Environmental Justice, Sustainability, and Social Work: #MacroSW 5/11/17 at 9pm EST

The Storify archive of this chat can be found here.

Reduce, Reuse, Recyle.

Think globally, act locally.

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.  (New England proverb)

green square with quote from the Great Law of teh Iroquois Confederacy in white letters:
from The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

Environmental Justice

More than slogans are needed to reverse the alarming rate of environmental degradation we are experiencing. Social workers are part of this reclamation; indeed, we have the ethical obligation to do so: “Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.” The authors of the NASW Code of Ethics may originally have had a human environment in mind, rather than the broader one of earth, air, water and non-human life forms, but 21st century conditions means we must enlarge our definition of environment.

Environmental justice is needed to redress the racism, economic and gender discrimination that combine to provide a safe, clean environment to only to a certain segments of the world’s population.

Sustainability as an Essential Social Work Value

The United Nations defines sustainability as what meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This is a concept that many  Indigenous Peoples have as a principle.

In  Sustainability, human rights, and environmental justice: Critical connections for contemporary social work, Professor Catherine A. Hawkins of Texas State University explains:

“[Social workers] need to pay more attention to the critical role of the physical environment…The important connections between social work, sustainability, human rights, and environmental justice in our contemporary world need to be more clearly articulated…  for the profession to effectively pursue the goal of making the world a more just, humane, and sustainable home for all life.”

The focus of this chat will look at how we advance environmental justice and develop sustainability as a constant in our social work practice. #MacroSW chat partner Pat Shelly from the University at Buffalo School of Social Work @ubssw will host.

Quote from 2005 commencement address to the College of Natural Resources, Univ. of California Berkeley. