Brazilian couple spent over 20 years restoring a ruined forest into a healthy rainforest.
Our mother planet is losing about 8 billion trees yearly to deforestation. Sadly, people replanted only a small amount of them. A region the extent of South Africa has been lost forever since 1990, according to the UN. Wildlife lost their habitats, and species are going extinct. However, the married couple Sebastião Salgado and Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado proved that it is possible to make changes for a better world.
After traveling several years documenting the heartbreaking Rwandan genocide, the photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado returned to Brazil to take care of his family ranch. To his surprise, the once lush green glorious forests were now chopped down and became a dry wasteland, including the vanishing of wildlife. But his wife Lélia decided to do something about it rather than accept its fate. Together they began their exciting journey that would inspire the rest of the world to join worthy causes.
“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” Salgado told 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.”
Moreover, the pair founded an organization named 'Instituto Terra', which brought the forest back to life by planting 4 million seedlings. Sebastião believed they finally had a solution to save Mother Earth. “There is a single being which can transform CO2 to oxygen, which is the tree. We need to replant the forest,” said the photographer. “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 there and the forest is silent.”
The couple took special care of the replanted forest for 20 years, and it returned to life — even the animals came back to the land! Throughout the wait for the forest to regrow, 172 bird species, 33 species of mammals, 293 species of plants, and 15 species of reptiles have returned there.
"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.