Iain McCalman gets passionate about the Great Barrier Reef

During the recent Adelaide Writers Festival, I had the pleasure of speaking to the historian and author Iain McCalman about his new book A Reef: A Passionate History.

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Drawing from his academic expertise on colonial British history and the Darwinian scientific revolution, McCalman examines the social history of the reef in the book, weaving together an assortment of intimate stories showing the different types of relationships people have had with the natural wonder.

Along with painting a colourful picture of the reef, these stories also highlight overarching historical themes like the voyaging exploits of naval explorers; the evolving science of coral biology; the relations between white colonialists and Indigenous populations and the developing science of ethnography that it engendered; and the influence of industrialisation and modernisation on the coral environment.

We discussed these topics, along with the book’s main message that we need to do more to save the Great Barrier Reef from the grave threats of from climate change and coral bleaching.

The book, along with the interview, instilled in me a new sense of awe and wonder about the reef and the people that have cared for it over time (including its Indigenous custodians) and I would recommend it to anyone with a taste for adventure, history or nature.

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