Due to intense deforestation, we lose thousands of hectares of forest each year, causing many animals to lose their habitats. Sadly, only a handful of trees are replanted after being cut. However, there are still people out there who are doing their best to recreate what the logging industry so effortlessly destroys. A Brazilian couple – photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado – have spent 20 years replanting a destroyed forest and their story will inspire you to join the good cause.

Sebastião is one of the most famous Brazilian photojournalists, whose photos have appeared in numerous press publications. Having traveled all over the world to take pictures, the photographer finally returned back home to Brazil in the 90s. He had just finished photographing the gruesome Rwandan genocide and needed some physical and emotional rest.

Sadly, what he found upon returning left him in shock – the once lush forests full of wildlife were cut down and all that remained was a dry, barren wasteland. But Sebastião decided to do something about it – he believed that together with his wife he could replant the forest. And thus began their amazing journey.

“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” said Sebastião in an interview with The Guardian. “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 couple founded a small organization, called Instituto Terra, that helped bring the forest back to life by planting 4 million tree saplings. Sebastião believed they had 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, the animals don’t come there and the forest is silent.”

Throughout the next 20 years, the couple took immaculate care of the replanted forest and it sprung back to life – even the wildlife returned to it!

During the time it took for the forest to regrow, 172 bird species, 33 species of mammals, 293 species of plants and 15 species of reptiles have returned there.

Image credits: institutoterra

The couple’s hard work and determination serve as a shining example of what people can achieve by being dedicated and working together.

“We need to listen to the words of the people on the land,” said the photographer. “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.”

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