When photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado returned home from assignment around 30 years ago, he had planned to take over and enjoy his family's sprawling cattle ranch. Located in the Minas Gerais, the region that he remembered as a rich expanse of rainforests had completely changed after he came back, with only 0.5 percent of the area covered in trees.

All of the wildlife was gone, and Salgado's tropical paradise had been utterly destroyed by deforestation and the resulting disappearance of wildlife. Interviewing with The Guardian, the Brazilian native said that the land was as sick as he was.

But Salgado, along with his wife Lélia, had an idea that would drastically change their situation. What this pair did to fix a major environmental problem they found can teach us much about leadership and how we can give back to our world.

Dream big.

Lélia suggested the couple try replanting the entire forest, which covered 1,502 acres. Although a ridiculous-sounding idea, the pair's ability to dream big has led to serious results and much success, with Salgado and his wife effectively leading efforts to rejuvenate the tropical forest since 1998. Today, more than two million saplings of 293 species of trees have been planted, bringing the once-destroyed landscape back to life.

Find a team.

Any large task can be done, but if you want the task accomplished efficiently and successfully, don't be afraid to enlist help. In 1998, the couple set up the Instituto Terra, an environmental organization dedicated to the Valley of the River Doce's sustainable development. With its creation, the couple began to work with a team of at least 24 employees who were dedicated to replanting the forest.

Do the work, and be patient.

To accomplish great things, you must do great work. It took over 20 years for the land to be as lush as it is today. Much like with any major dream or project, you will not see the fruits of your labor immediately. Plant the seeds today for a life or career you want to have tomorrow.

Remember your impact is greater than what's visible.

Not only has this forest restoration led to a new and improved landscape, but there are now 172 bird species, 33 mammal species, and 15 species of reptiles and amphibians occupying the forest. Even more, the rejuvenation of the land has led to a rejuvenation of nearby springs, and local temperatures have improved.

Salgado and Lélia have done an incredibly astounding feat, but Salgado knows that there is still work to be done. "We need to listen to the words of the people on the land," he says. "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."

Published on: Jun 29, 2019
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