The area is now home to 293 species of trees, 172 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, and 15 species of reptiles and amphibians – many of which are considered endangered. Even several springs that had dried up are flowing again.
The millions of new trees have also had an impact on the local climate, reducing dangerously rising temperatures because more of the CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere can be absorbed and turned back into oxygen.
That’s why deforestation is so harmful to our planet – without trees, CO2, which is a greenhouse gas, stays trapped in the atmosphere, raising temperatures. Higher temperatures mean that plants and animals can no longer live in the same areas they had once adapted to.
Our planet is warming so fast that animals don’t have time to evolve, so they either move or die off. To top it off, a warming planet also has a gruesome effect on the water supply – the lack of water and land on which plants will grow displaces people as well.
As people migrate throughout the world, they move into areas already populated, leading to conflicts over resources and sometimes all-out war.
The good news is that 2 million trees and one man’s vision can make a difference in a small area. The bad news is that as of 2019, scientists no longer think we’re even capable of planting enough trees to have this effect on a global scale.
That means we’ll have to find other solutions to stabilize the climate.
But there’s a lesson to be learned from the Salgados’ hard work and vision and that is that we can do some good for our immediate surroundings if we care enough and invest back into the environment.
“All the insects and birds and fish returned,” Salgado noted, “and, thanks to this increase of the trees, I, too, was reborn—this was the most important moment.”
This incredible satellite image shows just how much the project changed Minas Gerais over a decade.