Washington Post — January 22, 2020 –By Ben Guarino
Photographs by Hannah Reyes Morales
At age 9, Felix Finkbeiner planted his first tree.
He had just learned about Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize for leading an effort to plant 30 million trees in Africa. The boy was struck by her message — that trees are powerful allies in the fight to curb global warming.
Some of the more sophisticated details went over his head, Finkbeiner recalled. But, he said, he “understood the tree-planting part.” So, in 2007, he dug a hole in front of his school near Munich and inserted a crab-apple sapling. “I thought that we kids should be planting some trees, as well,” he said.
Finkbeiner’s fourth-grade awakening blossomed into a personal crusade and eventually birthed a tree-planting foundation, Plant for the Planet. The organization, which is responsible for planting millions of new trees around the world, is part of a growing constellation of campaigns that seek to reforest every continent except Antarctica.
Driven by the recognition that trees suck Earth-warming carbon out of the atmosphere far more efficiently than any machine, the effort has attracted millions of dollars in support — and inspired hope that trees could become an even more potent weapon in the battle against climate change.
“We’ve been astonished to find that it is up there with all the best climate change solutions,” said ETH Zurich ecologist Thomas Crowther, thesis adviser to Finkbeiner, now a 22-year-old PhD student in environmental science. Plant for the Planet inherited a massive tree-planting program, renamed the Trillion Tree Campaign, from the United Nations in 2011; Crowther is its chief scientific adviser.
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