Tom Chi: Making Humanity a “Net Positive” To Nature

Ryan Honeyman
4 min readAug 24, 2021
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There is nothing about our economy that necessitates that we have to harm nature in the process of getting what we need. This is an observation made by our guest for today, Tom Chi, and he joins us to unpack this idea and point out a way toward a future where humankind does not destroy the planet. Tom has an impressive background that spans physics, technology, and business, having created and scaled multiple projects with global reach. His current occupation is as the Manager and Founding Partner of At One Ventures, a company that finds, funds, and grows teams to catalyze a world where humanity is a net positive to nature.

In this conversation, Tom shares a wide range of concepts about humanity, the economy, the environment, and the future which span from mind-blowing to heartwarming to terrifying. He makes the argument that the planet is more than capable of sustaining humanity because other species with more biomass who consume more live in ways that service rather than destroy the ecosystem. He talks about the main industries that cause emissions and how we might restructure them and shares ideas around how we can help save the planet by simply supporting other keystone species.

We also hear disturbing facts about climate change from Tom such as how many disasters loom in our future even if we can stop global temperatures from rising, let alone reverse them. Tom is a rare class of person with a fluency with technology grounded in a vision of a world where all human needs are met in ways that don’t detract from the environment, so this episode is a must-listen for anybody

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Key Points From This Episode:

  • Introducing Tom and his experience in astrophysics, tech, and sustainability.
  • The reef bleaching incident that encouraged Tom to found At One Ventures.
  • What Tom means when he says human beings can be net positive to nature.
  • How much environmental destruction is imminent even if we exacerbate global warming no further.
  • We already possess the methods to sustain ourselves in ways that don’t harm nature.
  • The implications of the reality that the economy is a subset of nature.
  • How our economy is supported by growing and mining and how to do those things in less damaging ways.
  • What our similarities to ants can tell us about whether the planet can sustain us.
  • How species with more biomass than us live in ways that serve the ecosystem.
  • Big trends that signify our move toward the return to net positive to nature.
  • A strategy in the form of humans making it their goal to support keystone species.
  • The main industries that cause emissions and ideas about how to change them.
  • Industries such as agriculture and air-conditioning that are causing major emissions.
  • The companies At One invests in and the economic and environmental value proposition of their products.
  • How to build resilience and take action by using grief as a portal to find meaning.
  • The things that bring Tom inspiration and keep him motivated.

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“I didn’t see anything about our economy that would necessitate that we have to harm nature in the process of doing what we need.” — Tom Chi

“Every product or service you have ever experienced was mined or grown, immediately from nature. That means everything in the economy is a subset of things that we directly took from nature.” — Tom Chi

“Whether one day we are 20B or even 5B, we already have many examples of organisms on this planet that significantly more biomass than us, significantly more ecosystem take, that have found a way to coexist and make nature healthier because they exist.” — Tom Chi

“We are certainly smart enough to recognize what the keystone species are and we can choose to be the keystone species whose goal is to support the keystone species.” — Tom Chi

“There are four industries that represent 90% of industrial emissions. Steel, aluminum, chemical separations, and cement.” — Tom Chi

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Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Tom Chi —

Tom Chi on LinkedIn —

At One Ventures —

Buckminster Fuller Institute —

Google X —

For The Wild Podcast —

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Show Notes + Other Links

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Ryan Honeyman

Partner / Worker-Owner at LIFT Economy. Co-author of “The B Corp Handbook.” Co-host of the Next Economy Now podcast.