California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA



Fall 2023 musings about pursuing a PhD from Professor Stephanie Pincetl

It has been interesting talking to prospective PhD students. Clearly motivated to engage with the issues of environment and increasingly that of environmental justice, it seems most wish to be able to measure impacts in order to better describe their effects on environmental justice communities. Few, if any, ask the why questions, questions about how these situations arise, about the structuring forces that created inequalities and profoundly unequal environmental impacts involving the poisoning of communities.


Opinion: How wildfires in Algeria and California reveal colonial origins of the ‘Mediterranean climate’ — Stephanie Pincetl in the LA Times

It’s time now, though, we recognize that Algerian landscapes, like those of California, are colonial ones. These landscapes were transformed to fit an European idea of Mediterranean-ness. The consequences of this misunderstanding of natural ecosystems as preserved by Indigenous peoples, and of the damage inflicted in these regions are now evident in the wildfires in North Africa.


Cities’ thirst nearly killed these California lakes. Not so fast, said our epic wet winter. Dr. Pincetl quoted in the LA Times.

Stephanie Pincetl, a professor at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, told me that she also sees positives to this wetter reality. “We thought we could overpower nature and reengineer it with no consequences. We are seeing that that is not true over time, and I think the resurgence of these lakes is another example of that. Maybe going forward, we should be a little more respectful and find ways to accommodate, to at least some degree, the coming back of these water bodies, and what they mean, not only spiritually and for subsistence for Native peoples, but that they offer extraordinarily valuable habitat and offer ways to recharge groundwater — a lot of important reasons why they should be allowed to persist.”


CCSC’s Stephanie Pincetl talks to USA Today: Hiring to flourish in these fields as humans fight climate change.

In the coming years, tens of millions of homes will require retrofitting to make them more energy efficient even as we redesign our yards and driveways to deal with too much or too little water. “We can’t just keep slapping on more A/C, we need buildings that keep the cool air in,” said Pincetl. This is going to require an army of carpenters and plumbers. “We’re going to need more people going into the building trades. These are jobs that don’t require a college education, they require skill and craft,” she said.