Brazilian couple Sebastiao and Lelia Salgado have planted more than two million trees over 20 years in an effort to resurrect the subtropical paradise that once existed on Sebastiao’s family property when he was a child.
The results couldn’t be more stunning.
Photos taken of the land in 2001 show acres of brown desolation. Sebastiao, a professional photographer, discovered the devastation in the late 1990s when he returned from a troubling assignment covering genocide in Rwanda, The Guardian reported.
“The land was as sick as I was — everything was destroyed,” he said to The Guardian.
Fast-forward to 2019, and the same aerial view shows lush trees of 290 different species — a forest that was destroyed when the property was clear-cut.
The before-and-after images are completely remarkable.
It was Lelia who first had the idea to start replanting the trees, BRIGHTVIBES reported. It was like hanging out the welcome sign for insects, birds, and other animals that started returning to the land once the trees started to grow again.
Their work highlights the positive impact trees have on the planet and for people. And aiding the green growth is something mostly anyone can do by planting a tree or finding unique projects that put seeds in the ground.
The planet has about three trillion trees, part of nature’s system for cleaning dirty air — something humans have been making in abundance during the last couple hundred years. In 2015, the news site Science reported that Earth loses about 15 billion trees a year for paper products, farming, and other human-related activities.
So, the couple’s success in Brazil has broader implications.
One mature tree absorbs more than 48 pounds of air pollution a year, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. It will provide clean, breathable air for up to four people. The Salgados have multiplied that impact by millions.
“There is a single being that can transform CO2 to oxygen, which is the tree. We need to replant the forest,” Sebastiao said to BRIGHTVIBES.
Trees are now thriving on Sebastiao’s 1,740 acres, a former cattle ranch. Tens of thousands of people have taken part in more than 700 educational projects on the land. As part of the restoration, eight natural springs on the property have “come alive” while temperatures have cooled. Hundreds of plant, animal, and reptile species have come home, a video on BRIGHTVIBES notes.
“[W]hen we began to [plant trees], then all the insects and birds and fish returned and, thanks to this increase of the trees, I, too, was reborn,” Sebastiao told The Guardian.
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