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Brazilian American Artist Plants Hope in a Degraded Rainforest

Alana Lea is a Smithsonian botanical artist, born in the most endangered rainforest on the planet - the Atlantic Forest in Brazil - 93% gone. She has taken it upon herself to replant her rainforest and has raised funds to plant nearly 4,000 trees since Thanksgiving Day, 2011. The project is called Rainforest ECObank, and has now partnered with international non-profit WeForest, with a goal of giving 170,000 trees by the year end.

Los Angeles, CA, August 07, 2011 --( What happens when the most diverse rainforest on the planet gets slashed and burned for the sake of a steak? Well, it if happens to be the Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil, it just might get replanted with organically grown, fair trade native trees. At least, that's the intention of Brazilian born, Smithsonian artist, Alana Lea.

She returned to her birthplace in 2008 to see if there was a way her background in horticulture, and skills as a botanical artist could serve rainforest preservation in some way. Thinking she'd be heading to the Amazon from her homebase in Rio, she was amazed to learn that she was born in the midst of the most diverse and endangered tropical rainforest on earth, Mata Atlantica, as Brazilians call it.

3 years later, she's formed a social enterprise, raised funds to buy almost 4,000 trees from a rural association of unsubsidized tree growers, and give them to an NGO who teaches subsistence farmers permaculture to stabilize their land. There, landslides and flooding caused by deforestation have become commonplace - the worst in Brazil's history occurring in January, 2011.

Upon return from her last trip, she found herself representing a rural Association of 13 organic rainforest tree growers who couldn't sell their crop of 250,000 trees, due to the stiff competition by subsidized nurseries, and their lack of marketing expertise. She started using the web and Facebook to raise "crowd-funding" to buy trees that she could give away, as well as doing fundraising events.

A musical benefit put on by a Los Angeles group of home-schooled children, The Kids For Environmental & Social Action (KFESA), raised enough to buy 2,000 trees. An event at the Agape International Spiritual Center raised enough for another 1,000 trees, and yielded a YouTube video featuring the Agape International Choir singing for the rainforest, with Rev. Michael Beckwith (featured in the movie "The Secret") offering a blessing for the trees. She's about to record a video interview with another "Secret" star, Marie Diamond, who was moved by her determination.

Recently partnered with the international non-profit, WeForest, she's optimistic that they'll be able to raise funds to buy the entire crop of the nursery Association's trees this year, to plant 250 acres with 170,000 trees. WeForest is currently awaiting their US non-profit status, so in the meanwhile, it's back to crowd-funding to get the job done.

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Rainforest ECO
Alana Lea

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