Photographer And His Wife Planted 2 Million Trees In 20 Years And Restored A Destroyed Forest

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations since 1990, 129 million hectares of forest have disappeared from the Earth forever. This area is almost equivalent in size to that of South Africa. And the annual loss of forest areas is equal to the size of Panama.

Approximately 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions result from the loss of forests. Many plant species are disappearing, and animals are losing their habitats. All of this is taking a toll on the health of the planet and simply cannot be allowed to continue.

What to do in the face of such a massive environmental disaster that can make a person feel small and helpless? Can we at least do something?
Brazilian photographer Sebastián Salgado and his wife, Lélia Deluiz Wanique Salgado, set out to show what a small group of people can do to turn everything upside down and set about reviving a forest.

Mother Nature is a hardy soul who will always find a way to bounce back if the conditions are right. Sebastian Salgado is a well-known personality: he has won almost every major photojournalism award and has published more than half a dozen books. In the 1990s, exhausted physically and emotionally after documenting the horrific barbarity of the Rwandan genocide, he returned to his native Brazil, an area that was once covered in lush rainforest. The photographer was shocked when he discovered that now there is no wildlife. But his wife, Lelia, believed that the area could be restored to its former glory.

“My native land was as devastated as I was: everything was destroyed,” Salgado said in an interview with The Guardian in 2015. “Only about 0.5% of the land was covered with forests. And then my wife had an incredible idea – to plant a new forest. And when we started doing that, the insects and birds returned. The most important point was that thanks to the growth of trees, I myself was reborn.

Sebastian and Lelia founded a small organization whose employees planted 4 million seedlings and brought the forest back to life. “Only a tree can convert CO2 into oxygen. We need to plant a forest in which native trees will grow. You need to collect seeds in the same region where you will plant them, otherwise snakes and termites will not appear. If you plant trees from other regions, the animals will not come here and the forest will remain silent.”

Due to the fact that all the planted plants were natural for this land, everything changed in the next 20 years. The wildlife has returned. Where not so long ago there was deathly silence, now birds are singing and insects are buzzing.

In total, about 172 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles and 15 species of amphibians returned to their usual habitat. Thanks to the efforts of caring people, 293 plant species were revived here. A whole ecosystem was restored literally from scratch!

The project has inspired millions of people by setting a concrete example of positive environmental action and demonstrating how the environment can be restored.

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