Passions of the Great Barrier Reef: Why cultural histories matter
Professor Iain McCalman
University of Sydney, Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute
In this talk, Professor Iain McCalman presents a selection of brief cultural history narratives about the Great Barrier Reef and to suggest how these have continued to influence the environmental challenges of the present in substantial and unexpected ways. He will focus first on the harrowing, but still little-known stories of a thirteen-year old Scottish girl and a fourteen-year-old French cabin boy who were shipwrecked in the early nineteenth-century and lived, respectively, with Torres Strait and with Aboriginal rescuers for lengthy periods, until they were returned to ‘civilization’ with very different results. Finally, he tells the saga of how, during the 60s and 70s, a woman poet, a bohemian artist and a rain forest scientist joined forces to save the Great Barrier Reef from a rapacious and destructive drive by the Queensland Government to mine corals for oil, gas, fertilizer and cement. In both practical and symbolic ways these narratives echo the aspirations and possibilities of the new ‘Oceanic Cultures and Connections’ research cluster at the University of Tasmania. - Iain McCalman, AO, FASSA, FAHA, FRHistS, University Research Professor and Co-Director, Sydney (University) Environment Institute.
About the speaker
Over his long academic career Iain McCalman, AO, FASSA, FAHA, FRHistS, currently Research Professor of History at the University of Sydney, and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute, has established a national and international reputation as an historian of science, culture and the environment whose work has influenced university scholars and students, government policy makers and broad general publics around the world. In addition to his considerable achievements as an undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate teacher he has published fourteen scholarly books with leading academic and trade presses, and dozens of peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. His current book, The Reef – A Passionate History, from Captain Cook to Climate Change, was published by Penguin in Australia and by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the USA. In 2007 Iain was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia for Services to History and the Humanities. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and the Australian Academy of the Humanities.