2 February 2011
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Film Festival for International Year of Forests

 


The International Year of Forests was launched at United Nations Headquarters in New York on a day when ice, rain and snow were blanketing the region, yet the point of the observance was to heighten awareness of the value of forests in people’s lives and to galvanize action for forests around the world, correspondents heard today at a press conference highlighting the Forest Film Festival.


Jan McAlpine, Director, Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests — currently in its ninth session at Headquarters through 4 February — explained that the International Year was a celebration of forests and people, of the vital role that forests played in people’s lives.  The worldwide observance grew out of the increasing recognition of the role that forests played in, among other things, providing livelihoods for people around the world (See Press Release ENV/DEV 1188). 


Joining Ms. McAlpine at the press conference were Yann Arthus-Bertrand, GoodPlanet Foundation, France; Lisa Sanford, Executive Director, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival; and Felix Finkbeiner, Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation.


Mr. Arthus-Bertrand, world renowned photographer and environmentalist, and Chair of the GoodPlanet Foundation, said he was very proud to have made a movie about forests, clips of which had been shown earlier today upon the launch of the International Year at the United Nations.  


He explained that to promote the Year, his foundation had launched a Website dedicated to the international event (www.goodplanet.org/forests).  The Website offered exclusive video, 70 photographs of forests, educational posters for schools and a picture book, as well as a photography contest and other international initiatives.


The notion behind the Forest Film Festival, explained Ms. Sanford, was that images spoke to the heart and a bank of work should be created that contained beautiful films and touching stories about forests from lots of places and varying perspectives.  The producers wanted to create a “film festival in a box” and make it widely available for people to use to touch communities and inspire them to action.  (The films could be viewed at www.forestfilmfestival.org).


Mr. Finkbeiner, a 13-year-old, talked about the student initiative, Plant-for-the-Planet, founded in 2007 as a result of a school project about the climate crisis.  Mr. Finkbeiner had then begun introducing the world to his Plant-for-the-Planet idea, and during the 2008 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Tunza Children’s Conference in Norway, he had presented his vision.  Hundreds of child delegates from 105 countries had elected him to the UNEP Junior Board.  By August 2009, the project had evolved into a youth movement, in which the children planted trees, gave speeches and organized activities to underline the need for action.  In May 2010, 45 children planted the millionth tree for Germany in Bonn.


Some 100,000 children in 91 countries had planted about 3.5 million trees worldwide, he said.  Plant-for-the Planet, now operating under the banner “Stop Talking, Start Planting”, was presently working on its internal structure, making it as democratic as possible.  All children could vote for a “world president” to represent them for one year.  The children, he explained, had also organized some 100 academies, at which students from nearby schools learned how to give presentations and organize “planting parties”. 


He drew attention to a recent declaration, which was crafted at the academies.  Among other things, it proclaims:  “Let’s plant 500 billion trees!”  Those trees, it states, would absorb an additional 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year.  Five billion trees “sounds like a huge amount”, says the text, “but it is possible as the Chinese planted 2.7 billion trees in 2009.”  “If everybody plants as many trees as he or she is old in years, then we will also reach the 500 billion trees.” 


To a few questions about how the United States compared to other countries in terms of preservation and planting, the panellists suggested that the correspondent speak to the United States Forest Service or Department of Agriculture.  State foresters and others on the United States’ delegation could also be helpful, they suggested. 


Mr. Finkbeiner added that he would be visiting some schools in Washington, D.C., and that small academies would now be active in the United States.  The United States is “just starting their planting”, he said, and at about 300,000 trees, “they’re pretty much the lowest”. 


As for the country locations of other academies, he drew correspondents’ attention to the website:  http://www.plant-for-the-planet.org


Asked about the rights of indigenous people — the “custodians” of the forests — Ms. McAlpine said that issue had been a focus of the Forum’s discussion and was at the heart of the International Year.  The people who lived in forests and depended on them for their livelihoods and subsidies were estimated to be at over 1.6 billion. 


She noted an earlier remark of Mr. Finkbeiner’s that in 50 years, most of the adults here would not be around, but his friends would be, so the choices made today would be theirs to live with. 


Mr. Finkbeiner added:  “The forests are our future”.  So many children already depended on forests for their livelihood, and in so many countries where children were dying of starvation, if they had trees, they would have a better chance. 


Asked what he would say to Government leaders, he said he would be happy for all possible support from leaders and non-leaders worldwide; absent that, “we will plant the trees ourselves because it’s about our future and we will fight for our future”.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record