129 million hectares of forest have been lost forever since 1990 according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That number is equal to the size of South Africa, and an area the size of Panama is lost per year.
15% of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation, countless species of plants and animals lose their habitat every day and this is devastating for the health of the planet.
And what to do about this?
Individually it makes us feel worthless because we don't know if any of our actions will make any difference. Photographer Sebastiao Salgado and his wife Lelia decided to show what a group of determined people can do against deforestation, starting the reforestation process.
Mother Nature always makes her way in the right conditions. Salgado is a well-known figure, with several awards for photojournalism and many published books. In the 1990s, he was physically and emotionally exhausted after documenting the Rwandan genocide, and returned to his home in Brazil, which used to be covered in rain forest. He was horrified to see the area totally barren and lifeless, but his wife believed there was a remedy.
“The earth was as sick as I was… everything destroyed. Only 0.5% of the area still had trees. Then my wife had the fabulous idea to replant the forest, and that is what we started to do. Then the buggers, the birds and the fish returned, and thanks to the increase in trees, I too was reborn, it was a very important moment, ”Salgado said in The Guardian back in 2015.
Sebastiao and Lelia founded the Terra Institute, an organization that has already planted 4 million trees and reclaimed the forest. “There is only one being that transforms CO2 into oxygen, and that is the tree. You have to replant the forests with native trees, and collect the seeds in the same region where you are going to plant them, or certain animals will not come. If you plant forests that are not from the area, the fauna does not come and there is silence. "
And after making sure that everything they planted was native, the area has flourished remarkably in the last 20 years. The fauna has returned and now you only hear the buzzing of insects and the singing of birds.
So far, 172 species of birds, 33 of mammals, 15 of reptiles and another 15 of amphibians have returned, with 293 species of plants. A whole rebuilt ecosystem.
The project has inspired millions of people, providing a concrete example of positive ecological actions and showing how quickly the environment can recover.
“You have to listen to the people of the land. Nature is the Earth and her beings, and if we do not return spiritually to the planet, this will be compromised. "