Just look at this! Couple plants 2M+ trees on barren land – 20yrs later, it’s a tropical rainforest.

Deforestation is a serious threat to our planet’s health. Indeed, it is responsible for roughly 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to rising temperatures, extreme weather, and soil erosion.

While all of these changes have an impact on every living thing on the planet, it’s difficult and overwhelming to consider how (or if) we can address such serious issues. However, as one remarkable couple has demonstrated, it is not too late to undo the environmental damage we have caused.

Sebastio Salgado, a Brazilian photojournalist, had just returned home after reporting in Rwanda in 1994. He hadn’t had a particularly pleasant time there, so he was looking forward to returning to the tropical forest of Minas Gerais, where he grew up. But all he found was dusty, barren land.

In just a few years, deforestation had completely destroyed it. Many of the animals that lived there were on the verge of extinction. “The land was sick like I was – everything had been destroyed,” Sebastio explained. “Trees covered only about 0.5 percent of the land.”

Bringing the land back to its tropical glory seemed impossible. But Sebastião’s wife, Lélia believed it was worth a try. So the two set out on a very ambitious mission to replant the entire forest… and eventually, they did.

The couple bought an abandoned cattle ranch from Sebastio’s parents and got to work immediately, enlisting volunteers and securing funding for their project. They established Instituto Terra, a non-profit organization dedicated to forest recovery and conservation, in 1998. They then planted their first sapling in 1999.

Over two million trees of 293 species have been planted and 1,502 acres of tropical forest have been restored in the 20 years since the organization was founded.

Water springs that had previously dried up have resurfaced and are now flowing. In the area, there are over 172 bird species, 33 mammal species, and 15 amphibian and reptile species. The forest is flourishing once more, and a Private Natural Heritage Reserve has been established.

And for Sebastião, the effort has done even more than that. It’s brought renewed joy into his heart. He says, “Thanks to this increase of the trees I, too, was reborn – this was the most important moment.”

Sebastião and Lélia hope their success will show others that caring can make all the difference. “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,” Sebastião added.

The Salgados are living proof that if we all put in a little time and effort, we could make our world a better place to live in — one tree at a time. Learn more about Instituto Terra in the video below, and share to spread their mission of contributing to a greener planet.

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Just look at this! Couple plants 2M+ trees on barren land – 20yrs later, it’s a tropical rainforest.
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