At just 11 years old, Paolo Ben Salmi is already an award-winning author and an environmental activist. His book Pint Size Adventurer encourages young people to set aside their electronic devices and step outside to enjoy our world.
Now, Paolo has decided to plant with ForestNation to raise awareness on the importance of reforestation and environmental protection. In this interview we asked him to tell us more about himself, his activism and his experience planting with ForestNation
We know you as the author of Pint Size Adventures and a young activist. Tell us more about your experience as a leader for change and inspiration to your community.
I like to speak to people in a way where they feel as if we’re on the same journey together. I’ve heard a lot of people say to me “you’re not like other children” and that made me feel like I was being put to the side.
As a result, my main goal is to create a space where youth and young entrepreneurs can interact and exchange helpful advice on the challenges they might face. I want to bridge the gap between different generations and help give a voice to the youth.
Who is your inspiration and role model?
My mum has tracheostomy which prevents her from breathing easily at times and caused her to almost die on three occasions. Seeing her then survive through those hard times and being able to do what she does today, including writing books and taking care of our family really inspires me.
You seem very close to your family with whom you just planted 10,000 trees as part of the Borg Holdings, which regroups you and your siblings. As a family, how do you find ways to connect to nature?
I’ve met a lot of people who simply do not like going outside but if you think about it, some trees you’ll encounter on walks have been here for over hundreds of thousands of years and that’s worth stepping outside to see. As a family we like to make time to simply take a deep breath and connect with the nature surrounding us.
Why did you decide to start planting with ForestNation?
This journey started when I was in the park with my mom, and I had this idea to create a movie about trees called the ‘Tree Troops’. We cut down so many trees each year, but we don’t realise that trees actually are living things. In the movie I want to create, these trees are alive and experience life as we humans do.
I believe that planting with ForestNation will help people realise that cutting trees is like killing conscious beings. Also, they are so important and necessary to humans. Trees literally allow us to live, by taking away what we can’t breathe and giving us what we can breathe.
What personal goals do you wish to accomplish by planting with ForestNation?
I’d like to create a documentary around the progress and growth of both my Forest and ForestNation’s community. I’d love to capture the impact of tree planting on the community.
Do you have any specific memory which made you so passionate about the outdoors?
When I was young, I went to an exhibition with my nan and saw a lot of artists crafting chairs out of wood, making tables and such. I was thinking to myself: ‘why would you want to kill conscious beings?’.
Without saying this practice should completely stop, I think it’s really important to educate people on the issue and encourage them to give back. Very simply: if you take a tree, then plant a tree back; if you take five then plant five back.
What advice would you give to someone your age looking to get involved in the environmental cause?
I would definitely start with mental awareness. For example, imagine you are in the woods and are eager to snatch a branch from a tree. I want people to stop and really think ‘Will my action be detrimental to the environment?’. It’s a case of thinking about the bigger picture rather than thinking about what your desires are in this instant.
I really believe in the importance of educating people and particularly the youth on the importance of trees. For example, trees can be used to stop floods and many countries plant forests for protection. It all starts with each of us planting a mental seed and growing a fertile mindset, which will then develop your will to plant real seeds into fertile grounds.
What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you think of trees?