The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People

ISBN: 0802139434
ISBN 13: 9780802139436
By: Tim Flannery

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About this book

Humans first settled the islands of Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, and New Guinea some sixty millennia ago, and as they had elsewhere across the globe, immediately began altering the environment by hunting and trapping animals and gathering fruits and vegetables. In this illustrated iconoclastic ecological history, acclaimed scientist and historian Tim Flannery follows the environment of the islands through the age of dinosaurs to the age of mammals and the arrival of humanity on its shores, to the coming of European colonizers and the advent of the industrial society that would change nature's balance forever. Penetrating, gripping, and provocative, The Future Eaters is a dramatic narrative history that combines natural history, anthropology, and ecology on an epic scale. "Flannery tells his beautiful story in plain language, science-popularizing at its Antipodean best." -- Times Literary Supplement "Like the present-day incarnation of some early-nineteenth-century explorer-scholar, Tim Flannery refuses to be fenced in." -- Time

Reader's Thoughts

John Jordan

An excellent journey through the history of the spread of human civilization and its impact on the environment, flora and fauna. How the envoronment also shaped the migration patterns, particularly of Australasia.

Adam Cherson

I rate this book a 4.25 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best. This is one of the best environmental histories I’ve ever come across. It is simply a mind blowing description of what has happened to the fauna of Australia and environs from the beginning until today. Chock full of interesting hypotheses and speculations:Dr Jonathon Kingdon...has recently developed a hypothesis about the nature of the ancestors of Australians that seems to fit the few well known facts well. He suggests that when modern humans finally reached South-East Asia some 100,000 years ago, they rapidly evolved to suit the unique environment in which they found themselves. He notes that South-East Asia is particularly rich in near shore marine environments which offer extraordinarily rich pickings for large omnivorous primates such as humans......If people were to exploit such resources, they would have had to develop a number of physical and cultural adaptations to help them deal with their new environment....If people were to gather food on the littoral, they would have had to spend long hours exposed to the glare of the midday sun while foraging on beaches, mudflats, and reefs. The risk of sun stroke and skin cancer would have made this extremely dangerous. Their defence consisted of the development of very black skin. Kingdon points out that the primitive skin color for humans is an all-purpose brown, and that very black skin is as extraordinary a deviation from this as white skin...Kingdon calls these first truly black people the Banda, after the islands of the Inner and Outer Arcs north of Australia which, he postulates, were their ancestral home...The move east into Australia/New Guinea would have been the shortest, and perhaps the first major migration they undertook. But they also appear to have migrated far to the west, along the littoral of the Indian Ocean out to the Andaman Islands...and back into the African homeland of all humanity. There, they displaced the original honey-colored Africans from many habitats in coastal and equatorial Africa. 153-155Perhaps the most immediate problem with attributing the extinctions of large mammals to changes associated with the last ice age is that it is only the most recent of 17 ice ages that have gripped the Earth over the past two million years. Some...have been more severe....Sixteen of the world’s 17 ice ages passed without causing dramatic extinctions. 184On Dr Gifford Miller: Miller’s findings are quite extraoprdinary for, combined with the ideas developed here, they suggest that the extinction of the mega-herbivores may have altered the climate of an entire continent. Such enormous climatic change has never before been postulated to have resulted from an extinction event. 235Until around 60,000 years ago, Australia’s ecosystems were fully self-sustaining. Then, vast extinctions devastated the entire continent. Following this, for about 60,000 years Aborigines managed the crippled ecosystems, preventing them from degenerating further. Now, Europeans have arrived and forced the discontinuance of that management. These changes beg the question of what we should aim for in our management of reserved lands. Should we aim to keep them as they are today, as they were 200 years ago, or as they were 60,000 years ago, when they functioned without interference of humans? 380


looking at past behaviour gives insights into humans current disregard for the planet


its interesting history, only read it if you live there. or are travelling there.


Though Flannery's general thesis is pretty apparent by the end of the first chapter, this book is worth reading for its intriguing line of argumentation and the wealth of research that was obviously put into it. At times, it becomes arduous to wade through the volume of information provided, but it is worth the effort. At the end of the day, Tim Flannery has managed to convince me that humanity is generally pretty stupid and Australia is kind of a dump. Now if that isn't insightful, I don't know what is. In closing, read this book. Learn something. People are already starting to call you stupid behind your back.


Fascinating, humbling, and sobering ecological history of Australasia (i.e. Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea).


This is a wonderful book about the natural history of Australia and its neighbors; New Zealand, New Caledonia, and New Guinea. The book is never boring, and is quite accessible to the layman. Tim Flannery describes why the ecology of Australia is so fragile; much of the land is not fertile, compounded by a dry climate. When the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) ensues at irregular intervals, the climate worsens yet further. In between these episodes, wet periods cause the flora to flourish, encouraging newcomers to believe that "good times" are the norm. Tim Flannery does a marvelous job explaining the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the region, in terms of the natural history and climate. "Good times" encourage the peoples to be friendly toward newcomers, while "bad times" encourage them to be territorial, belligerent and warlike.While the aborigenes have not helped the ecology, European newcomers have been much worse. Historically, European immigrants tended to believe that Australia is "just like back home", but simply somewhat drier. This attitude, along with their feelings of superiority, have caused disastrous effects on the ecology. I highly recommend this book to all those interested in natural history and ecology.

Justin White

Fascinating and in-depth look at the tectonic history of Australasia and how the landscape shaped life, and how humans have co-evolved with the landscape. Important fodder for the 'big Australia' debate with implications for feeding populations as we approach peak humanity.

Peter Macinnis

I worked with Tim at the Australian Museum, and when I read this, I kept slapping myself on the forehead, saying "I knew that". It was only later that I realised we had been sitting on the same exhibition design committee, and I had been quietly absorbing his ideas.If he had not written this, I might have done, which would have been scurvy on two counts -- first, he would have been ripped off, and second, the public would have been ripped off, because Tim is a better writer.

Christopher Cucco

Must read!


Typical Flannery. He moves forward with confidence, even when the argument is more fancy than fact.

Olin Hyde

Fantastic study of anthropomorphism of Australian environments.


I learned that the British learned trench warfare from the Maori. And a bunch of things about the Ecology of this region too. The best thing about the book was the limited time it spent talking about people (very much just the second half) and the extended treatment it gave of all the islands in Australasia.


Interesting perspective of how Australians flora and fauna were shaped over time.


Fascinating take on Australia. First People kill big Game - many species become extinct. The New People kill first People - Aboriginal culture becomes extinct, most of the species is threatend or extinct.I remember what Green's leader Bob Brown said about technologically advanced civilization - they also go extinct. This is one reason why we do not hear from alien creatures. They collapsed before sending out UFO-s.

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