Biography & Abstract



Prof. Kai Ming Adam Chan

University of British Columbia



Kai Chan is a professor 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 how social-ecological systems can be transformed to be both better and wilder. Kai leads CHANS lab (, 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 director on the board of the North American section of the Society for Conservation Biology, a member of the Global Young Academy, a senior fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program, a coordinating lead author for the IPBES Global Assessment, and (in 2012) the Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


Title: Leveraging Values for Societal Transformations towards Sustainability: Some Bold Propositions

Abstract: The socioeconomic transformation needed for the world's nations to meet global targets for biodiversity and ecosystem services will likely require more than a steady growth in the current conservation and sustainability efforts. Strategies suggested within the social sciences, including nudge and social practice interventions, seem to require large changes in infrastructure if they are to yield more than marginal change. What then will enable the needed upheaval of infrastructure? In this talk, I argue that we have given too little attention to social infrastructure--the institutional arrangements that specifically leverage widely held pro-sustainability values. Relational values (values about human-nature relationships) are especially useful here, because they can be broadly enacted via novel norm-setting incentive schemes and finance tools. I will close by proposing a few bold pathways forward--as a starting point for welcome critique and debate.