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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.

We are in a moment where the quantification of impacts and the development of technologies based on that science has become the strategy for remediation and ‘solutions’.  Yet, without a deep understanding of how we have arrived at the point we find ourselves in, these approaches will be superficial and will risk perpetuating or even furthering harm.  Technical approaches risk creating unanticipated consequences and perpetuating the cycle of impact.  Rather the approach needs to be to better understand how we have gotten to where we are, and how we can unravel the tight knot of energy dependence, economic growth and high human/environmental cost.  The drivers need to be examined for us to be able to take next steps.  This is what, in my opinion, an interdisciplinary program can offer.  A few years to learn, to reflect and to develop insights so as to be able to effectively be a contributor to a different future.