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Couple Plants 2.7 Million Trees in 20 Years to Restore a Forest, Earns Praise

Having grown up near the lush forests of Minas Gerais, Brazil, photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado was looking forward to going home and relaxing after feeling traumatized during the years he spent covering Rwanda.

In 1994, after spending many difficult years in Rwanda, he was ready to go home. He dreamed of spending time in the forest to rejuvenate and ‘recharge’ himself.

Photo credit: Ricaro Beliel / SunnySkyz

But the Brazilian photographer was devastated to find that the lush forest of his childhood was become an arid, denuded land after most of the trees have been cut down. Instead of finding much-needed solace from the experiences he had in Rwanda, he was more distressed when he got home.

The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed. Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees,” Sebastião explained.

“Then my wife [Lélia] 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.”

Lélia and Sebastião worked hand in hand to replant the forest.

Photo credit: Ricaro Beliel / SunnySkyz

In 1998, the couple founded Instituto Terra in a bid to bring the forest back to life. They rallied partners and volunteers to help. Since then, they have planted over 2.7 million trees, rejuvenating 1,502 acres of the lost forest.

They planted about 293 different species of trees. Since then, it was estimated that 33 species of mammals, 172 species of birds, 15 species of reptiles, and 15 species of amphibians have returned to the forest.

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.

Photo credit: Ricaro Beliel / SunnySkyz

The couple earned praise for their work. Many netizens are hoping more people would follow in their footsteps…

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