Thousands of hectares of woodland are lost per year due to intensive deforestation resulting in the extinction of many species. Unfortunately, only a few trees are replanted after being chopped down. However, there are still people out there trying to rebuild what the timber industry has so easily destroyed. Sebastião Salgado a Brazilian photographer and his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado have spent 20 years replanting a devastated jungle and their story will inspire you to join them.
Sebastião is a well-known Brazilian photojournalist whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. The photographer returned to Brazil in the 1990s after traveling all around the world to take photographs. He wanted some physical and emotional rest after photographing the gruesome Rwandan genocide.
Sadly, what he discovered upon his return astounded him the once green forests full of animals had been cut down leaving only a dusty desolate landscape. But Sebastião agreed to take action believing that he should replant the forest with the help of his wife. And so their incredible adventure starts.
In an interview with The Guardian, Sebastião said, “The land was as sick as I was, everything was destroyed.” “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.”
The pair founded Instituto Terra, a small non-profit that helped resurrect the forest by planting 4 million tree saplings. Sebastião was confident that they had found a solution. “There is a single being which can transform CO2 to oxygen which is the tree. We need to replant the forest,” said the photographer. “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 to the animals, don’t come there and the forest is silent.”
The pair took excellent care of the replanted forest for the next 20 years and it came back to life-even the animals returned.
172 bird species, 33 animal species, 293 plant species, and 15 reptile species have returned to the forest in the time it took for it to regrow.
The couple’s dedication and persistence act as a shining example of what can be accomplished when people work together and are committed.
The photographer said, “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.”
The public appreciated the couple’s work: