Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

FOOTPRINTS: In Search of Future Fossils by David Farrier book review

  • Written by  Chris Fitch
  • Published in Books
FOOTPRINTS: In Search of Future Fossils by David Farrier book review
26 Aug
2020
by David Farrier • Fourth Estate • £11.96 (hardback) 

There is surely nothing more thought-provoking in Footprints than the very concept of a ‘future fossil’. The notion that, one day, thousands or perhaps millions of years from now, the world as we know it will be wiped from existence, leaving behind mere remnants of contemporary life. 

Stay connected with the Geographical newsletter!
signup buttonIn these turbulent times, we’re committed to telling expansive stories from across the globe, highlighting the everyday lives of normal but extraordinary people. Stay informed and engaged with Geographical.

Get Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday!

Footprints is my attempt to discover how we will be remembered by the very deep future,’ explains literature academic David Farrier. Starting with the discovery in Norfolk of fossilised human footprints dating back 850,000 years, he undertakes a globe-trotting exercise to imagine what information we will leave for our descendants, hundreds or even thousands of generations forward in time.

Predictably, the results are not great. The fossil record from the early 21st century is likely to be one compacted with everything from ash released by the burning of fossil fuels, to millions of pieces of colourful plastic, to the dark sediment that clogs up the remains of dead coral reefs. 

Megacities home to tens of millions will be crushed into an ‘urban stratum’ of broken concrete and glass, stained red by leaching iron from ageing steel. ‘After one hundred million years, what remains of New York or Mumbai may be a deposit no thicker than the shallow end of a swimming pool,’ he muses.

What is certainly remarkable is how significantly we have already made our mark on the planet. From the massive release of prehistoric carbon into the atmosphere, to the dumping of radioactive material in the South Pacific and elsewhere, to the hundreds of thousands of pieces of microscopic space junk orbiting around the Earth, humanity has baked in changes that will take many millennia at least to return to a pre-Anthropocentric state. 

‘Our future fossils are our legacy and therefore our opportunity to choose how we will be remembered,’ writes Farrier. ‘They will record whether we carried on heedlessly despite the dangers we knew to lie ahead, or whether we cared enough to change our course.’

Get Geographical delivered to your door!
signup buttonGeographical has been in print since 1935, during which time we have reported on many thousands of global issues, allowing readers to look past the boundaries and borders of their world. Our monthly print magazine costs £9.50 for three months, or £38 for a year. We hope you will conisder joining us. 

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Books

• by Andri Snær Magnason • Serpent’s Tail

Books

August’s top non-fiction reads

Books

By Dawn Bébe and Juliet Coombe • £25 (hardback)

Books

by David Farrier • Fourth Estate • £11.96 (hardback) 

Books

by Jini Reddy • Bloomsbury • £11.89 (hardback)

Books

by James Boyce • Icon Books • £12.99 (hardback)

Books

 by Peter Wilson • £38.99 (hardback)

Books

A hand-picked selection of inspiring reads for summer

Books

by Julian Sayarer • Arcadia Books • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Lamorna Ash • Bloomsbury • £16.99 (hardback)

Books

by Rutger Bregmen • Bloomsbury • £14.00 (hardback)