UBC Professor Creates Social Media Hub to Address Climate and Ecological Crises

Dr. Kai Chan started a website called CoSphere to help people connect with others and learn how to take action for a sustainable future.

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Hearing that “transformative change” is needed to address the global climate and ecological crises can seem overwhelming.

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This is one of the reasons why UBC professor Dr. Kai Chan and his team at the university created CoSphere, a new online social media hub where people can connect and learn how to take action for a sustainable future. While the site is up and running, Chan and his team are officially launching it on Monday.

Users can create accounts, post discussion topics in a forum, and discover actions they can take individually or collectively to create meaningful change. It offers explanations of complex issues and publishes upcoming events on climate action.

One of the first topics discussed is Earth Overshoot Day, which this year for North America falls on Sunday. This is the date by which each year North Americans have already consumed the world’s share of the Earth’s renewable resources for the entire year.

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To address this overshoot, many assume they need to do more to reduce their environmental footprint, but it’s more than that, Chan said.

“This narrative is a distraction from what is really needed,” he said, which is unprecedented collaboration to change economic and societal norms.

So, for example, a polluting lifestyle has been normalized – think of single-use disposable culture or economic growth as a marker of progress despite the environmental cost.

“A lot of times we think about what we can do as a consumer or a concerned citizen, like compost and recycle or not use plastic bags or buy an electric vehicle, but it’s very expensive,” said Chan, a professor at the Institute of Resources, Environment. and sustainability at UBC.

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“Transformative social change really takes so much more than these private actions…and when you change social norms and put pressure on the system to change in particular ways. This is where you have the power.

One day, Chan was riding his bike at UBC when he came up with the idea for CoSphere (Co representing the community and the sphere of the planet.)

He didn’t just want to create a website with a one-way flow of information, but rather a place where people could connect with each other and share ideas on how to approach some of the changes needed, like how to solve the problem of overconsumption. .

“We buy so many things that we don’t need, and that requires us to be able to buy those things cheaply. And so there is downward pressure on the price of goods which translates into a continuation of forced labor and sweatshops,” he said.

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“So in all areas these standards can change and when they change it will be really good for people and nature.”

As the hub evolves, Chan hopes to have more interactive elements such as AMAs and webinars. He would also like to develop programs that can be used in schools.

The need for system change was highlighted in a 2019 intergovernmental report titled IPBES Global Assessment, which found that up to one million species are at risk of extinction. Chan said that while 132 countries have agreed that transformative change is needed, little has been done to initiate this systemic change.

Adapted from IPBES Global Assessment 2019, CoSphere.
Adapted from IPBES Global Assessment 2019, CoSphere.

Tips for creating transformative change:

  • Advocate for the reform of the many subsidies that have negative effects on the environment, including fossil fuel subsidies. Tell politicians, including local MPs and MLAs or MPPs, that this is a decisive issue by writing, calling, voting only for parties or candidates who promise to do so, and speaking out to your friends and family
  • When you come across a great initiative to facilitate a sustainable future, share it with others, including on CoSphere, where people are eager to see them.
  • Take a public stance on buying goods made to last so we buy less, and share it directly with specific businesses through feedback forms and social media. We need to fix systems so that it’s affordable and normal to buy things that are built to last, and to cherish them, not throw them away.
  • Publicly avoid luxury goods such as diamonds or designer watches. These are used to allow people to demonstrate their wealth and status through conspicuous consumption, which fuels the damaging myth that buying things will make us happy. Happiness really lies in good relationships, with friends, family, neighbors and nature.

(source: UBC, Kai Chan)

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