A sustainable future on earth is going to require reforestation on a massive scale.
Forests support life and provide a wealth of benefits for humans and millions of other species. Forests also lock up carbon and drive down the temperature while regulating water cycles and fortifying communities against the effects of climate change.
Causes of deforestation
In 1690, the discovery of gold in southeastern Brazil had a devastating impact on the forests. Prospectors dammed streams to access riverbeds, and blasted river banks clean of vegetation. The forest burned for centuries, for mining and to flush out pockets of resistance from indigenous people and escaped slaves. The population swelled during the gold rush, consuming beef and dairy from livestock on pastures which had been forest. Grazing quickly degrades the land, but with apparently endless forest to clear, exhausted plots were soon abandoned and colonised by invasive grasses.
The consequences of deforestation are visible from space in the pale colour of the land and in the sparseness of cloud cover above. The water cycle is dependent on the health of the forest, and our future depends on the water cycle.
The situation today
The Atlantic forest in Brazil is still one of the most biodiverse places in the world, with dry regions, moist regions and mangroves where the rivers meet the sea. Today the state of Minas Gerais, where RAIN is focusing initial efforts, has lost 60% of its native vegetation and over 90% of its Atlantic forest. What remains is under threat from logging and conventional monoculture farming, with hundreds of endemic species endangered.
While most rural people understand how deforestation is linked to poor yields, and would like to protect their forests, their economic reality is one where clearing the forest for agriculture puts food on the table.
Bringing the forest back to life can create abundance and resilience, mitigating some of the problems facing rural people. Given the right support, the forest and its wildlife can rapidly regenerate, promising hope for the future of our planet.
Instituto Terra, Minas Gerais, Brazil
This project regenerated 1,502 acres of deforested land, replanting it with over 2.7 million trees.
The area has become a nature reserve, with various endangered birds, mammals and amphibians returning and thriving.