The trees of the world are dying, fast. The Amazon rainforest is being cut down to make way for farmland, global warming is taking out many more. According to the United Nations, 129 million hectares of forest (which is about the size of South Africa) have been lost forever since 1990. An area the size of Panama (the country) is lost every year. However, governments aren’t doing enough to combat this.
What’s more, the deforestation industry produces 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Countless animal species and plant species are going extinct due to this also. British naturalist David Attenborough says that species are going extinct at the same rate as when the dinosaurs died out. And we all know that that didn’t end well.
However, two Brazilians are trying to make a difference. Married couple Sebastião Salgado and Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado showed what individual people can do against the environmental onslaught.
After years spent documenting the Rwandan genocide, Sebastião returned home to find his Brazil torn apart. The tropical rainforest that had once stood proudly in his country was now barren. The wildlife was gone, too.
“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” Salgado told 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.
“There is a single being which can transform CO2 to oxygen, which is the tree. We need to replant the forest. 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.”
Rebuilding A Forest
So, over the course of 20 years, the pair planted 2 million native trees to rebuild the forest. Wildlife has returned too, and they feel happier for the nature that surrounds them. However, the numbers are even more staggering. 172 bird species, 33 mammal species, 293 plant species, and 30 reptile and amphibian species have all flocked to the reborn forest.
“We need to listen to the words of the people on the land,” Salgado explained. “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.”
How important do you think nature is? And would you plant one tree to help? Let us know in the comments, and share with your friends and family to spread this positive message! You can also check out similar stories on Happiest.
Main image: Ricaro Beliel