Environmental Humanities

Protecting The Great Barrier Reef

Protecting one of the world’s most bio-diverse ecosystems.

This project is derived from Iain McCalman’s prize-winning book, The Reef. A Passionate History. The book is a human history of one of the world’s most bio-diverse, beautiful and important eco-systems from the time of Captain Cook to our present-day age of climate change.

Stretching for 2,300 kilometres along the east coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, a world heritage wonder and an Australian marine park that generates major tourist income, now stands in acute danger of extinction as a result of human actions. Greenhouse Carbon dioxide and Methane are contributing to ocean warming that generates episodes of potentially lethal mass coral bleaching, while ocean acidification threatens to erode the calcium skeletons of reef-growing corals and other ocean species.

This project aims to highlight the importance of the reef and in doing so mobilise action. The project includes an award-winning open-source website, the-reef.com.au, containing three short films, made by Mike Bluett and Iain McCalman, and a series of interviews with Indigenous custodians and scholars such as Alberta Hornsby of Cooktown. These are currently being expanded into a larger documentary film project with Moira Fahy of Productions1000.

This intersects with a further series of collaborative oceanic and coastal workshops being undertaken with community environmental and eco-tourist groups and associations based at Mission Beach, south of Cairns. These efforts aim to preserve and protect local island, rain- forest, reef and coastal habitats and also celebrate the region’s leadership of the conservationist campaigns that culminated in the formation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and its UNESCO World Heritage listing. We are working with Mission Beach environmentalists to help protect and renew a series of major Reef and Rainforest cultural heritage sites and buildings, including former activist John Busst’s house at Bingil Bay and Ted Banfield’s cairn and walk on Dunk Island.