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The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People Paperback – October 16, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Who destroys or "eats" the future? Those who have not shared a past: coevolution is the key to survival of all species, maintains Flannery, a senior research scientist in mammalogy at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Just as human immunities have failed when confronted with previously isolated viruses, so entire ecosystems have crumbled with the introduction of man. Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia and New Guinea make for an interesting case study: though once conjoined, they later separated, developing disparate climates and soil types. Equally important, they were colonized at different times, with man reaching Australia 45,000 to 60,000 years ago and New Caledonia just 3500 years ago. Flannery posits that these virgin islands, which were replete with unexploited resources, naive, almost ``tame,'' herbivores and no real competition from other predators, allowed man to make ``the great leap forward'' to become not just one species among many but the species. New virgin territories presented other opportunities for wealth, population growth, leisure and subsequent leaps forward. But the cost is invariably great: human populations soar, then drop as food sources become extinct or soil is exhausted and imported ideas of agriculture, husbandry and hunting slowly give way to environmental reality--reality that is particularly harsh to Australia's poor soil. With great skill and research, Flannery demonstrates the subtle interaction that makes an ecosystem work, from glaciers to fire, from dung beetles to man. In the process he makes a formidable, sometimes frightening argument for careful cooperation with--rather than domination of--the world.

Copyright 1995 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

During the ice ages, when the sea level was low, Australia, New Guinea, Tasmania, and smaller islands reemerged as a single landmass known as Meganesia, connected to Antarctica. Harsh conditions selected those species most adapted to the cold: amphibians, marsupials, monotremes?species with lower metabolic rates and low energy needs. When Meganesia separated from Antarctica 36 million years ago, species extinctions began. Isolated from the rest of the world, Australia developed unique flora and fauna to become a land rich in minerals and fossils but having the poorest soil of any continent because of geological inactivity. The first Australians consumed without replacing resources they would need in the future; later-arriving Europeans destroyed even more. In this fascinating, thought-provoking ecological history of his homeland, Flannery, a senior research scientist at the Australian Museum in Sydney, reveals how humans?and other species?transplanted out of their original habitat become "future eaters" by the indiscriminate consumption of a land's resources. Flannery voices his theories and opinions while also presenting opposing viewpoints, creating a well-balanced, extremely readable treatise. Highly recommended for all collections.?Gloria Maxwell, Kansas City P.L., Kansas
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Grove Press Edition edition (October 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802139434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802139436
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #415,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Dr. Flannery takes the reader on a fascinating journey through time in Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand and New Caledonia. This book is about the flora and fauna of these regions, their evolutionary relationships, and the role man has played in their shapeing and disrupting. I found surprisingly good information about the Gondwana origin of the flora. The chapter about New Caledonia was great - who ever hears anything about New Caledonia? It has a fascinating ecosystem based on an ancient flora shaped by poor, toxic-metals rich soils and, like the rest of 'Tasmantis,' an historical lack of mammals, where birds and reptiles filled ecological niches more usually held by mammals. The same sort of thing (but with fertile soils) happened in New Zealand, with the moas acting like more familiar large mammal herbivores and small birds acting like mice! Did you know that there are living trees in New Zealand that were probably actually grazed upon by moas? Learn about the magnificent vanished mammal fauna of Australia and how it used and adapted to a difficult environment. Enter humans; watch them hunt, and modify the environment with fire, with both intended and unintended consequences. Then the Europeans came and tried to turn Australia into a southern English countryside; they didn't understand why this didn't work, was disasterous, in fact. Dr Flannery ends the book with musings about the future of mankind in the environment, with lessons from the region that are applicable to all of us and especially to his fellow Australians. Makes one think about some hard questions.
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Format: Paperback
Tim Flannery's book on the ecological history of the `Australasian lands' (Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia, with bits and pieces on islands such as Christmas Island, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, etc), is both timely and refreshing. It is a good and current overview of argument and debate concerning the complex interplay of ecological and cultural forces shaping these parts of the world, from before human influence, to the times these lands were invaded at various times by homo sapien from at least 40,000-60,000 years ago (New Guinea earlier), to the present. It is very frank about the current state of these lands, in terms of environmental degradation, and what things could be done about it. It is quite controversial, and as someone who works in issues concerning biodiversity, ecology and resource sustainability, I can tell you much of the material is cutting-edge, complex, and controversial at times. In many instances Flannery is speculative and original, but often entertaining. He does back his theories and views up with substantial argument and evidence, and it is this which makes the book a cut above the ordinary.
One particular feature of the book worth emphasising is just how different these lands really are in terms of ecology, compared to most of the rest of the world. Not only is the flora and fauna, both extinct and living, somewhat unusual, but in, for example Australia, the climate, the influence of fire, the poor fertility or soils, and the part these factors have played in shaping the ecological past is rather surprising at times.
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Format: Paperback
Tim Flannery has written what can only be described as a the most comprehensive history imaginable of the lands making up present-day Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and New Caledonia. His fascinating account starts with the earliest breakaway of those lands from the super continent Gondwana, more than forty million years ago, and goes right up to the present-day, ending with Flannery's recommendations for preserving Australia's unique ecology.
Despite this mind-blowing multimillion-year scope of a territory covering an enormous area, the book never falters in its readability or interest. Much of it is highly speculative (as even the author occasionally admits), but Flannery presents enough evidence to make his hypotheses almost always seem plausible. I most enjoyed the comparison of the ecologies of New Caledonia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and Australia -- despite their proximity, they are entirely different places, and those differences are reflected in their histories. Flannery's account of the destruction of megafauna in Australia and New Zealand is also well-told.
There should be more of these kinds of books: "biographies" of not just a land, but an entire continent (and its neighbors). Flannery has also written a similar book on North America, called "The Eternal Frontier", that rivals this book in its scope and excellence, but with that single exception, I can't think of any other ecological history that does such a fine job over so wide a range.
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Format: Paperback
With a sweeping gesture, Flannery dispels one of modern mythology's most cherished ideals. The image of the "Noble Savage," living intimately and in harmony with his surroundings is demolished by the evidence. Instead, Flannery shows how the intrusions of humans into previously unoccupied lands led to mass slaughters and the extinctions of countless species. His study covers the vast territories of the South Pacific - continents, large islands and archipeligoes - examining geology, weather and climate, flora and fauna. After completing this book, you will have a new view of our ancestors and how humanity has viewed nature.
In describing how humans have revised the face of the globe, Flannery begins in deep time. Tracing the breakup of Gondwanaland into what he deems Meganesia and Tasmantis - Australasia and the Pacific islands. For millions of years, life there evolved in unique ways. Isolated from the rest of the planet, Australia produced large marsupial mammals and giant bird species. Why did they disappear without apparent cause? After an examination of the likely candidates, climate being the most frequently cited, Flannery finds a different cause - humans. Fossils in Australia show that the large animals disappeared before the onset of the last glaciation. The extinctions, however, parallel the invasion of the continent by humans, people now known as the Aborigines. In one sense, the loss of the large animals forced the invaders to adapt a less predatory lifestyle. Mobility increased along with more selective hunting practices to maintain sustainable levels of supply. In studying these techniques, Flannery is able to move on to the subject of land management in today's world.
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