Subhashni, a Fulbright scholar from Fiji, is a research
assistant in the UB Food Systems and Healthy Communities Lab, and
is completing her Master's in Urban and Regional
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability to me is about more than just intergenerational
equity, it is more than just preserving resources. It is about
making sure that everyone has equal access to these resources and
that in the process of use and extraction of these resources, the
people who own them are paid a fair price, and that the communities
where extraction takes place are not harmed in the process. To me
sustainability is about equity, sovereignty and social justice.
What are you doing to help UB become more
A lot of the work I do has been outside of the UB community but
I hope to change this by working with UB sustainability on the
projects they have coming up.
How do you involve UB’s faculty or staff
in your sustainability work?
I work as a research assistant in the food systems and healthy
communities lab and my professor allows me to bring my interest in
climate change to the work I do, and use that to shape my research.
I have a lot of support from my professors in this respect, and in
fact because of it, my PhD work will focus on the impacts of
climate change on the food system. None of this would be possible
if not for the faculty in the department. So in a manner of
speaking, the faculty encourage and guide the work I do with
respect to sustainability. Passion is important, but without reason
or the weight of reason, there is no convincing anyone to act. My
professors have invested a lot of time and effort in helping me
channel my passions using reason and bringing balance to my
advocacy work and to the work I do in general.
How has sustainability impacted your academic
I chose to do my Masters in urban planning because of my
interest and my work in ecologically conscious development. I also
wanted a program that would provide me with both the technical and
policy skills that I could bring to bear on my work, and in the
Urban planning program I found that balance. The places we live in
also happen to be at the frontline of impacts of poor planning or
poor planning in conjunction with climate change. The smallest unit
at which we can think about sustainability is at the neighborhood
scale, and how we shape the built environment has a huge impact on
the quality of life of the people who will live there. It is also
at this scale that we can start to make the changes that will
eventually ripple through. Urban planning seemed to be the perfect
marriage between the environmental advocate and policy wonk in
What is the one thing you would like people to know that you
do in your personal life to further sustainability?
I work on climate change advocacy and awareness. What that means
is that I use social media to disseminate information, get people
to events and protests. I am a grassroots organiser and before
coming to Buffalo, I was more involved in community organising, but
in trying to find a climate community in buffalo, I have taken to a
lot more of social media advocacy. Which at first I was unsure
about but a lot of people in friends circle have appreciated it, so
I know that it actually works and it helps get people to events
that they would otherwise not go to.
How could UB improve its sustainability efforts?
One way would be to reduce waste in the university food system.
So much food gets thrown out everyday, if we could come up with a
system to prevent that waste or figure out a way to ensure the food
that is prepared gets eaten would go a long way towards
sustainability. In the same vein, placing trash cans for composting
around the campus would also contribute towards closing the food