Mauricio Ruiz grew up in the Atlantic Forest—one of the most biodiverse and threatened on Earth.

At just 14 years old, Mauricio founded the Institute for Environmental Preservation, ITPA, to fight back against rampant deforestation. With government and private funding, and a law in place that protects the remaining forest, Mauricio shows us what 25 years of civilian-led action looks like. Locals are paid to extinguish illegally set fires and to operate a nursery that grows 100,000 trees a year. They raise 58 native species critical for biodiversity and convince private landowners to reforest their land.

Mauricio and his community have built their movement around a global message about protecting forests and restoring the planet: get active! “Each tree planted is a seed planted in the heart. So this is our action.”