Kids' Environmental Report Card -- Madagascar

Balancing the needs of people and nature is the key to managing Madagascar's fast-disappearing forests, the majority of kids say. Judging by the Kids' Environmental Report Card poll results, few felt that doing nothing was a reasonable alternative. Nor did they think that preventing people from cutting down trees for firewood or to clear farmland would work.

Unfortunately, there is little time for such a balancing act.

"We are in a hurry. There is a time clock that is real because we have already lost so much of the forest," Jean-Paul Paddack of the World Wildlife Fund told readers of the Boston Globe. "To me, the most significant part of this will be the education of local people and getting the communities involved," he said.

A Delicate Balance

Before people arrived on this tropical island, nearly all of Madagascar was covered with greenery. Tropical trees formed a lush canopy roughly the size of Texas. The forests provided food and shelter for tens of thousands of plant and animal species.

About 2,000 years ago, people reached the shores Madagascar. Over centuries, they turned rich forests into farmland for growing crops and raising livestock. Today, less than half of the island's original cover of forests remains.

The World Wildlife Fund and other organizations are working to help people understand how the fates of their forests and of themselves are connected. Only through such knowledge can the delicate balance between land use and land conservation be achieved.