Franziska Juliane Finkbeiner is a 24 year old German Rotaractor, president of Rotaract Club Augsburg, ADRR of District 1841, and active member of the MDIO Rotaract Germany Committee (RDK). As impressive as all of this already sounds, that is not the reason for our interview today with Franziska: In 2007, Franziska and her brother Felix created Plant-for-the-Planet (Click here to check their website), a non profit, non governmental organization whose main objective (you guessed it) is to plant trees.
One might ask him/herself why would Rotaract Mediterranean do an interview with a non member Rotaractor to talk about an NGO that is not part of the Rotary family. Well, the answer is simple, we Rotaractors, we Mediterraneans believe in ACTION ! In the framework of our MedChallenges, more specifically medNATURE (Click here to know more about medNATURE), which covers 5 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we have decided to become partners with this emerging environmental power, to help in saving our planet through reforestation.
Q: What is Plant-for-the-Planet and how did it start?
A: Plant-for-the-Planet is a child and youth organization. We started in 2007. It was an idea my brother had when he was 9 and I was just a year older saying that we children can also do something for our environment as part of the community. The initial goal was to plant a million trees with children in Germany, expanded to a million trees per country with children and youth. Now our goal is set a little bit higher. We want to mobilize the worldwide community to plant 1 TRILLION trees… But of course, we have to mobilize more than just children and youth. So we’re also mobilizing companies and such, but at the core, we are still children and youth doing something to save our future, for our future… So Rotaract is an awesome network of young adults who are all engaged in doing something for their community. And I think the environment should be a part of that. And I am sure it is already a part of that for many people.
Q: Why is Plant-for-the-Planet focused on reforestation and youth? Do you think that makes you better than other NGOs ?
A: I’m not sure I can judge if we’re better. Obviously, we think we are great. But at the heart of it all, we think that the empowerment of children and youth is really important because it is about our future. I don’t know how children in other countries are taught about the environment and the climate crisis,but when I went to school it was just a tiny moment, a lesson, in primary school and THAT WAS IT. We really think that children and youth need to have a voice because it is our future we are talking about…So if we don’t get involved, who is going to do the work ? Who is going to do something?
We plant trees because it is something simple. Everybody can do it. We started by planting a tree in our garden and in our school. Now Plant-for-the-Planet has grown a little bit in the last 14 years. So we have a platform, we have an app that you can compare to a dating app, where we have planting projects that are looking for donations. Donors can choose which project they would like to support. We have just over 140 projects at the moment from across the world on the platform… We are hoping that in the next couple of years we’ll reach a lot more, thousands of projects. Because even though we as Plant-for-the-Planet have our own planting projects, we cannot reach the goal to plant One Trillion Trees on our own. We want to share this, and do this together with all planting projects across the world.. At the heart of it all, we are still children and youth who are fighting for our future. .
If we want to stay within the Paris Agreement 1.5°C limit we need more time. According to Bastin, 2019 (click here to know more), if we plant 1 Trillion trees by 2030, these trees can give us an extra 15 years below the 1.5°C limit.
In December 2011, Plant-for-the-Planet made an intervention in the General Assembly of the UN. After Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Peace Nobel Prize winner, passed away in 2011, the United Nations Environmental Program passed on the BILLION Tree Campaign to Plant-for-the-Planet. A project which now evolved to the TRILLION Tree Campaign.
2021 is the start of the decade of Ecological Restoration of the United Nations. As a result, Plant-for-the-Planet has started working on expanding their platform to include conservation projects.
Q: Why did you choose Rotaract Mediterranean as a partner?
A: Rotaract Mediterranean is such a big unique interesting combination of so many countries and lots of them are influenced largely by the climate crisis. So for me, it was the logical next step to get into contact with Rotaract Mediterranean, because I noticed on your website that you are already doing planting projects and environmental projects. This might be a new possibility of partnership that might support you guys further in your endeavors to do something for the environment.
Last year, with the #1Tree1Rotaractor challenge, Mediterranean Rotaract clubs planted more than 1000 trees. And supporting the environment becomes a new area of focus of Rotary since 2020.
Q: How does the break of COVID19 affect your working schedule? How does it affect the way you do things?
A: Of course it affected us greatly because we had to change a number of our plans. But really the timing for our platform was great because we launched the browser version in September 2020… As lovely and amazing it is to plant your own trees with your family or your friends this platform allows you to plant trees from your couch, by supporting planting projects across the world and supporting jobs there. It’s just simple, it’s a couple of clicks on a website and you can donate any amount of trees. Depending on the project 1 tree may cost 1 Euro, so a few Euros make a great difference. We have to adapt to the circumstances right now and hpe that as soon as it gets a little bit better we can continue doing our planting projects locally and support the local community by planting trees and all the environmental benefits it has. I think for the time being the platform will help us to continue this.
We need to educate people about why planting trees has become one of the important activities. Until people have this knowledge, they won’t do their bit. If you want life to thrive on the planet, it is really important to ensure that we do not deplete the plant cover.
By understanding the benefits of planting trees and doing your bit, you might start the best of mitigation strategies and this could lead to the chain effect which is truly desired at the moment.We have done a lot of ruthless exploitation of mother earth and it is about time that we pay back to the mother earth. So, understand the endless benefits of planting trees and start planting a few right in your backyard.
So let’s stop talking and START PLANTING!
We as Rotaract Mediterranean urge you to visit the official website of Plant-for-the-Planet (Click here) and donate for our sake, for our children’s sake, and most importantly for our planet.
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BY Alia TRIKI