Events & Media
Fulbright Public Lecture: Kai Chan

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara


Fulbright Public Lecture

"The Tangible (and Intangible) Values of Nature"

Kai Chan
Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair
Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability
University of British Columbia

Monday, Jan. 23, 2012
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"Innovative ecosystem scientist Kai Chan will present new thinking about how to integrate non-material values of ecosystems into policy and management. Kai is a Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair in residence at the Bren School this winter; come to this public lecture to learn more about his ground-breaking research." — Satie Airamé, speaker host

Ecosystems not only support a diversity of plants and animals but also provide innumerable “ecosystem services,” or benefits, for people. These benefits of nature, such as clean water, stable and benign climates, cultural heritage, etc., are the focus of rapidly expanding study and consideration in environmental management and policy, but material benefits (of physical or monetary nature) receive the lion’s share of attention. Although these intangible values are often the most compelling reasons for protecting ecosystems, most are obscured in both research and decision-making, which exacerbates the risk of ecosystem degradation to the detriment of humankind. In this talk, I will explore these non-material values of ecosystems: what they are, how research currently addresses them, and how they are often considered in decision-making. I will then propose a framework for better integrating these critical but intangible values of nature, as developed by an international interdisciplinary group of scientists and practitioners. There is no magic bullet, but our framework may facilitate more socially just environmental planning and management with greater potential for long-term sustainability.

Kai Chan received his PhD from Princeton University and a postdoctoral fellowship from Stanford University. His research is interdisciplinary and policy-relevant, in three primary areas: (1) biodiversity and ecosystem services; (2) biological infestations and invasions; and (3) applied environmental ethics. In all, 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'SLAB (, Connecting Human and Natural Systems. He is also a director on the board of the BC chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), a champion of the ecosystem-based management challenge dialogue of PacMARA, and a senior fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program.

NOTE: Community colloquia are generally talks of broad interest geared toward a diverse, sophisticated audience. Their purpose is not only to enhance knowledge and understanding, but also to bring people together and promote interaction that will strengthen the community.


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