Living in a Changing World

Tuesday 17 September 2013

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Law School, The University of Sydney


A lecture to launch the Sydney Environment Institute

The Sydney Environment Institute was launched with a lecture by Professor Iain McCalman, University of Sydney historian, who discuss three interconnected personal examples of having to adapt to cyclonically transforming environments.

He outlines why he came to write his soon-to-be published Penguin book, The Reef – A Passionate History. This book explores how, since the time of Captain Cook, the greatest organic feature on the planet has been transformed both in our minds and in its physical substance from a ‘labyrinth of terror’ to an endangered global wonder.

Secondly, he illustrates some of the ways he has tried, as an academic and general author, to respond when writing this book to the wholly new publishing and communicative landscape generated by the digital revolution that is now exploding our traditional world of print.

He concludes with a sketch of how and why he and social scientist Professor David Schlosberg and many distinguished University of Sydney colleagues have formed the Sydney Environment Institute.

Professor Iain McCalman was born in Nyasaland in 1947, schooled in Zimbabwe and did his higher education in Australia. His last book, Darwin’s Armada (Penguin, 2009) won three prizes and was the basis of the TV series, Darwin’s Brave New World. He is a Fellow of three Learned Academies and is a former President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He was Director of the Humanities Research Centre, ANU, from 1995-2002 and won the inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Prize at ANU for Teaching Excellence. He is a former Federation Fellow and currently a Research Professor in history at the University of Sydney and co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute. His new book, The Reef – A Passionate History, from Captain Cook to Climate Change, will be published by Penguin in Australia in November and by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux in the USA in May 2014. He was made Officer of the Order of Australia in 2007 for services to history and the humanities.