The Earth loses approximately 18 million acres of forest each year, which is equal to Panama’s size. Such significant environmental changes have an impact not only on humans but also on countless species of animals that have to leave their natural habitats and look elsewhere for their home. No doubt, our collective mission today is to prevent by any means possible the destruction of our planet. Therefore, a Brazilian couple, Sebastião and Lélia Salgado, have shown that anyone can make an impact and turn deforestation on its head.
We at One Million Ideas found out how this dedicated couple managed to achieve such wonderful results and turn a piece of desolate landscape into a wildlife paradise.
It started with a small dream about a peaceful life
Back in 1994, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado came back from East Africa to record the brutality of the genocide in Rwanda. After this traumatic experience, he was seeking peace in his native land’s lush green forest in Brazil’s Minas Gerais province.
What he saw there, however, was even more devastating — a rich forest had become a severely damaged and dusty landscape with dried-up rivers and no trace of wildlife over a couple of years. Just 0.5% of the land was covered in trees. Salgado was broken.
His wife Lélia made an almost impossible offer at this time. She claimed that if they put all their effort into it, their forest could be returned to its former glory. Sebastião supported her idea and the couple decided to replant the entire area with a species that once flourished there. Since then, there has been a miraculous transformation.
The dream of planting a forest was shared with others
In 1998, Salgado sowed his very first seed, but two people were obviously not enough to do such tremendous work. To restore their deserted piece of 1,754 acre forest land, the couple hired 24 people working with the owners day and night, removing invasive weeds, planting new seedlings, and watering the plants.
Simultaneously, Sebastião began to build a network of enthusiastic volunteers and collaborators who would fund and support their vast project. The couple set up an environmental group, the Terra Institute, to attract attention to their cause.
The Instituto Terra’s main objective is to preserve the area’s biodiversity through the cultivation of seedlings from the Atlantic Forest. It also has an ambitious literacy program involving children from colleges, teachers, peasants, and local officials. The institute also offers advice to peasants, miners, and other people working in the forest region in order to increase awareness of the problem.
The hard work of the organization paid off — tropical trees, native to the region, quickly began to flourish even though this area had suffered for decades from extreme deforestation.
The results turned out to be really impressive.
The couple has planted more than 4 million saplings of 293 species of trees since 1998 and restored 1,502 acres of tropical forest. The region was turned back to its original state of a tropical paradise once a barren land.
Principal fonte de captação de água do município de Baixo Guandu-ES após o rompimento da barragem em Mariana-MG, a bacia…
Thanks to the new forest, a whole ecosystem has been rebuilt from scratch. Such reforestation resulted in a tropical microclimate being rebirthed, bringing back increased rainfall and water-filled creeks.
Surprisingly, the healthy ecosystem of the new forest saved more than just the local landscape — it also stimulated wild animals to return to the area.
The return of wild animals is the most essential positive aspect of a new forest. Since there’s enough food and protection for them now, more than 172 species of birds, 33 types of mammals, and 15 species of amphibians and reptiles have come home, and many of them are endangered.
The dedication of Salgado has shown that even the smallest steps can achieve the greatest accomplishments and any of us can contribute in our own personal way to the safety of our world.
What do you think of the Salgado’s project? Have you ever planted a tree? We can try to actively engage in planting trees and gradually turn this into a fixed habit.