STRIP — rethinking our routes

‘STRIP — rethinking our routes’ was a debate organised by KSU in collaboration with SACES during Nature Week held between the 6th and 12th February.

The debate was focused on bringing forward the concept of sustainability and how we perceive this in relation to our environment and to our economy, redirecting the path towards which Malta's built environment is heading. It was aimed at creating a conversation between students at the University of Malta as well as the public, to come forward and seek answers to their questions. The speakers on the panel were Prof. Alex Torpiano, Sebastian Tanti Burlo’, Ralph Cassar from Alternattiva Demokratika, and Perit Sandro Valentino. The moderator was Becky Micallef who asked questions directed both at the panel and the audience throughout the debate. This article compiles the speakers’ and students’ opinions expressed during and after this debate.

The debate started off by questioning what sustainability is, which led to multiple questions and opinions - sustainability is a word which has been overused and abused and by time it has lost its meaning.

Although sustainability requires that the needs of future generations are considered in all decisions made, it seems that the current vision is rather short sighted. In order to thoroughly understand sustainability and make a difference, one has to take a holistic approach to it. We need to first understand and grasp a whole vision of how to be more sustainable instead of just looking at individual problems.

Educating people from a young age about the importance of sustainability would help change the mentality and consciousness of how we look at and treat the environment. We as democratic citizens need to think critically about our current state and take initiative instead of letting people of a higher state decide for us. There needs to be better communication between the public and the industry. The industry has become too selfish to wonder what the people will actually feel and think once they have taken over community spaces. The industry, in a rush to progress with development, chooses the faster and easier way out to do things, resulting in a more negative impact on the environment.

Matthew Scerri, a masters student from the Faculty of the Built Environment said, “It is our role (primarily as University students) to think, analyse and understand the problems. This will impact our generation more than it will the current one. It is our job as the next generation of the working society to push our questioning further. We cannot be passive when confronted with these problems, every individual has their own role in society but it is our common obligation to do our part in fixing it.” We need to question whether we are planning at all and if the law is being enforced in the right ways.

Our attitude needs to change if we really want to live sustainably. Our existing road infrastructure, for example, is not bicycle friendly, which makes it harder to attract cyclists and is less safe than the properly designed routes found in other countries. We need to find our own solutions to improve our transport system and make it more sustainable, such as carpooling.

Rethinking how we design spaces would make an impact on how energy is used. Malta, being small, has its own challenges. We do not have large cities, where there is significant physical separation between, for instance the commercial area and the industrial area. We do not have the city culture of external spaces, the culture of walking, and therefore we use transport almost for no reason.

By the end of the debate it was agreed that these matters should be part of our social responsibility, and not just a topic to discuss. We need to educate our society and question how we can live with less, stop demanding more and utilise well what we presently have. Prof. Torpiano concluded the discussion by quoting from the Encyclical penned by Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: “We need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development.

We need to recognise that it is an issue of the future.