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Articles by Kai Chan

Kai Chan is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair (tier 2) at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. He seeks to understand the workings of social-ecological systems to facilitate decision-making that promotes well-being and justice.

Featured Article

Step it up! Small is the new big.The environmental movement is divided over the importance of small steps — are they a critical starting point or a distraction from needed policy and institutional changes? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but will small changes add up to the kind of massive shift needed to bring us toward sustainability?

We say sweat the small stuff — but not because small decisions add independently to big change. Rather, because societal change isn’t just additive like stair-climbing, it’s transformative like metamorphosis, and small actions play a crucial role. Practiced consistently, small steps facilitate both gradual evolution and rapid revolution for positive lasting change.

Of course institutional and policy change is crucial, but it doesn’t happen on its own; it happens when people fight for it, motivated by their values. And if structural change happens without support from people’s values, then people resent it and resist or revolt. So it’s not a choice between small stuff or large, it’s a question of how we can integrate the two to get value change that also motivat... Read more