Interview with Thorsten Walter, the founder of the Green Forest Fund
Mr. Walter, why did you found the Green Forest Fund?
Thorsten Walter: Actually, I am a banker. I studied financial business and worked at a big consulting company and several financial institutions for a couple of years. However, at some stage I was looking for the deeper sense of my actions and I asked myself: What did I actually do that will remain for the greater good? I thought, and I still think, that I want to create something sustainable in my life.
So the question is: how can we live if we want to live in a good way?
Thorsten Walter: Exactly. The answer is: in accordance with nature and not against it. This sounds easier than it is. How can I do it? This is what I was thinking about during many long walks through the woods with my dog Eddie, Edward of Black Pearl. What is the meaning of life? I have come to the conclusion that we are about to reach the limits soon if we only think of ourselves.
I realized that humans have to live in harmony with nature and animals in order to survive on this planet. However, since we cannot ask nature and animals for their opinion, we are responsible for taking action on their behalf. The indigenous peoples of this planet have been living along with nature – just like any predator that does not kill other animals when it doesn’t have to, but only kills to survive. We, on the other hand, live in a consumer society that exploits the environment and animals and destroys biodiversity. Tigers are bred, reared and trained to get used to humans only to have them killed by big game hunters. Therefore, every positive thought, every comforting hand for a maltreated animal, every step into an emission-free future and every tree that grows naturally is a step in the right direction.
This is what I want to put my efforts into. I want to give something back to the helpless members of our system, to those without a lobby, to ecology, to biodiversity and to the animals. Because this planet is their home, too. How many times did I go out in the woods with Eddie, wondering what I could do? How could I use my knowledge to do something good? Then, at some point, I had an idea.
About the Green Forest Fund?
Thorsten Walter: Yes. Climate chance is one of the major issues that mankind is faced with in our century. And every one of us can contribute to solving it. Because the answer is right there in front of us. Trees are capable of filtering carbon from our atmosphere and they have been doing this for millions of years. By planting trees, we get the chance to make up for the consequences of our carbon emissions: Every tree counts!
So, the answer is: more growth …?
Thorsten Walter: Exactly. Growth doesn’t always have to be concerned with economics. If we plant and sustain more trees, we can help the environment deal with the most important question that we all are facing. But this is not the only way we can benefit from sustaining our forests. There is one thing I have learned on my long walks in the woods with Eddie, my Head of Happiness.
Eddie is a wonderfully cheerful and inspiring Labrador Retriever. He grounds me and shows me the things that are really important in life. He made me see that you can find joy and happiness in the simplest of things. He taught me the meaning of life, as it were. Eddie loves the woods just like his very own home. So, the woods became my own home, too, and I want to help them live on. This also shows that happiness is in living in accordance with the environment, in admiring and respecting nature. It makes you see how gifted we all are living on this planet. It is a gift that we should protect. This is our collective responsibility and the duty of each and every one of us.
Henri Matisse once said: “Seek pleasure in the sky, in the trees and the flowers. There are flowers for everyone if only you want to see them.” These words express something greater than the term “nature”. They remind us of the mercy of life.
What are the Green Forest Fund’s goals?
Thorsten Walter: I want to share my enthusiasm, my love of nature and my new-found meaningful existence with others and make them participate. We can change and effect change! Let’s take responsibility and action in our own hands! Politics are changing too slowly and there is too much power in the hands of lobbies. Relying only on politicians is too great a risk for all of us. We can make a change. Each and every one. Why wait? Let’s make things happen!
Who do you think will take part in the project?
Thorsten Walter: A potpourri of people who take a look behind the scenes. People who are creative, who feel connected to nature, who are reflective and young or young at heart. People who can see what’s at stake and who are ready to take on responsibility for themselves and for future generations. I don’t want anyone to bend over backwards or stop having fun, but the change has to come from within themselves.
What’s special about the Green Forest Fund’s concept?
Thorsten Walter: Our approach is to take the benefits granted to us and acquire the plots on which we plant the trees. Any 30-Euro donation for a tree covers the plantation and the maintenance of the shoots. Additionally, we use the donations to cover the expenses for our public relations. Through acquisition of the plots, we can guarantee that the trees can grow without forestry and without any harmful influence of factories and politics. This means that after a period of 5 to 6 years, the trees are left to themselves to grow freely. We want the trees to develop independently of any disturbance. Wildlife hunting will not be permitted on our grounds, either.
How are you going to convince potential supporters of your idea?
Thorsten Walter: The people‘s donations are used to for a good cause; for a growing campaign and I hope that as many people as possible will join in on the way. We plant our trees in Germany. Every supporter can watch “their” trees grow.
Who supports your routine engagement at the Green Forest Fund?
Thorsten Walter: One of the first loyal supporters is Susanna Sielicki-Walter, qualified health economist from Heidelberg, who is also my coach. Then, there is Martin Schoberer, who has been supporting us from the start with his graphic design and art direction. Several weeks ago, I ran into Julia Münster, one of my friends from my days at Cologne university. She showed an instant enthusiasm for the idea and ever since, she is an active member of our team. As a qualified and experienced business economist at a DAX company, she is our marketing expert.
Who are the people who have inspired you the most?
Thorsten Walter: I admire people who contribute to the protection of the environment and the animals, free from any selfish motives. I am hinting at the late founder of North Face, Douglas Tompkins. In the 1990es, Tompkins purchased roughly 3,000km² of land that stretched from the coast across the Andes to the border to Argentina. It was his goal to create a continuous area for the protection of animals and the ecosystem. With the help of his foundation, he acquired large stretches of the Pumalín Park. All in all, Tompkins purchased about 10,000km² of land in Chile and Argentina.
Another man I admire just as much is Greg Carr from Idaho, who grew rich in Silicon Valley. In 1998, he withdrew from all his management positions and devoted himself to the fostering of human beings and nature. He is planning to invest 40 million dollars in the sustainable development of villages and the resettlement of rhinos, lions and hippos in the Gongorosa National Park, Mozambique.
Both of them inspired me and gave me the willpower to realize the idea of the Green Forest Fund. Now I want to share this with other people. Only if we promote change together can we develop along with nature, hand in hand and on an equal footing.