Brazilian couple planted 4 million trees within 18 years to form a large forest.

Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado has seen a lot of devastating things in his life, but the state of his family's land in Minas Gerais, Brazil in 1994 likely ranks at the top.

He had just returned from reporting on the genocide in Rwanda which was traumatizing in its own right, but seeing his family's land that has previously been a fecund rainforest stripped of vegetation hit him at his core.

“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” Sebastião told The Guardian.


What happened to Sebastião's land is far from unique. Over the last 30 years, the world's forests have been disappearing at an astounding rate. Between 1990 and 2016, approximately 502,000 square miles of forest have been lost, according to the World Bank, largely due to agricultural and industrial development. That's about the size of South Africa.

Not only does deforestation account for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, it's responsible for countless species of animals and plants losing their habitats, which ultimately endangers their survival.

Sebastião and his wife Lélia knew they could turn the deforestation on their land around. So, for the next 20 years, with the help of a small group of volunteers, that's exactly what they did.

 

In 1998, the Selgados founded Instituto Terra, a nonprofit dedicated to "ecosystem restoration, production of Atlantic Forest seedlings, environmental extension, environmental education and applied scientific research."

The nonprofit's theory is that trees produce oxygen and life, so the best way to re-invigorate land is to bring its native trees back. That's why they've spent the majority of the last two decades planting over 4 million tree seedlings from plant species found in the Atlantic Forest in the Rio Doce Valley.

Photo via Instituto Terra.

The results speak for themselves.

With the return of the rainforest came many species of animals that had previously abandoned the area. This includes 172 bird species, six of which are threatened with extinction, 33 mammal species, two of which are endangered, 15 amphibian species and 15 reptile species.

Photo via Instituto Terra.

Their re-forestation work is incredible, but it will only last if people in the surrounding areas learn to respect the importance of such ecosystems. That's why they started the Center for Environmental Education and Recovery (CERA).

By December, 2012, CERA had developed over 700 educational programs reaching up to 65,000 people. The aim is to educate farmers, teachers, businesses and government officials about environmental recovery and conservation methods and why they're vital to keeping lands (and the people living on them) healthy. The hope is that they'll help inspire those working on and near the land to adopt more sustainable practices.

Deforestation will affect animals and humans in a significant way if we let it continue at such a rapid pace. Organizations like Instituto Terra are doing their part to protect their revitalized jungle, but that's just one small area of the 30% of forest that covers our planet. It's going to take more individual support to save the rest.

If you want to learn about what you can do to help, the Rainforest Alliance offers several great ways you can get involved and make a difference.

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Last year, we shared the sad impact that plastic pollution has had on some of our planet's most beautiful places. With recycling not turning out to be the savior it was made out to be, solutions to our growing plastic problem can seem distant and complex.

We have seen some glimmers of hope from both human innovation and nature itself, however. In 2016, a bacteria that evolved with the ability to break down plastic was discovered in a Japanese waste site. Two years later, scientists managed to engineer the mutant plastic-eating enzyme they called PETase—named for polyethylene terephthalate, the most common plastic found in bottles and food packaging—in a lab.

Here's an explainer of how those enzymes work:

Ending Plastic Pollution with Designer Bacteria youtu.be

Now researchers have revealed another game-changer in the plastic-eater—a super-enzyme that can break down plastic six times faster than PETase alone.

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$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather has become a beloved voice of reason, knowledge, and experience for many Americans on social media the past few years. At 88, Rather has seen more than most of us, and as a journalist, he's had a front row seat as modern history has played out. He combines that lifetime of experience and perspective with an eloquence that hearkens to a time when eloquence mattered, he called us to our common American ideals with his book "What Unites Us," and he comforts many of is with his repeated message to stay "steady" through the turmoil the U.S. has been experiencing.

All of that is to say, when Dan Rather sounds the alarm, you know we've reached a critical historical moment.

Yesterday, President Trump again refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the election when directly asked if he would—yet another democratic norm being toppled. Afterward, Rather posted the following words of wisdom—and warning—to his nearly three million Facebook fans:


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via DanielandDavid2 / Instagram

Editor's Note: We used "black" in lowercase for our headline and the body of this story in accordance with emerging guidelines from the Associated Press and other trusted news outlets who are using uppercase "Black" in reference to American descendants of the diaspora of individuals forcibly brought from Africa as slaves. As part of our ongoing efforts to be transparent and communicate choices with our readership, we've included this note for clarity. The original story begins below.

On February 26, 2019, Stacy and Babajide Omirin of Lagos, Nigeria got quite the shock. When Stacy delivered identical twins through C-section one came out black and the other, white.

The parents knew they were having identical twins and expected them to look exactly the same. But one has a white-looking complexion and golden, wavy hair.

"It was a massive surprise," Stacy told The Daily Mail. "Daniel came first, and then the nurse said the second baby has golden hair. I thought how can this be possible. I looked down and saw David, he was completely white."

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