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

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  828 ratings  ·  57 reviews
In this illustrated ecological history, acclaimed scientist and historian Flannery follows the environment of the islands through the age of dinosaurs to the age of mammals and the arrival of humans, to the European colonizers and industrial society. Penetrating, gripping, and provocative, this book combines natural history, anthropology, and ecology on an epic scale. Illu ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 16th 2002 by Grove Press (first published 1994)
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Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everyone I've mentioned this book to over the last week has made the same comment: The Future Eaters is brilliant, but—Tim Flannery cherrypicks the evidence about megafaunal extinction, or he's bit out of date now, or he's too harsh or too easy on Aboriginal people/white settlers/more recent immigrants. It is both remarkable and utterly predictable that The Future Eaters inspires such nitpickery. It is a vast book, and any book encompassing so many thousands of years of history and so many diffe ...more
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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, en ...more
Jan 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal book. Hands down the best Anthropology book I've ever read. It has opened by understanding much further than before on a wide array of concepts such as: sustainability, evolution, war, famine, species diversity etc.

It covers 50,000 years + of evolution; primarily in the south-pacific, but he does go into European evolution and Asian evolution of humans because of their influence on the region.

From megafauna to mountain formations, retracting ice ages, case-by-case analysis of patterns
Richard Reese
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After spending more than 20 years reading hundreds of books describing various aspects of the Earth Crisis, The Future Eaters by Tim Flannery stands out. It provides a sliver of hope for the future that is not built on magical thinking. Flannery is a lad who is madly in love with the Australian region, and he dreams that it will eventually heal, far down the road someday.

Here’s the story. Hominids evolved in Africa, and later migrated into Eurasia, where they lived in some regions for a million
A thoroughly fascinating work by a great Australian writer and scientist. Flannery examines the relationship of new arrivals to their land, with Australia as the useful test case. As a land that was populated in the last 100,000 years, but at a much earlier date than, for instance, the Americas, it presents an ideal site for a study of a) why its flora and fauna evolved the way they did, b) what impact the first Australians had on the landscape over their tens of thousands of years of ownership; ...more
Sep 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ecology, history
A remarkable and fascinating book. I thought that Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" had created the gold standard for ecological history, but Flannery gives him a run for his money and, in some respects, surpasses him. While Diamond's scope and goals are more grandiose (to explain from first principles why Europeans ended up ruling the world, if only for a while), Flannery's analysis of the ecological history of Australasia is more detailed and left me with a much better understanding of ...more
Daniel Passer
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
An incredible insight into Australian natural and human history. Things I have read here have change how I view the world!

Very accessible for a layperson: took me forever to read - as science a bit of an unfamiliar stretch for me - but pretty engaging when I didn't find myself distracted.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book and it's given me a new appreciation for Australian flora and fauna (particularly flora). While it was very interesting and a lot of it is still relevant, make sure you check up on the latest developments before storing too much of it in the knowledge bank. It is quite dated in many ways and some of his theories have been disproven. I still found it to be a very 'goodread' and would recommend it. ...more
Tom Hodgson
Dec 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: insert-wisdom
My biggest regret regarding this book is that it is just one book, rather than part of a massive genre of writings on Australian geographic & biological history and their interrelations and impacts on humanity.
Need more.
Nadia Zeemeeuw
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It was such a thought-provoking, educational and fascinating read I simply can’t praise this book enough.
Eduardo Santiago
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The title refers to human colonists—not just the Europeans arriving in Australia but all of them, every group of humans arriving in new lands since we first left Africa. Finding seemingly-unlimited resources; discovering that, oops, they're not unlimited; collapsing; sometimes surviving in degraded state—sometimes not.

Book was slightly too long but covered new (to me) material in geology, evolutionary biology especially the rise of birds to fill niches that mammals fill in other environments, an
Mike Hedley
Sep 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I read the first edition some years ago, back in the 90s in fact. Reading it again now, from the viewpoint of assessing its strengths and weaknesses for a university essay. While Flannery's work is easy to read, it's not without problems, the largest of which is his contention that Aboriginals wiped out the megafauna soon after they arrived on the continent, the absent megafauna meant that the amount of vegetation increased, and that vegetation burned. Flannery based his contention on studies fr ...more
Jessica Kuzmier
Did humans or climate change cause the extinction of the megafauna and flora of Australasia? Tim Flannery attempts to answer this question in his 1994 book 'The Future Eaters'.

