Talks and Lectures
My speaking style is dynamic and engaging, based on decades of experience in speech and debate. Engaging with people on my research topics or areas of activism is one of my favourite things to do. I am happy to present to groups of any size, either in person or online, and particularly enjoy taking listener questions.
I receive a large number of speaking requests each year, and try to accommodate as many as possible. My speaking fee is based on a sliding scale that mostly relates to organization size. Please complete the Request Form at the bottom of the page to request a talk.
A number of talks and lectures that I regularly deliver are highlighted below, to give you a sense of topics I can cover. You can see my Campaigns and Projects page for more inspiration. Keep in mind the format and length of each talk can easily be adjusted to accommodate your event.
Fighting for Access to Prescription Contraception: The AccessBC Campaign
Access to contraception is a basic human right, but people in BC still face barriers to access. In 2017, I co-founded the AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception in BC which convinced the provincial government to make all prescription contraception free in April 2023. This talk introduces the issues relating to access to contraception in BC – current barriers that people face when trying to access contraception and the harms of such barriers, as well as the need for improved access and the benefits of free contraception. The second part of the talk tells the story of the AccessBC Campaign, from its founding at my kitchen table, to becoming a successful province-wide campaign that convinced the government to make all contraception free. This talk is ideal for those interested in setting up campaigns for free contraception in their own provinces, as well as those interested in health and reproductive justice campaign strategy.
Strategies in Reproductive Health Activism: From Advocacy to Abortion Pirates
With the rise of the far right threatening decades of progress, work to further reproductive justice is critical. This talk surveys a number of strategies used by activists and advocates to improve access to reproductive and sexual health services. I highlight efforts across Canada to increase access to prescription contraception, exploring the work of the AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception and its sister campaigns across the country. I then delve into my academic studying the organization Women on Waves, an international non-governmental organization that seeks to prevent unsafe abortions and unwanted pregnancies. This organization is notable for deploying abortion clinics on board vessels just outside of the territorial waters of countries with restrictive access to abortion, and even delivering abortion medication via drone and robot. This talk is ideal for those interested in learning more about the spectrum of strategies currently being employed by sexual and reproductive health advocates around the world.
Placemaking: Building Safe, Connected, and Resilient Communities
We can build community by designing better public spaces! This talk introduces listeners to placemaking, and then provides detailed examples of how two forms of placemaking – little free libraries and road murals – can be used to build safe, connected, and resilient communities. It explores ways in which individuals, community groups, and municipal governments can support placemaking, and the role that visualization and data can play in promoting placemaking. For the past 4 years I have been mapping, helping build, and stocking little free libraries around the CRD. When I started we had 111 in the region, and as of November 2021 we cut the ribbon on the 550th LFL in the region! To date I’ve collected and redistributed almost 50,000 books by bike to LFLs across the CRD.
Sample Lecture 2
Turning Down Noise Pollution: Improving Health and Well-Being Through Community Activism
Your noisy neighbour running their leaf blower at 8 am on a Saturday isn’t just annoying, it’s bad for our environment and your health! For the past several years, I have been engaged in noise pollution advocacy and have been campaigning for a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in my municipality. This talk draws on my experience and research from this work. It introduces listeners to the harms of noise pollution and gas-powered leaf blowers, outlining a range of harms to individual health and well-being, as well as the broader harms of species and habitat loss and climate change. I walk listeners through the process I have followed to lobby my municipality to ban gas-powered leaf blowers and to improve noise pollution bylaws, monitoring, and enforcement, and highlight how research and community organizing can be used to push for change. This talk is great for those fed up with noise or those just looking to pick up some tips on grassroots community organizing.
Wildlife Crime and the Four Treasures
Criminals are pushing species to the brink of extinction. This talk explores crime within marine fisheries through the lens of the four treasures of Cantonese cuisine – shark fin, fish maw (swim bladders), abalone, and sea cucumbers. The talk introduces listeners to these four products, and then examines crime throughout the supply chains of each of the ‘four treasures’ using examples from OceansAsia investigations and research. This talk is well suited for those interested in learning more about wildlife crime, especially if your audience is already familiar with the more commonly known examples of wildlife crime.
