We Need More Sustainability to Alleviate Social Injustices

Campaigning for regenerative cities, supporting migrant entrepreneurship in Malta, or managing EU funds for a cleaner Baltic Sea – a multifaceted engagement for more sustainability sits at the core of Fiona Woo’s résumé. Her dream project: to co-design urban spaces together with local residents and businesses that keep people at the centre. Learn more about the new CSCP project manager in her own words!

How did you come about to join the CSCP?

Since my very first internship in the field of renewable energy, it has been important for me to find meaning in my work and to believe that I am contributing to making the world a better place for current and future generations. I was inspired by CSCP’s projects that tackled a wide range of sustainable consumption and production issues and its hands-on project work. Social and environmental sustainability sits at the core of my professional life, from campaigning for regenerative cities in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to supporting migrant entrepreneurship in Malta to managing EU funds for a cleaner Baltic Sea. These experiences share something in common with the CSCP – namely, the motivation to create opportunities for a good life for all people. The interdisciplinary perspective I have from my academic background in economics and political science is also something I see applied by the CSCP in its work.

It is clear that sustainability informs your life and work substantially, can you explain more?

Although my professional experience so far has been mainly in environmental sustainability, my work has always been driven by a passion for social justice. When heavy metals seep into groundwater due to a nearby mine, it is local communities that struggle to access clean drinking water. When climate change causes the annual crop yield to dry up, it is farmers who lose their livelihood. The effects of environmental damage are exacerbated in already vulnerable groups that have neither disposable income nor political clout to improve their situation. Advocating for more sustainable systems in my professional and private life is my way of trying to fight these injustices.

We live in dynamic and unprecedented times. How can we ensure that sustainability is kept high on the agenda in current transformations and transitions?

In democracies, citizens speak with ballots and ballots are the currency that policy makers listen very closely to. Those ballots are informed by public discourse, so we need to inspire broadly – across demographics and communities – to get people in different corners of society and the economy to talk about sustainability in specific contexts, for example, post-pandemic recovery. The more conversations are being had about these topics, the more they gather momentum and become normalised. I think this is how we can try to keep sustainability high on the agenda – by being visible and present.

What is your sustainability dream project?

A large part of valuable real estate in urban centres is distributed disproportionately to motor vehicles – namely, roads and parking spaces. Some cities, like Barcelona, Paris and Ottawa, have run pilot schemes like car-free districts or car-free Sundays. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, other cities like Berlin have experimented with pop-up (temporary) bike lanes. Along with the obvious health and environmental benefits, turning retail areas into pedestrian zones has been shown to direct more customers into businesses, thereby boosting the local economy. My dream sustainability project is to co-design urban space together with local residents and businesses that keep people, not automobiles, in focus. My dream is not to get rid of cars but rather to distribute space more equally for communities – spaces to spend time and play in, safe spaces to walk and bike in, and spaces for public transport.

To wrap it up, what is your favourite sustainable lifestyle choice, habit or hack?

I love the feeling of gliding through the city on a bike – even a city as hilly as Wuppertal. My new route to the office takes me onto the Nordbahntrasse – an old elevated railway that has been converted into a 22km car-free track for pedestrians, cyclists and rollerblades. A dream commute!

For further questions, please contact Fiona Woo.