Trees Everywhere Are Celebrating This Photographer’s Big Win

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In a time when most environmental news is bad news, the success of millions of reforested trees in Brazil is bringing everyone a breath of fresh air – literally. It’s no secret that the forests need help, but many people today are stuck wondering what they can do to bring ease to the suffering trees. One married couple, famous photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado, saw an opportunity to make a difference – and took it.

Trees Everywhere Are Celebrating This Photographer’s Big Win

Salgado grew up in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, on land he remembered as being the kind of green only found in utopia. After returning home to Brazil in the 1990s from a grueling assignment in Rwanda, Salgado was shocked to see the sad state of the land he grew up in – the garden of Eden from his memories had become a paradise lost. In later years he claimed, “The land was as sick as I was.”

It was his wife’s idea first: to regrow the paradise he remembered. The first step was getting their hands in the dirt through a process of reforestation they were yet unfamiliar with. The whole family came together to seek out the help they needed, soon after founding the Instituto Terra, which brought environmental experts and funds on board to help guarantee that they would achieve their goals the right way. The next step was getting the 1,500-acre plot of land recognized as a Private Natural Heritage Reserve (PNHR), and getting busy. The last step was patience.

Trees Everywhere Are Celebrating This Photographer’s Big Win

The result, 20 years later? Almost 300 different types of trees were planted and restored to the resounding count of 2.7 million alive and well today – all native to the region. The giant farmland went from 5% to 90% tree density during this time. That is a lot of trees, a lot of preserved nature, and a lot of carbon dioxide being turned into oxygen.

But this isn’t just a win for the trees. A variety of wildlife has recently returned to the area that includes mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and amphibians. Many of them are endangered species who are being given another chance at safety.

Trees Everywhere Are Celebrating This Photographer’s Big Win

To top that off, the Instituto Terra is helping others follow in their footsteps today. They’ve published books offering information and advice and participating in other restoration projects around Brazil. They also developed the SEMEAR portal, which provides free information vital to reforestation about the seeds and seedlings of native trees.

Today, Sebastião Salgado is ready to travel the world whatever joys and pains it may bring him, knowing that he can return home to paradise – the literal fruits of his labor.

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