Iain McCalman’s Article Published in ‘Humanities’

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A journal article by SEI Co-Director, Professor Iain McCalman has recently been published in Volume 6, Issue 4 of the academic journal Humanities. McCalman’s article is called ‘Linking the Local and the Global. What Today’s Environmental Humanities Movement Can Learn from Their Predecessor’s Successful Leadership of the 1965–1975 War to Save the Great Barrier Reef‘. 

The article traces the beginning of grassroots activism to save the Great Barrier Reef in the1960-70s and reflects on the lessons learned in the previous victory and how they can be drawn on to help protect the Reef from present treats such as mining, coral bleaching, and the rise in ocean temperatures due to climate change.


For a decade from 1965–1975, an Australian poet, Judith Wright, and a Reef artist, John Busst, played a major role in helping to save the Great Barrier Reef. The Queensland State Government had declared its intention of mining up to eighty percent of the Reef’s corals for oil, gas, fertiliser, and cement. The campaign of resistance led by these two humanists, in alliance with a forester, Dr. Len Webb, contributed substantively to the establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 1975 and to then to the Reef’s World Heritage listing in 1983 as ‘the most impressive marine environment in the world.’ This paper explains the challenges facing today’s environmental scholars and activists as they attempt to replicate the success of their 1970s predecessors in helping to save the Great Barrier Reef from even graver and more immediate threats to its survival.

For more details, and to access the journal article, click here.

Iain McCalman is a Research Professor of History at the University of Sydney, and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute. Iain has established a national and international reputation as a historian of science, culture and the environment whose work has influenced university scholars and students, government policymakers and broad general public 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. 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.