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

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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, nave, 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. (Oct.)
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, monotremesspecies 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 humansand other speciestransplanted 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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807614037
  • Publisher: Braziller, George Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/1995
  • Pages: 423
  • Product dimensions: 6.03 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Table of Contents

Dedication 5
Acknowledgments 5
Introduction 13
1 The New Lands 20
2 Australia in Gondwana 30
3 Land of Geckos, Land of Flowers 42
4 Land of Sound and Fury 52
5 Meganesian Enterprises 67
6 Splendid Isolation 75
7 Sweet are the Uses of Adversity 85
8 The Diversity Enigma 92
9 The Desert Sea 102
10 Mystery of the Meganesian Meat-Eaters 108
11 A Bestiary of Gentle Giants 117
12 Lost Marsupial Giants of New Guinea 130
13 What a Piece of Work is a Man 136
14 Gloriously Deceitful, and a Virgin 144
15 Peopling the Lost Islands of Tasmantis 164
16 The Great Megafauna Extinction Debate 180
17 Making the Savage Beast 187
18 There Ain't No More Moa In Old Aotearoa 195
19 Lost in the Mists of Time 199
20 Time Dwarfs 208
21 Sons of Prometheus 217
22 Who Killed Kirlilpi? 237
23 When Thou Hast Enough, Remember the Time of Hunger 242
24 Alone on the Southern Isles, Weirds Broke Them 260
25 So Varied in Detail - So Similar in Outline 271
26 A Few Fertile Valleys 292
27 The Backwater Country 300
28 As If We Had Been Old Friends 312
29 Diverse Experiences 323
30 Like Plantations in a Gentleman's Park 344
31 Unbounded Optimism 357
32 Riding the Red Steer - Fire and Biodiversity Conservation in Australia 376
33 Adapting Culture to Biological Reality 389
Postscript 407
Maps and list of photographs 408
Selected References 412
Index 418
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