September 18, 2014

SFU President's Dream Colloqium: Taking Action on Climate Change – Spring 2015

President’s Dream Colloquium on Obedience and Disobedience: Taking Action on Climate Change, Spring 2015

There are two intersecting crises that are the focus of this seminar. One is the ongoing and escalating environmental crisis with respect to anthropogenic climate change. The other is the failure of democracies, including but not limited to Canada, to adequately preserve common goods, especially those that are global.
These two failures together produce an emergency-level situation where ongoing government and private practices, such as the continuing and in fact escalating extraction, use and export of carbon, is precipitating massive shifts in the climate of the planet. Governments are failing to change policies quickly enough, and citizens are limited in their legal options for influencing government actions. The health of the global climate system is a public good, from which we an benefit, and thus towards which we all have obligations of preservation.
Thus, we have conflicting obligations: to follow the laws of our democracy, but also to protect the global common good and the state of the planet that future generations must live on. This is where the question of civil disobedience comes in. At what point do citizens have the right to violate the law in order to avert or reduce global climate change? Is there ever a point at which citizens have not merely the right, but the obligation to engage in civil disobedience towards this end? How do we justify these violations of the law in order to strengthen, rather than undermine, our democracy?
What do citizens owe ourselves, each other, and our governments? This timely colloquium will leverage SFU’s position as a thought leader and engaged intellectual environment to examine the rights and obligations to civil disobedience regarding climate change for students, for faculty and staff at SFU, and for the public of the Vancouver area, Canada, and beyond.
The series of free public lectures will create an interdisciplinary forum for dialogue between faculty members, students and diverse community groups.

  • January 15: Kimberley Brownlee, Warwick School of Law
    The Philosophical Case for Civil Disobedience. Reserve online.
  • January 29: Kathryn Harrison, Political Science, UBC
    The Impact of Civil Disobedience on Public Policy. Reserve online.
  • February 19: Chris Hedges, Journalist, Pulitzer Prize award winner
    The Rules of Revolt. Reserve online. Note: This lecture takes place at SFU Woodward’s.
  • March 5: Harsha Walia, Social Justice Activist
    The Climate Justice Movement. Reserve online.
  • March 19: John Borrows, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School, Anishinabe/Ojibway and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Canada
    Living Indigenous Law and Climate Change. Reserve online.
  • April 9: Chaired by Brigette DePape, Council of Canadians and
    Tamo Campos, Beyond Boarding

    Youth panel on Taking Action on Climate Change. Reserve online.

Note: Titles listed above are seminar topics, not speakers’ presentation titles.
These free public lectures are open to everyone. All lectures will take place on the Burnaby campus with the exception of the February 19 lecture by Chris Hedges, which will be at SFU Vancouver.
Graduate and undergraduate students are also invited to register in the graduate course that accompanies these public lectures. See course page for information.


The President’s Dream Colloquium on Obedience and Disobedience: Taking Action on Climate Change is generously funded by:

  • SFU President’s Office
  • Office of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Fellows

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  1. I’d like to go to all of these (apart from the Chris Hedges one) but it’s almost a 3hr round trip on transit. Any chance they’ll be livecast online?

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