Plants 20 years later, 2M trees on barren ground are a tropical rainforest.

Deforestation threatens Earth’s health. It contributes 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which cause rising temperatures, harsh weather, and soil erosion.

All of these changes touch every living thing on Earth, but it’s hard and daunting to think about mitigating them. One pair proves it’s not too late to remedy environmental damage.

In 1994, Sebastio Salgado returned from Rwanda. It wasn’t a nice experience for him there. Therefore he was looking forward to returning to the tropical forest in Minas Gerais. He encountered dusty, arid land. A few years of deforestation ruined it. Endangered creatures lived there. Everything was destroyed, Sebastio said. Trees covered 0.5% of the land.

The land’s tropical splendor appeared unreachable. Lélia, Sebastio’s wife, thought it would work. They set out to replant the entire forest. They did.

The couple bought Sebastio’s parents’ abandoned cattle ranch and immediately began recruiting people and raising money. They formed Instituto Terra in 1998 to restore and conserve forests. The first tree was planted in 1999.

Since then, the charity has planted 2 million trees of 293 kinds and restored 1,502 acres of tropical forest. Once-dry springs are gushing again. There are 172 bird species, 33 mammalian species, and 15 amphibian and reptile species. The growing woodland is a Private Natural Heritage Reserve.

Sebastio’s effort did far more. It’s made him happy. “Thanks to this rise in trees, I was reborn,” he explains.

Sebastio and Lélia feel their achievement shows that caring matters. “We must listen to landowners.” Sebastio said, “Nature is the world and other beings, and if we don’t have a spiritual return to our planet, we’ll be compromised.”

The Salgados are proof that we can all make our world a better place by planting trees. Watch the video below to learn about Instituto Terra’s quest to green the globe.

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