Benthic Bandits: An Introduction to Global Sea Cucumber Crime
Known as black gold and ginseng of the sea, sea cucumbers are being poached and smuggled around the world. An insatiable demand for sea cucumbers is leading to the extirpation of these animals that are considered the earthworms of the sea. This talk takes a deep dive into all things sea cucumber. It begins with an introduction to fascinating sea cucumber biology and ecology, before exploring common uses for sea cucumbers and factors driving over-exploitation. Drawing on my ongoing research on sea cucumber crime in Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, and elsewhere, the talk outlines crime at various stages of sea cucumber fishery supply chains, the involvement of organized crime syndicates in fisheries, and the scale of the illicit trade in sea cucumbers. This talk is ideal for anyone interested in understanding wildlife crime while simultaneously learning a great deal about an important yet neglected species.
Tackling Plastic Pollution in Low-Income Countries
Our oceans are choking on plastic. Global plastic production is increasing rapidly and, with it, plastic pollution. As many as 23 million tonnes of plastic enter marine ecosystems annually, with 80% of this originating from terrestrial sources. This talk explores the issue of marine plastic pollution, with a focus on lower-income countries and microplastics, and is based on an article I co-authored for the Korea Institute of Public Administration. I begin by outlining the scale, types, sources, and harms of plastic pollution, with a focus on marine plastic pollution, before looking at challenges and solutions. The talk explores ways of reducing plastic production and consumption through targeted bans, the adoption of the circular economy and extended producer responsibility programs, support for innovation and technology relating to plastic alternatives, and improvements to waste management systems. I conclude with a call for the creation of a binding international agreement dedicated to addressing plastic pollution. This talk is an excellent introduction for those looking to learn more about plastic pollution and what can be done to tackle this growing threat to global ecosystems.
The Illegal Fishing and Organized Crime Nexus: Illegal Fishing as Transnational Organized Crime
This talk introduces the problem of illegal fishing and provides a general overview of this problem which is threatening our oceans worldwide. The talk then goes into more detail, challenging the conventional view that fisheries crimes are regulatory issues, and makes a case that not only is organized crime heavily involved in illegal fishing, but also that illegal fishing itself constitutes a form of transnational organized crime. The talk does so through the use of a wide range of case studies drawn from around the world, and by using existing legal criteria for determining what constitutes organized crime. This talk was developed for the launch of a report commissioned by The Black Fish and The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, both of which were presented to the 13th UN Crime Congress in Doha in April 2015, but has been updated to reflect recent developments in the study of illegal fishing.
Micronationalism and Performative Sovereignty as Activism: The Case of the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea
What is sovereignty and can I declare my apartment a sovereign territory? In June 2004, Australian gay rights activists who were frustrated with blocks to to the same-sex marriage issue occupied Cato Island, the largest island in the Coral Sea Islands Territory. Emperor Dale Parker Anderson raised the rainbow flag and declared the islands as an independent state, and soon thereafter, the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea declared war on Australia. This talk details the case study of the Kingdom: its origins, evolution, strategy, and outcomes. I situate the Kingdom within the broader ‘micronation movement’ and explore a variety of other examples, such as Christiania, Sealand, and Ladonia, and through this exploration, explain how sovereignty works. The talk concludes by considering the possibility of the use of micronationalism by other social movements, and situating the strategy within a broader range of actions available to activists. This talk is based on my ongoing academic research into the strategic use of international law by non-state actors. It provides a helpful and jovial introduction to the broader concept of sovereignty in international relations, and offers a fascinating survey of innovative strategies used by activists.
