Eden Under Siege: An Amateur’s Guide to Madagascar

Jeannette Belliveau take a virtual return trip to the Big Red Island, looking at the changes since her initial trip to Madagascar, which became the first chapter of An Amateur’s Guide to the Planet.

The author interviews experts currently on the ground in Madagascar, including lemur researcher Brandon Semel and bird guide Ken Behrens to update conditions since her visit.

An all-new section on what Americans can learn from Madagascar focuses on how misguided public health efforts have compounded the environmental disaster that threatens the Big Red Island’s rare lemurs.

The ecological disaster that she observed in 1989, Belliveau learns, is now worse than ever — 14 million more Malagasy people have arrived on the fragile ecosystem that was was struggling mightily three decades ago. Starving children in the drought-plagued southern region, for example, are reduced to eating cactus leaves. And part of the blame goes to the “gang of virtue” — public health workers who worked to eradicate early deaths from disease. 

As Sub-Saharan Africa, including the nearby island of Madagascar, fails to enter the demographic transition — where rising standards of living lead to falling birth rates — the question of what to do next poses stark choices.