The couple planted these trees within the last 20 years. The forest has been saved and the animals have returned home.
One of the biggest problems the world is facing is deforestation. Animals are losing their habitat and are slowly going extinct. The forests are not just important for the survival of animals but also a key component for the balance in the ecosystem and our own survival. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, 129 million hectares of forest, an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa, have been lost from the Earth forever since 1990. Essentially, a forest area roughly the size of the country of Panama is being lost each and every year. Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado took the bold step of trying to save Mother Earth. The passionate duo showed the world that consistent, small-scale contribution can have a large-scale impact - the two of them have managed to plant two million trees over the course of 20 years.
The couple returned home to Minas Gerais, Brazil, after covering the horrific accounts of the Rwanda genocide in 1994. They were hoping to come back and find some peace in the forest covered lands but they came back to nothing. The forests had been destroyed completely and all the animals had either been killed or fled the area. The photographer was devastated to see that the lush rainforests he grew up around, wasn't there anymore. However, his wife took it very differently. She believed that they could restore the forests.
“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” Salgado said in The Guardian back in 2015. “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.” Together, Sebastião and Lélia founded Instituto Terra. It is a small organization that aims at restoring the forests and bringing the animals back home.
The organization has managed to plant four million saplings from the time they started and has successfully managed to bring the forests back to life. “Perhaps we have a solution,” Salgado said. “There is a single being which can transform CO2 to 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 there and the forest is silent.”
The area has been brought back to life. The lush green forests are back and the photographer's home now looks like paradise. For almost a decade there was deadly silence in the area but with the return of the forest, the wildlife has returned too. There is now a cacophony of birdcalls and insects buzzing around now. Restoring the habitat back is one of the biggest ways in which we can save animals from going extinct. The world is on its way towards its sixth mass extinction and something needs to be done to stop it. This is the first mass extinction that is manmade and not occurring due to natural causes like drastic climate change.
Ever since the couple managed to bring the forest back, around 172 species of birds have returned to their original homes. Along with the birds, around 33 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles, 15 species of amphibians, and 293 species of plants have returned to the lands. The couple has managed to rebuild an entire ecosystem. This inspirational project is an example of positive ecological action and it shows how quickly and easily we can help save our planet. Helping the environment recover just needs us to pitch in with small but consistent action.
“We need to listen to the words of the people on the land,” Salgado explained. “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.”
Here's how the people on social media have reacted to the amazing environmental work the couple has managed to do: