Stephen Collis & Lynne Quarmby

October 16, 2015

"When Democracy Becomes Controversial: Climate Change and the Corporate State"

On October 13, 2015, the Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy award was presented to Dr. Lynne Quarmby and Dr. Stephen Collis.  

Stephen Collis is a poet, editor and professor. His many books of poetry include The Commons (Talon Books 2008; second edition 2014), On the Material (Talon Books 2010—awarded the BC Book Prize for Poetry), To the Barricades (Talon Books 2013), and (with Jordan Scott) DECOMP (Coach House 2013). He has also written two books of literary criticism, a book of essays on the Occupy Movement, Dispatches from the Occupation (Talon Books 2012), and a novel,The Red Album (BookThug 2013). In 2014, while involved in anti-pipeline activism, he was sued for $5.6 million by US energy giant Kinder Morgan, whose lawyers read his writing in court as “evidence.” His forthcoming book is Once in Blockadia (Talon Books 2016); he lives near Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish Territory, and teaches at Simon Fraser University. 

Lynne Quarmby is a cell biologist and professor of molecular biology & biochemistry. Her research explores a set of molecular machines that serve as cellular antennae, receiving signals from the world outside the cell. Lynne is fascinated by the essence of life and thrilled that some of her group’s discoveries have helped us understand diseases as diverse as Polycystic Kidney Disease and Cancer. In 2011, the Natural Engineering and Research Council of Canada recognized Lynne with an Accelerator Award for her “originality and innovation.”  Described by the media as a “soft-spoken biochemist,” in 2014 Lynne was arrested in an act of civil disobedience while protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline/tanker project on Burnaby Mountain. At the time, she described civil disobedience as the loudest a citizen can speak in the face of an abuse of power by government.

Lecture Summary

Our democratic system is vulnerable and has been slowly dismantled by those in power, most egregiously by the Harper Conservatives. Citizens today must wrestle with the contradiction of participating in a broken system - voting, supporting parties and candidates, participating in public debate, even running for office — at the same time, recognizing that the most pressing issues we face (such as climate change, the geographical displacement of populations, and Indigenous rights and land claims), require us to take direct action outside of the electoral and representative apparatus of governance.

The Nora and Ted Sterling Prize recipients Dr. Stephen Collis and Dr. Lynne Quarmby with Dr. Jon Driver, SFU Vice-President, Academic and Provost.