“Our questions should stretch beyond technological discovery.”
COVER STORY: ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
Gökçe Günel is an assistant professor of Anthropology at Rice University and director of Undergraduate Studies.
Gökçe Günel RC 00
You focus on renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures in cities. Why are these issues so important for the future?
Cities are spaces of inequality. My academic research focuses on how climate change impacts these existing inequalities. Optimistic scenarios that imagine green cities for the future are perhaps helpful and inspiring in demonstrating that humans can overcome the medical, political and economic crises that define our lives today, but we should also keep in mind that innovation in renewable energy and clean technology does not necessarily result in positive social transformation for everyone. Renewable energy and clean technology also further demarcate the boundaries between the haves and the have-nots upon whom the formers’ lives are predicated. What are some ways of reversing these trends?
What would you recommend to RC students who want to study and work in these areas?
Climate change adaptation and mitigation might appear as an engineering challenge, but it is also a social, political and ethical problem. Our questions should stretch beyond technological discovery.
Has your RC experience influenced your work?
I learned how to focus, how to read extensively and how to observe the world closely. My life at RC also gave me the confidence to be persistent and daring, and allowed me to follow a trajectory guided by my curiosities.
Published August 2021