保護地球 兒童做先鋒 ( 香港聯合國教科文之友電子會訊)
這是受非洲生物學家兼諾貝爾和平獎得主Wangari Muta Maathai所啟發。Maathai教授發起改善農村婦女就業和促進環境保護的「綠帶運動」，自1977年起，三十年來成功在非洲栽種了超過3,000萬棵樹。
小Felix認為，大人都知道氣候變化問題，但往往只說不做（他們有個宣傳活動叫”Stop talking. Start planting”，邀請政商演藝界著名的大人參與，如影星夏里遜福和當時的摩納哥阿爾拔王子），原因可能在大人眼中，「未來」是個抽象概念，但對今天的孩童來說，到2100年，他們可能仍然生存在世。因此，兒童要為自己的未來努力，而植樹是最廣受認同的活動。
耶魯大學的研究員Tom Crowther 花了兩年研究，在2015年於學術期刊《自然》上發表結果，原來全球有30,000億棵樹，是先前估計的七倍，但比萬多年前農耕活動剛開始時，減少了近半。現在樹木損失的速度是每年100億棵，因此，每年種100萬甚至10億棵樹也無補於事。
Felix 沒有氣餒，他和全球六萬多個年齡介乎9至12歲的兒童大使反而決定把行動升級，將目標訂在種植10,000億（「1」後有12個「0」）棵樹，每年便可為地球吸收100億噸二氧化碳，即人類每年產生碳排放量的四分一。他們努力聯絡各國富豪、政府和企業，爭取資源；同時也努力把種植計劃科學化，這令他和Esri 總裁Jack Dangermond 結緣。
Esri 是全球50大軟件公司之一，專營地理資訊系統（GlS）軟件。現年73歲的Jack非常欣賞和認同Felix 的理念，於是兩個年紀相距半百的一老一小，攜手打造一個全球植樹電子地圖平台，開放給所有植樹組織上載數據，藉著GIS軟件擅長綜合多重資訊、強於圖像化分析的特點，有助全球植樹的規劃，例如不同地方應該栽種什麼樹和優先次序，這牽涉氣候、土壤、地勢、環境、物種、人口、土地運用等多個因素。
香港雖然是彈丸之地，卻孕育了不少物種，單是開花植物便有近 3,000 種，香港人應引以為傲。然而若大家不懂珍惜及尊重自然生態，物種只會相繼消失。
Children can pioneer in protecting the earth (Friends of UNESCO HK e-Newsletter)
What were you doing when you were nine years old? Where would you be 80 years later in 2100?
Global tree planting campaign initiated by a nine-year-old
In 2007, Felix, a 9-year-old primary four student in Germany had to do a project on climate change. He was eventually inspired and initiated a global Plant-for-the-Planet movement. Its initial target was to plant one million trees in each country to offset CO2 emissions.
Felix was inspired by Wangari Muta Maathai, an African biologist and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Professor Maathai founded Kenya’s Green Belt Movement to improve the employment opportunities of women in rural area and promote environmental protection. Since 1977, more than 30 million trees have been planted in Africa within 30 years under the movement.
Felix explained his idea of one-million tree-planting to his classmates and the school principal. He then planted the first tree in the school campus. The media loved his idea and eagerly reported his story. In the following year, Felix becomes the United Nations Environment Programme Junior Board Member. In the past ten years, he had given speeches in front of the European Parliament, and in the UN conferences in Norway, South Korea, the United States and many other countries.
“Stop talking. Start planting”
Felix believes that adults are aware of the challenge of climate change, but they often talk and seldom act (They named a campaign as “Stop talking. Start planting” which invited famous adults from the political, commercial, and entertainment industry to join. Harrison Ford and Price Albert of Monaco are one of them). The reason behind may be “the future” is an academic question to adults, but for today’s children, 2100 is still within their lifetime, so they aim to take their future in their own hands, and planting trees is a most widely recognized activity.
You may have participated in tree planting activity, but how effective it is in easing climate change? How many trees are there on earth now? How many more shall we plant to offset the deforestation around the world and make a difference? These questions challenge many scientists.
Tom Crowther, a researcher in Yale University spent two years studying the topic and published the results in the academic journal Nature in 2015. It turns out that there are three trillion trees in the world, which is seven times of the previous estimates. It is also found that the number is only half of that 12,000 years ago when farming activities just started. The loss of trees is now at a rate of 10 billion per year. Therefore, planting one million or even one billion trees a year will not help much.
e-Map for planting trees
Surprisingly, Felix was not discouraged. Instead, he and over 60,000 ambassadors aged 9 to 12 worldwide decided to scale up their plan and set a target of planting one trillion (12 “0” after “1”) trees each year. The trees can absorb 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, which is one quarter of the carbon emissions we produce a year. They worked hard to contact the billionaires, governments, and companies of various countries to raise resources. At the same time, they also strived to make the planting plan scientific. This led him to connect with Jack Dangermond, President of Esri.
Esri is one of the 50 largest software companies in the world and is specializing in geographic information system (GlS) software. The 73-year-old Jack appreciates and recognises Felix’s philosophy. The old man and young person, with age gap of over 50 years, worked together to build a global tree planting electronic map platform, which is opened to all tree organisations for uploading data. Riding on the unique features of GIS software in consolidating multiple layers of information to visualize analysis results, it helps the planning of the global tree planting. On the GIS platform, the type of tree and sequence of planting in different places under various climate, soil, topography, environment, urbanization, and land use are detailed.
Serious felling and excessive harvesting hurt
On the other hand, we adults are not entirely looking on without lifting a finger. For example, the Earth Day celebrated on 22 April every year is an event promoting environmental protection. Many countries around the world hold different types of activities on that day each year to lend support to the initiative.
It originated in the United States in the 1970s. At that time, a group of enthusiastic people recognized the increasing pollution of the earth and the ecological environment was being threatened. They launched a large-scale campaign to protect the earth and called for the attention of the public about pollution. The result was a swift support from all over the world.
In fact, apart from deforestation, over-harvesting also causes extinction of species. The beautiful orchids are diverse in colour, but some wild species such as slipper orchids are on the verge of extinction. At the same time, certain bees in the nature rely on the pollen of a particular type of orchid to reproduce. When that type of orchids decreases, the associated type of bees will also decrease.
Incense tree has high medicinal value, and thus is considered as a treasure. Unfortunately, it is often illegally felled by poachers. Country parks in Hong Kong are said to be “almost stripped bare” of these rare incense trees. Recently, a 60-year incense tree in the Chinese University of Hong Kong was cut down. Hong Kong was once covered with these trees, but due to serious illegal felling, the number has dropped sharply. Now the natural stock is near extinction in Hong Kong.
Protecting the earth starts from every individual
Although Hong Kong is small, it nurtures many species. We have nearly 3,000 species of flowering plants which should be our pride. However, if people do not treasure and respect the ecology, these species will disappear one after another.
The Conservation E3 Foundation’s Tree Adoption Program teaches young people tree knowledge. It helps to cultivate a caring attitude towards the nature and the earth. Although it is generally difficult for the Hong Kong people to plant trees on their own, we can cherish the nature as much as we can to protect the earth.