me there and then at the front, and I wasn't saying anything. So this was a moment that kept me up for a very long time after.
Manthan Shah 42:23
Okay, okay. Well, that was a good one. And now this next lightning round comes from this guy called Chinmay Knight from Dubai. And he asks you, if you were to have a trade of between going on a date and or maybe planting five trees in a forest, what would you choose?
Felix Finkbeiner 42:46
Generally, I think dates are more fun. Cheap landing does lose its charm after a while.
Manthan Shah 42:56
All right. So yeah, and what is the funniest date you have ever been on?
Felix Finkbeiner 43:04
funniest dates? Get to give me a minute. Think about that question. Okay,
Manthan Shah 43:15
Felix Finkbeiner 43:17
I was once on a date, which was super strange, because I hadn't realized until afterwards that it was a date. And what was really interesting about it is that this, you know, then what I thought was a friend, and Hi, we're gonna watch a movie about Edward Snowden. That's no good movie had just come out. back then. 2015 or something. And then we went to that movie cinema. And we turned, it turned out that it wasn't actually the movie Snowden, but a live interview with Snowden. He was of course, speaking from from Russia. But But interviewed there, and we were able to ask him questions, everything. And I don't know how we messed up that much in buying those tickets. But, but we hadn't realized that. So that ended up being extremely cool. Very interesting.
Manthan Shah 44:11
Okay. I mean, that was not the embarrassing date. But that is like a cool day, which which still counts, which still counts. Okay. Yeah, I've
Felix Finkbeiner 44:19
embarrassed myself a lot, but not so much at dates, at least, so far.
Manthan Shah 44:26
All right. And with you, I'm sure you meet a lot of really important people and celebrities all the time. I mean, so like, for example, if you were to meet with Greta Thornburg, and you both are into climate change, so one of the things that he would talk about
Felix Finkbeiner 44:44
So, of course, in a lot of these conversations that you know, it feels like I'm at work, right so I you know, I it's it's a chance for me to convince people about the importance of restoring forests so you won't be shocked at all. A lot of these conversations they have that comes up. But if I if I were ever to get a get a chance to talk to her that I would, you know, want to learn from her. Because, you know, she must have excellent insights in how to mobilize people against, you know, mass mobilize people against the threats.
Manthan Shah 45:23
Right. Okay. And I mean, I was recently just doing this Climate Reality workshop like leadership core by Al Gore and his organization. Climate Reality. So, in, I'm sure you've met Al Gore, or you've, you've learned like in your programs, you use his modules a lot. So if you were to speak to Al Gore, what questions would you ask or have you already speak spoken to him? And what have your conversations been? Like?
Felix Finkbeiner 45:52
Yeah, I actually, I got to meet him twice in my life once was when I was very, very young, maybe half a year into our work. And I happen to be at the same conference that he was the main speaker at and I, you know, went up to him elbowed everyone out of the way and talked to him. And, and again, many, many years later, which I, you know, showed him the picture of our very first encounter. But yeah, I am incredibly impressed by how he managed to bring climate change, move it up onto our, our global agenda, when it was such a far, far smaller, considered to be such a far smaller topic, and how he forced the attention of governments and peoples onto such an important topic.
Manthan Shah 46:49
Right, okay. Okay. Okay. So now, before we go and get into the questions from your fans from around the world, last question is, what is the single piece of advice that you would like to give a fellow 21 year old or even a 15 year old who wants to make a change in a society?
Felix Finkbeiner 47:09
I think that often large, starting large movements is much easier than you'd expect. And people that have done it or succeeded that way didn't have anything that you don't have, they maybe had a lot of luck in the process. So you know, just throw what you've got against the wall and see if it sticks, you might be very surprised and quite lucky. In in what happens, we would have never expected that the tree we planted there would turn into into plants the planet. And from what I gather, nobody in the private Friday's for future motor movement would have ever thought that they might have such a transformative impact on especially, you know, European governments. So, you know, try, try, try what you can and maybe you'll be insanely lucky. And we will all be insanely lucky, because of what you do.
Manthan Shah 48:06
Read and that's that's really inspiring for me to personally. So now let's get into the questions from your fans from around the world.
