Kai Chan is an associate professor and Canada Research Chair (tier 2) at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. Kai is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented sustainability scientist, trained in ecology, policy, and ethics from Princeton and Stanford Universities.
He strives to understand the workings of and values associated with social-ecological systems, in order to facilitate decision-making that promotes human well-being and social and ecological justice. Kai leads CHAN’S lab (www.chanslab.ires.ubc.ca), Connecting Human and Natural Systems; he is a Leopold Leadership Program fellow, a director on the board of the BC chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), a member of the Global Young Academy, a champion of the ecosystem-based management challenge dialogue of PacMARA, a senior fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program, and (in 2012) the Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Our current behavior as Canadians in a global context can be compared to dumping chamber pots out of our windows. Once acceptable, it can no longer be so.
The difference between our environmental selfishness and chamber-pot dumping is one of scale. Our purchase of tropical lumber contributes to devastating landslides in Haiti and Indonesia. Our burning of oil and gas contributes to the submersion of low-lying islands, and to unprecedented forest-fires, floods, and droughts. Our use of plastics in virtually everything contributes to the widespread littering of our oceans, and the mistaken consumption of plastic pieces by everything from mussels and fish to albatross and sea turtles.
Such actions are not only environmental problems: they are also economic ones, for people spread far and wide in both space and time.
It is time, then, to recognize that monetary transactions do not equal economy, economic progress does not equal growth, bigger does not equal better, and more does not equal richer.
It is time for small-planet ethics, wherein we treat our planet as we do our house and home.
The question, of course, is how to enable such behavior. The answer—to be elaborated—lies in unlocking the immense potential of human ingenuity and compassion, and the filtering the current cacophony of competing noise. Enable people and organizations to contribute simply and enjoyably—but meaningfully—to a future both better and wilder, and they will.