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Subhashni Raj


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 Planning. 

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 sustainable?

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 UBs 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 pursuits?  

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 me.

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 waste loop.

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