Future eaters in Australia, future eaters in the Pacific? Early human environmental impacts

13th November 2013

Matthew SpriggsMatthews Spriggs

Professorial Address: Australian Future Eaters?*

Tim Flannery’s 1994 book The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People got into the national best-seller lists and was recommended as Christmas reading by public figures such as then New South Wales Opposition leader, Bob Carr: Its view of Australia as a fragile and largely barren continent in need of tender nurturing but largely ruined by previous land use practices caught the public imagination. It created a nice ‘conte morale’, a moral tale to digest with the Christmas turkey. Exactly what the arresting title means however is never explained in any detail, except perhaps on the dust jacket, where it is said:

“Since the first person left the great Afro-Asian homeland to cross the first island on the long chain to Australia, human beings have consumed the resources that they would need in future. The first Australasians were the world’s first future eaters. Today, future eating is a universal occupation.”  

You will recognise the story, it is of course an antipodean version of the Fall with Aborigines as Adam and Eve.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Spriggs, M.
Future eaters in Australia, future eaters in the Pacific? Early human environmental impacts
2001
52
53–59
Short Report
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