Our Great Barrier Reef is never far from the news headlines. Its well-being, its future, ways to exploit and preserve it, all regular subjects of community discussion and public debate here in far north Queensland and across the nation.
It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the only living thing on Earth visible from space. It’s bigger than quite a few countries – a network of complex but vulnerable ecosystems that sustains an abundance of marine life. It starts offshore of Bundaberg and parallels the Queensland coast up past the tip of Cape York in a marine park some 2300km long. 345,000 square kilometres, three thousand individual reefs and a thousand islands.
The statistics and the science tells us a great deal about the reef and the threats it faces. But that is an incomplete story, according to Iain McCalman. Iain has gotten to know the reef over many years, and he believes the Great Barrier Reef was created as much by human imagination as it was by natural processes. By considering human perceptions of and interactions with the Reef, we gain a more complete understanding of it, and of how to care for it.
Iain tells of the people drawn to the reef, often in life-changing ways, from Captain Cook and Matthew Flinders to castaway Ted Banfield and reef champions Judith Wright and John Busst – in his recently published The Reef – A Passionate History.
LISTEN to my interview with Iain McCalman here
Iain McCalman is a Research Professor in history at the University of Sydney and co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute.