Plastic pollution, rainforest destruction, and climate change are among the numerous environmental issues that the world is facing today. The planet’s health is in an extremely concerning state, and as its stewards, we have the moral obligation to help bring back its health.
But when we reflect on this unfortunate situation, most of us couldn’t help but feel a sense of hopelessness, and we fear that there is nothing we can do anymore to reverse the damage that has been done.
But the following story will prove us wrong, and will show us that if people care enough, the possibilities are limitless.
Back in 1994, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado reported on the genocide in Rwanda. Traumatized by the experience, he looked forward to coming home to the state of Minas Gerais where he grew up in, to see and enjoy the tropical forest there once more.
But instead of seeing lush greenery, Sebastião was met with rainforest destruction – what was once a forest became an empty expanse of dull soil.
“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” he said. “Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees.”
Completely heartbroken, Sebastião thought that reversing the rainforest destruction was impossible, but his wife Leila believed otherwise. So the couple set out on the most ambitious mission of their lives – to replant the entire forest.
First, they purchased an abandoned cattle ranch from Sebastião’s parents. They began to work on their project, calling in volunteers and securing funding for their initiative.
In 1998, the pair founded Instituto Terra, a non-profit organization that aims to recover and conserve forests. The following year, the couple planted their first sapling.
Now, 20 years after, the 600 hectares of barren land became filled with more than two million trees of 293 species! The water springs that had previously dried up are flowing now. With their home restored, wildlife began to flock the forest once again, bringing 172 bird species, 33 mammal species, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles into the newly restored paradise. The forest has come alive once again and has been declared as a Private Natural Heritage Reserve.
The restored beauty of the forest brought renewed joy in Sebastião’s heart.
“Thanks to this increase of the trees I, too, was reborn – this was the most important moment.”
Sebastião and Leila hope that their successful mission show other people that caring comes a long way and that it 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 said.
Thank you Sebastião and Leila for making our world a better place to live in! You deserve all the respect and recognition, and we hope that more people across the globe will follow in your footsteps and do their part in creating a greener planet for the generations to come.
Learn more about Instituto Terra in the video below and share this story to spread their mission of saving our planet from deforestation.