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

Colloquium Course

In this President’s Dream Colloquium we will host five dynamic speakers and a youth panel on the topic of civil disobedience in an era of climate change and crisis.

Through these lectures as well as readings, discussion, research, and writing we will explore the ethical, legal, social and cultural issues that surround the decision to participate in acts of civil disobedience, the sometimes complex relation civil disobedience has to the idea of democracy and established political process, as well as the altered political landscape created by the climate crisis.

On the weeks a speaker is not in class, readings and discussion will be used to prepare for the speaker’s visit and develop refined discussion questions specific to the upcoming talk.

Speakers in the series are: Kimberley Brownlee (University of Warwick), Kathryn Harrison (UBC), Chris Hedges (Journalist), Harsha Walia (Vancouver-based activist), John Borrows (University of Minnesota), and a concluding panel of young activists led by Brigette DePape (Council of Canadians) and Tamo Campos (Beyond Boarding).

All classes will take place on the Burnaby campus on Thursday mornings, 9:30 am–12:30 pm, so that all students can also choose to attend lectures for both Spring 2015 colloquia. There will also be a class dinner with the speaker after each public lecture.

Assignments and Grading:

  • Preparing weekly discussion questions: 20%
  • Leading one classroom discussion: 20%
  • Final case-study project on a climate change campaign: 60%

The final grade in the colloquium course will be a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory.  A "Satisfactory" grade will have no effect on your cumulative GPA.

Required Readings & Schedule
(Note: Some changes may be made to this reading list.)

January 8
Introduction / Readings for Kimberley Brownlee

  • “Civil Disobedience,” by Kimberley Brownlee
  • “Resistance to Civil Government,” by Henry David Thoreau
  • “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King

January 15
Kimberley Brownlee lecture

January 22
Readings for Kathryn Harrison

  • “Definition and Justification of Civil Disobedience,” by John Rawls
  • “Civil Disobedience becomes law enforcement,” by Jeremy Brecher
  • Global Commons, Domestic Decisions (selections), by Kathryn Harrison

January 29
Kathryn Harrison Lecture

February 5
Readings for Chris Hedges

  • Films and discussion: “Bidder 70” & “The Weather Underground”
  • Chris Hedges’s Truthdig column (selections)
  • Direct Action (selection), by David Graeber
  • On Resistance (selections), Howard Caygill

February 12
Reading Break

February 19
Chris Hedges lecture

February 26
Readings for Harsha Walia

  • Undoing Border Imperialism (selections), by Harsha Walia
  • Beautiful Trouble (selections)

March 5
Harsha Walia lecture

March 12
Readings for John Borrows

  • “Crown and Aboriginal Occupations of Land,” by John Borrows
  • “For our Nations to Live, Capitalism must Die,” by Glen Coulthard

March 19
John Borrows lecture

March 26
Case study workshop

April 9
Youth panel led by Brigette DePape and Tamo Campos


Applications for the Colloquium course will be accepted until all class spots are taken.

* Grad-PDC-Application-2015.pdf
Graduate students course application
* Undergrad-PDC-App-2015.pdf
Undergrad students course application

Admission to the Course

All SFU graduate students and senior undergraduates may register with permission of their departments. Graduate students in the following departments have been pre-approved to take this course for credit towards their degrees:

  • English
  • Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
  • Philosophy
  • Faculty of Environment (Archaeology, Geography, Resource and Environmental Management)

Enrolment in the colloquium will be capped at 20 registrants, and admission will be by application only.

Applications will be accepted until the course is full. (This website will be updated when the course is full.)