Couple Restores Dead Landscape By Planting 2 Million Trees, It Is Now Home to 500 Endangered Species

In 1998, there was nothing but barren land with no animals in sight on this land in Brazil. That’s when a photojournalist and his wife decided to restore the forest with their own two hands. Twenty years later, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Urbanization is robbing our planet – forests are being knocked down to make room for neighborhoods built with the very trees that used to house animals.

As a result, animals are losing their homes at a rapid pace and our world is losing the greenery we so desperately need to stay alive. Remember, nature doesn’t need us, we need nature.

Acclaimed Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado wanted to make a difference. After tirelessly covering the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, Salgado returned home to find his homeland destroyed.

According to reports by The Guardian, in the state of Minas Gerais, deforested farmland was all one could see from 70 miles inland along Brazil’s Atlantic coast.

Salgado was horrified that the once beautiful and lush Atlantic forest had decreased in size to around 10% of what it used to be. This was the land he had grown up on, and it no longer looked anything like it once had.

All of the animals had died or fled the area.

With his wife by his side, the pair were driven to restore the 1,502 acres of rainforest, no matter what it took.

In 1998, he began the Instituto Terra using the farmland that had been gifted to him by his parents.

“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” Salgado said in 2015 while speaking with 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.”


Their solution was simple: trees. “There is a single being which can transform CO2 to oxygen, which is the tree. We need to replant the forest,” he explained.

The Salgado’s relied on native trees and local seeds. “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.”

“We need to listen to the words of the people on the land. 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,” he explained.

And so, they went to work around the clock, sowing over 2 million seedlings including 290 unique species. They uprooted invasive weeds and transformed the dead and brown land into the lush forest it once was.

He and his wife hired a few dozen workers to help maintain the massive undertaking. As more people heard about the work they were doing, volunteers began showing up to lend their help and support.

It wasn’t an overnight success, but a success it was. Twenty years later, and the land is unrecognizably beautiful, filled with greenery and life.

The area is getting more rainfall and enjoys cooler weather, along with other incredible and desirable climate changes.

Trees create precipitation in surrounding and far away areas because growing trees take water out of the soil and release it into the atmosphere.

In addition, tree leaves collect falling rain, which then evaporates back into the air and causes rainfall elsewhere. This process is known as evapo-transpiration.

Evapo-transpiration is a huge player in the generation of rain around the world – accounting for around 50% of rainfall in the summer and 40% throughout the year.

“While forests have received a lot of attention for their role in storing carbon, thus helping mitigate climate change, they could also help us to adapt to a changing climate and combat drought by influencing rainfall patterns,” said David Ellison from the Institute of World Economics, as cited by

This inspirational couple proves that all it takes is a dream and some passion to transform the messes we’ve made into beautiful miracles. It’s not too late to help turn around the ill-effects of urbanization and slow down climate change.

Even the smallest contributions can result in massive change. What further proof do you need? This one couple planted two million trees over twenty years. What will you do to make a difference?