Direct Action at Sea: Confrontational Activism on the High Seas
Direct action (DA) is a sometimes confrontational strategy employed by those seeking to bring about the change they would like to see in the world. It is typically applied within the boundaries of states, however the high seas provides an ideal setting for the use of DA at the international level. The most prolific practitioners of DA at the international level are marine conservation organizations. This talk is based on a recently published book chapter I authored in Non-Human Nature in World Politics, my PhD thesis research, and subsequent academic work. It explores the use of different categories of DA by activists at sea: traditional DA, service provision, monitoring/surveillance, deterrence, and compellence. I introduce listeners to the expanding role of non-state actors into a territory traditionally reserved for the state - the monitoring and enforcement of law. Talk draws on examples from my research and activism, and highlights the work of organizations like Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, the Black Fish, the Sea Ranger Service, and OceansAsia.
Direct Enforcement: Direct Action and Enforcement of International Law by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on the High Seas
This talk draws on my PhD research, which explored the strategy of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a marine conservation organization. Drawing principally on my fieldwork, which involved 4 months of participant observation on board a Sea Shepherd vessel as it confronted Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, the talk theorizes a new way of looking at direct action. Direct action, where practitioners actively seek to bring about the change they desire, has long been studied in the domestic setting, but little work has been done on its application on the international level. In this talk, I explain how Sea Shepherd employs a very specific form of direct action, which I call direct enforcement - where they actively seek to enforce international law. The talk examines how this strategy was developed and explores some of the features that make the strategy possible and effective. It also includes lots of exciting snippets and tales from my adventures in the Southern Ocean dodging icebergs while saving whales in one of the most remote corners of the globe.
An Introduction to the Strategy and Tactics of Direct Action
Direct action is a form of activism whereby practitioners actively seek to bring about the change they want to see in the world. It differs from protest, whereby practitioners appeal to authorities to intervene on their behalf. This talk explores the strategy of Direct Action, beginning with the motivations of practitioners and their strategic objectives. The range of tactics employed by direct action is incredibly diverse, covering constructive practice such as guerilla urban agriculture/gardening and free schools, to destructive practices such as blockades and sabotage, to confrontational approaches such as the direct enforcement of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, as well as tactics which are hard to categorize, such as reverse graffiti. This talk explores the diversity of direct action tactics, and puts them in the context of the strategic objectives they are designed to achieve. It also examines some of the ethical and philosophical arguments which surround the use of these strategies and tactics.
Change and Prayers: An Analysis of Prayers in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, 2003-2020
What changed when the BC Legislature updated its practices and procedures around the prayers that open daily sessions? This talk explores the practice of opening sittings of the Legislature of British Columbia with prayer and is based on a forthcoming peer-reviewed book chapter I co-authored. After an introduction to the issues surrounding legislative prayer, I explore the findings of a quantitative analysis of every prayer delivered in the BC Legislature from October 2, 2003, to August 14, 2020. I explore and analyze the religiosity, content, structure, and length of prayers, along with who is delivering them, and track how these factors have changed over time and between parties. I then explore how two major changes to practice and procedures concerning legislative prayer, made in late 2019, impacted the religiosity, content, structure, and length of prayers delivered in the Legislature. This talk is ideal for anyone interested in knowing just how inclusive legislative prayer in BC is, and as an example of how quantitative social sciences research can be used by advocates to influence policy change.
Whatever Happened to Saguenay: Prayers at municipal Councils Across Canada
Despite the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Saguenay, municipalities across Canada continue to open their meetings with prayer. For the past several years, the BC Humanist Association (BCHA) research team has been investigating prayer in municipal council meetings across the country. We have identified hundreds of municipalities that continue to include prayer in inaugural and regular council meetings, despite this practice being found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. This talk introduced listeners to the important elements of the Saguenay ruling and how they apply to municipal practices and procedures. It then outlines the results of the BCHA research team’s examination of practices in municipalities across the country. The talk can be adapted to focus on one particular province, or to offer a survey of practices across the country. This talk will open the eyes of those who think we have separation of religion and government in Canada, and hopefully fuel grassroots activism to challenge unconstitutional practices at municipal councils.