Forest Have Been Destroyed So A Married Couple Planted 2 Million Trees And Local Animals Have Returned

Millions of hectares of forest- an area nearly the size of all of South Africa- have been lost to us forever since 1990, according to the United  Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. Every passing year, we lose an additional area roughly the size of Panama!

Credit: Ricaro Beliel

Deforestation causes 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and an enormous number of plants and animals lose their homes every day. This is devastating for our planet and needs to be stopped while it’s still possible.

But how can this path of destruction be prevented? As individuals, we feel insignificant in our ability to effect meaningful change. We tell ourselves, “nothing I can do will make any real difference.” And yet, two people- Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado and his wife Lelia decided to make a difference, and show the world what two committed people can accomplish. Together, they made a plan to begin the process of reforestation.

Credit: Sebastiao Salgado

Our planet has a way of recovering from almost any damage we cause to it, given time and the right conditions. Sebastiao is a well-known public presence, winning multiple awards in photojournalism and publishing over half a dozen books. In the 1990s, traumatized by the horrific atrocities committed during the Rwandan genocide, Sebastiao returned to his homeland of Brazil, which he remembered as filled with lush rainforests. Little did he know that he was about to be devastated anew, as he witnessed the barren lifeless land his country had now become after years of deforestation. And yet, his wife did not give up hope.

Our planet has a way of recovering from almost any damage we cause to it, given time and the right conditions. Sebastiao is a well-known public presence, winning multiple awards in photojournalism and publishing over half a dozen books. In the 1990s, traumatized by the horrific atrocities committed during the Rwandan genocide, Sebastiao returned to his homeland of Brazil, which he remembered as filled with lush rainforests. Little did he know that he was about to be devastated anew, as he witnessed the barren lifeless land his country had now become after years of deforestation. And yet, his wife did not give up hope.

Credit: institutoterra

“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” said Sebastiao in the Guardian. “Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees. Then my wife had a fabulous idea to replant this forest. And when we began to do that, then all the insects and birds and fish returned and, thanks to this increase of the trees I, too, was reborn – this was the most important moment.

Credit: institutoterra

Sebastiao and his wife Lelia founded the Instituto Terra, an organization that started out small but has since planted over 4 million saplings and revived the forest that too many were gone beyond all hope of recovery. “Perhaps we have a solution. There is a single being that can transform CO2 into oxygen, which is the tree. We need to replant the forest. You need forest with native trees, and you need to gather the seeds in the same region you plant them or the serpents and the termites won’t come. And if you plant forests that don’t belong, the animals don’t come here and the forest is silent,” Sebastiao said.

Credit: institutoterra

After dedicating time and devotion to his plan, making sure that no foreign plants are introduced to the area, the forest has flourished in a way that nobody expected over the next 20 years. Many different kinds of wildlife have returned to their original homes. The barren silence of lifelessness has given way to the dynamic energy and sounds of life.

Credit: institutoterra

An entire ecosystem was restored due to the efforts of just a few dedicated individuals- 172 bird species, 33 kinds of mammals, 293  types of plants, 15 species of reptiles, and 15 species of amphibians.

Credit: institutoterra

This story inspired countless people, providing them with a clear example of causing meaningful change, and how it’s possible to undo years of destruction and neglect with just a few steps in the right direction.

Credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA

As Sebastiao  recalls, “We need to listen to the words of the people on the land, Nature is the earth and it is other beings and if we don’t have some kind of spiritual return to our planet, I fear that we will be compromised.”

Credit: Sebastião Salgado


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