Hey, guys, it's Diara. from Bolivia, here sending in a question regarding the project. I want her to know how you manage to go about it with planting all these trees in a harmonious way with all the environments that you're working in, so that you avoid planting any non native species, any predatory species, etc. Along with that, I also wanted to know what kind of experts you found to be the most welcoming.
Felix Finkbeiner 48:43
So the most important thing when selecting trees supplanting ecosystems, is of course to understand what what species would grow there naturally in that very ecosystem. Actually, let me take a step back, when we start a project, we first select a site that is currently not forest, but would be forest under natural conditions, if it hadn't been cut down if humans hadn't prevented forest from currently existing. So we wouldn't want to turn something that would naturally be grasslands of the forest, we would only want to turn land that used to be forest in the forest again. And what we then do is we work with ecologists to figure out which species would naturally exists there. And that's actually not a very difficult thing, you can just look at a nearby intact forests there. And then you try and figure out which of these species that would naturally exist, it would help these other species to also come back because natural forest ecosystems in the tropics particularly can have hundreds if not 1000s of different species on on one or more Hector's so You obviously cannot restore all of these species contact many different species, but you can plant a subsection of these species that then allow these other species to come back. All of this is very difficult. And even ecologists don't have any very clear answers on in very obvious answers on what is best there. But some things are quite well understood.
Manthan Shah 50:22
Okay, that is very insightful. Like, I mean, I'm glad they sent this question, because I would have never thought of these honestly. I'm oxytoca Daria from Pune, India.
My question is that trees require many years to develop and mature physically, too, as to provide the necessary
Manthan Shah 50:36
ecological support required. planting a trillion trees could work in the long term,
Felix Finkbeiner 50:41
but how does it address the immediacy that climate change requires? I think what's implied in this question is absolutely correct. And tree planting is a very important part of tackling the climate crisis. But not the only part of tackling the climate crisis. We in no way does tree planting replace the need to drastically reduce carbon emissions, but it complements it. I think only by drastically reducing carbon emissions and restoring forests, do we have any chance of reducing Climate The climate crisis to under 1.5, or two degree limit? How do we get that urgency? If only I knew how we could get our governments and companies to act fast enough to tackle the climate crisis. I was incredibly inspired this these past few years by the fantastic fighters for future movements, and the wonderful work they've managed to do and putting pressure on governments. So I think that is one of the most effective things we can do.
Manthan Shah 51:50
Right? Finally, the last question comes from Amara from Manila, Philippines.
Felix Finkbeiner 51:54
So in these times, we're in a lot of the user actively trying to make a difference. What is one thing that we all should remember, if ever, we feel like our efforts are going nowhere? I think we're very lucky in that regard, is because we plant trees, and the beauty of planting trees is that you can very easily count them. And you know exactly what impacts you've had. It's much easier to tell the impact you've made the planting trees and the impact you've made by by protesting, because often it's much harder to to draw a direct line between your protest and maybe a government action, not because protests is in any way less effective. Not at all, but rather, because it's just harder to see the track line harder to know, whether it was your action that that have that impact. And I've always found the fact that, you know, tree planting is so easily measurable, essentially very inspiring and motivating. Because when I have these moments of doubts, I can look back at it. But yeah, I mean, it's it's it's it's it's hugely challenging to remain motivated, when it does feel like we're moving backwards in so many ways. But at the same time, we're looking at what our youth climate movement has achieved in those past years, how several European governments have shifted to a much higher influence for Green Parties. As a result of these moments. I think it becomes incredibly clear that the world would be very different right now, even without that impact of that of those wonderful youth mobilizations.
Manthan Shah 53:34
Okay, those are some excellent answers. Felix, thank you so much for those insights and amazing, insightful, entertaining and purpose driven answers. definitely changed my day, guys, please check out Felix's work on their website plan for the planet. And please download on their app, the links are given below. Thank you for listening. Thank you so much for listening to the planet impact podcast. It's a weekly show on how nonconformance social entrepreneurs are changing the world. We come up with new episodes every day. And please, like, share, subscribe, and we'd appreciate if you could give us a five star on wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you so much, Felix, for joining us on this podcast. We really appreciate it.
Felix Finkbeiner 54:18
Yeah, thank you for having me.
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