I enjoyed Tim Flannery's 'Future Eaters'. Flannery's narrative tone was engaging, which helped prevent the encyclopedic compendium of facts from sounding like a novel-length shopping list. Not being a paleontologist, I can't know for sure, but much of what Flannery posited seemed speculative, which may be a necessary conse
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The future eater's is an interesting book which documents the destruction of ecosystems in the distant and recent past by colonizers. A process which also impoverished the future eaters.
Such accounts are of continuing importance today, for although rising humanity has already ate much of it's future there remains vast resources and diversity which if mismanaged shall shall be consumed.

While the subject of the book is very interesting the execution is less so, especially in the first two parts. W
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eminently readable, "The Future Eaters" goes into considerable detail about how geology, evolution, glaciation, and, of course, human intervention, have shaped the ecologies of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and New Caledonia. Flannery teases out the similarities and the differences between these four close neighbours, and shows how the ecology of each has functioned in the past and functions today. He does not romanticise any of the human groups he discusses, but neither is he overly critic ...more
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There is a lot going on in this book and Flannery sweeps across huge swathes of time and many disciplines, and a lot of water (and eroded soil) has passed under the bridge since 1994, so it seems pointless to get into arguing the thesis in a Goodreads review. It is still an example of gorgeously written nonfiction and ecological study, clear and uncompromising in its principles. If you are not familiar with the animals and plants of Australia and New Zealand you'll do a lot of google imaging but ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
The use of the term 'Future Eaters' as a metaphor fails in terms of the Aboriginal relationship to the Australian environment, more recent research suggests quite the opposite. Nevertheless this is certainly a must-read for anyone interested in Australasian ecology ...more
Abe Musselman
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another amazing book by Tim Flannery. His sweeping accounts of how humans have reshaped the natural world are sometimes distressing to read, but they also give me hope and a sense of perspective. The future is long, and it's in our hands. ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I cannot recommend this book highly enough for those interested in Australian history / ecology / anthropology. Phenomenal.
Toon Pepermans
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
an excellent book (except for the wild speculations at the end of chapter 14)
Linda Rose
Aug 27, 2020 rated it liked it
So much I didn't know about the history of the ancient sailors. They had a good life, but at the same time, so much can go wrong when you're stuck on this tiny island with a number of people. ...more
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good food for thought. Some of the information is dated by now, but mostly relevant still
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mind blown.

Addressing a broad overview of Australia's biological past from pre-history to today, but with a personable and personal approach. Very readable. Should be required reading for all Australians - helps contextualise the damaging effects of the european cultural framework we have when we look at our ecology.
Adam Cherson
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 m
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have just begun to read this book which I've had on my to read shelf for several years. I've always held this one up there as a kind of dessert or reward for reading because I just knew it would be good and so far I am not disappointed.

Two Weeks Later: I've just finished reading 'The Future Eaters'. What an amazing book. I had to put it aside a few times to absorb this complex and comprehensive history (several hundred thousand years of it) of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia,
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wow, this is an incredible book. It's very much in the vein of Jared Diamond, but Australia-specific. I can't recommend it highly enough.

My dad assigned it to his class seven years ago when he took them (and me) on a tour of Aboriginal Australia. I read the other two books but didn't get to the this one. I'm glad I suggested reading it for book club, which forced me to sit down and finally read it.

60,000 years ago man arrived in Australia and wiped out the megafauna. Then they had to deal with t
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Nonfiction. Flannery is clearly a kindred spirit of Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel). While Diamond tends to go global, Flannery, a paleontologist, recounts Australia's unique evolution, the many varieties of marsupials, and the aborigines, whom he identifies as the first future eaters. Their culture, with its origins some 40,000 years ago, first destroyed much of their future sustenance--the flora and fauna they found--then managed to create a new balance in the drastically changed landsca ...more
May 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Brent Maxwell
Jul 14, 2013 rated it liked it
An important book and an enjoyable read, although thoroughly depressing. The Future Eaters walls through the history of Australasia sharing with how the continents shifted info their current arrangement, and ending with a thorough investigation into how modern Australian culture has been shaped.

Laden with scientific references, the book dives deep, and although this can be a touch tedious at times, it's clearly enough written and well structured so that is easy to skim as necessary.

To any sociol
Peter Macinnis
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every grandparent who worries about the future
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.
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Tim Flannery is one of Australia's leading thinkers and writers.

An internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist, he has published more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers and many books. His books include the landmark works The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers, which has been translated into more than 20 languages and in 2006 won the NSW Premiers Literary Prizes for B

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