ESS Lecture Series Schedule


NOTE: For the Winter 2023 semester, the ESS LECTURE series will be primarily online and the recordings of the "Best Of" lectures can be accessed in the College’s Winter 2023 Vimeo Collection:

Since 2010, the College of Sustainability has hosted a weekly ESS (Environment, Sustainability and Society) Lecture Series that is open to the public. Local and international scholars, journalists, social activists, artists, public intellectuals, and elders share their wisdom and experience on wide ranging topics related to environmental sustainability, social justice, Indigenous perspectives, and the impacts of climate crisis.

For several semesters during the COVID pandemic, the lecture series was presented virtually on Zoom. Going forward, the series will be presented in a hybrid format — with most speakers in person in Ondaatje Auditorium in the McCain building as well as livestreaming to Zoom. Please write to to obtain the Zoom link if required or to suggest a future speaker or topic.


Group photo of 80-100 students in Ondaatje Auditorium wearing green "Leading Change" t-shirts.


Week of 16 January 2023

Ron Colman: What Really Counts: The Case for a Sustainable and Equitable Economy

(from Fall 2021)


Politicians and economists fixate on “growing the economy”—measured by a country’s gross domestic product. But this yardstick counts harmful activities such as greenhouse gas emissions, plastic waste, and cigarette sales as gains, and it ignores environmental protection, voluntary community work, and other benefits. What we measure is a choice, and what is and isn’t counted determines what sorts of policies are enacted.

Ronald Colman's book, What Really Counts (Columbia University Press, 2021) is an essential, firsthand story of the promise and challenges of accounting for social, economic, and environmental benefits and costs. Colman recounts two decades of working with three governments to adopt measures that more accurately and comprehensively assess true progress.

Chronicling his path from Nova Scotia to New Zealand to Bhutan, Colman details the effort to lay the foundations of a new economic system, and the obstacles that stand in the way. Reflecting on successes and failures, he considers how to shift policy priorities from a narrow economic- growth agenda toward a future built on sustainability and equity.


Week of 23 January 2023       

Eli Enns: Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainability Through Reconciliation

(from Winter 2019)


Eli Enns is a Nuu-chah-nulth Canadian political scientist and internationally recognized expert in bio-cultural heritage conservation. His work has focused in Constitutional Law, International Dispute Resolution and Ecological Governance and as Co-founder of the Ha’uukmin Tribal Park in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Eli is the great grandson of Nah-wah-sum — public speaker and historian for Wickaninnish, Tyee Ha’wiih of Tla-o qui-aht — and a former visiting research fellow at the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria.


Week of 30 January 2023    

Vandana Shiva: The Politics of Food 

(from Fall 2014)

Vandana Shiva is a leading activist and thinker on the environment, agriculture, biodiversity, biotechnology, bioethics, and genetic engineering  spirituality, and women’s rights. Shiva is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalization and a figure of the anti-globalization movement. She has argued in favour of many traditional practices, as in her interview in the book Vedic Ecology. Vandana Shiva has written and spoken extensively about advances in the fields of agriculture and food.


Week of 6 February 2023  



Jennifer Thomson and Raj Patel (Fall 2015) 

Can Genetically Modified Crops help the Poor? A debate.


Week of 13 February 2023

Søren Hermansen: Renewable Energy and Community Action (Samsø Denmark) from Fall 2014

Søren is the Manager at Samsø Energy Academy in Denmark and an Adjunct professor at Aalborg University in the department of sustainable energy planning. Samsø is a 100% sustainable energy island and Søren shares this narrative of change as a storyteller and as a tool to engage and inspire people and communities in sustainable transition.


Tuesday 28 February 2023

2023 MacKay Lecture in History
Tuesday 28 February 7:00-8:30PM (AT)
Potter Auditorium, Rowe Building, 6100 University Ave

Roy Loewen: Siloed Knowledge: Mennonite Settlers vs the Farm Expert 

Roy Loewen is an environmental and rural historian whose recent book, Mennonite Farmers: A Global History of Place and Sustainability, won the prestigious Wallace K. Ferguson prize. The book chronicles how Mennonite farmers on four continents have adapted to climate change.


Thursday 9 March 2023


14th annual Douglas M. Johnston Lecture
Thursday 9 February 7:00-8:30PM (AT)

Marcos Orellano: A Human Rights-based Approach to the New Treaty on Plastic Pollution

Marcos A Orellana is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights. He currently directs the Global Toxics and Human Rights Project at the American University Washington College of Law and has lectured in various law schools, including Melbourne, George Washington, Pretoria, Geneva, and Guadalajara. His practice as legal advisor has encompassed work with United Nations agencies, governments, and non-governmental organizations where he intervened in cases before several international courts and tribunals. Professor Orellana has extensive experience working with civil society and indigenous peoples around the world on issues concerning global environmental justice. He also represented the eight-nation Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean in the negotiations of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Co-hosted by Marine and Environmental Law Institute (MELAW). 


Week of 13 March 2023

Dianne Sax: The Climate Crisis and the Role of Carbon Pricing (from Fall 2019)

Why does Canada need a price on carbon? How does the federal backstop work? And what else do we need to have a manageable future?

Dr. Dianne Saxe is one of Canada’s most respected environmental lawyers and was the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario 2015 to 2019. She was appointed unanimously by all MPPs to report to the Legislature on Ontario’s environmental, energy and climate performance, and to be the guardian of the Environmental Bill of Rights. Now heading Saxe Facts, a business providing strategic advice and presentations on climate, energy, and environment.


Week of 20 March 2023

Emily Robinson: The Security Implications of Climate Change: Instability, Conflict, and Adaptation (from Winter 2018)

Emily Robinson is a Defence Scientist and Strategic Analyst with Defence Research and Development Canada in Ottawa. She obtained her BA in Political Science at Mount Allison and an MA in Political Science and Government from Dalhousie.


Week of 27 March 2023

A Conversation with Elisabeth Kolbert about Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future (from Winter 2022)

Watch third-year ESS student Lizzy Hanna's conversation with

Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer and journalist, author of Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future (2021) and The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014). Elizabeth has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1999, writing dozens of pieces for the magazine, including political profiles (Senator Hillary Clinton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani), a series on global warming (The Climate of Man) and many others. She was voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in March 2021.

Under a White Sky is a meticulously researched and deftly crafted work of journalism that explores some of the biggest challenges of our age. It also manages to be wickedly funny. Some passages read like an absurdist novel by Kurt Vonnegut or Joseph Heller. As in Cat’s Cradle or Catch-22, humanity is trapped within an ever more vicious circle created by its own skewed logic and techno-dependency. As the author writes early on, this is “a book about people trying to solve problems created by people trying to solve problems.”


Week of 3 April 2023 

Megan Leslie: Civic Engagement: Why Activism, Politics and Community Matter More than Ever (from Winter 2017)

Megan Leslie served for two terms as the federal Member of Parliament for Halifax, the NDP environment critic and Deputy Leader of the Official Oppostition. She joined World Wildlife Fund of Canada in 2015 as VP Oceans and became WWF President & CEO in 2017. Megan has a long history of community engagement, social justice advocacy and tireless collaboration on health, environmental and poverty issues. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social & Political Thought and History and a Certificate in Refugee and Migration Studies, both from York University and a law degree from Dalhousie.



For more information contact:

Debra Ross                                                     
Manager of Outreach, Partnerships and Communications