Kai Chan talks ecosystem services

Environmental science seminar series begins at TRU

Ashley Wadhwani, Contributor Ω

Guest speaker Kai Chan spoke on the cultural and non-material values of decision making late Thursday afternoon in room 203 of the sciences building.

Kai Chan speaks to the crowd in the first environmental science seminar of the year. Ashley Wadhwani/The Omega

Kai Chan speaks to the crowd in the first environmental science seminar of the year. Ashley Wadhwani/The Omega

Ecosystem services are the resources and processes from the world’s ecosystems that we as humans benefit from.

Chan, associate professor in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at UBC, and Canada research chair (tier two) gave a presentation on how to value the products and services of the ecological environment. During his presentation he touched on the political, cultural and economic factors that greatly affect ecosystem services.

The presentation began with Chan posing the fundamental question of whether ecosystem services research can improve decision-making. The 30 student attendees listened avidly to Chan touch briefly on the hope and reality of the present-day situation of ecosystem services research and how to incorporate the cultural aspects of ecosystems into all provisions of ecosystem services.

The cultural aspects are the non-material contributions that are a part of human well-being such as recreation, identity, heritage values and place values.

It is the hope of ecosystem services that they can infuse the cultural aspects of ecosystems into their research and approach decision-makers to help them identify ecological factors that will affect or be affected by possible decisions.

However, Chan explains that there is difficulty translating cultural values that are ultimately intangible into a value system that humans can understand, like money.

The idea that if people can profit while doing something good to the environment and to society is another aspect of ecological services that Chan presented. How can you promote the idea of using ecological services in decision-making to an audience who act within the system of capitalism and believe in the principles and values of capitalism without losing the opportunity to fight the big fights of protecting our ecosystems? Chan posed that this is the battle for ecological services.

The reality then, is that these intangible considerations are included in decision-making but are often distorted and implicit, and are currently not connected to ecosystem services. The challenge is converging two different value systems, cultural ecology and capitalism, into a more universal value system.

Chan also presented a potential framework for ecosystem services research to factor in cultural values and better engage with decision making. The presentation closed with a discussion and question period.

The seminar series will be taking place over the course of the fall 2013 Semester with different speakers presenting different environmental-science topics. The next seminar will be taking place Thursday Oct. 10th in room 203 of the sciences building with guest speaker Scott Wilson sharing a presentation on change and stability in arctic ecosystems.

To view the schedule of the future seminars including the guest speakers and topics they will be presenting, visit www.tru.ca/science/programs/msces/mscseminar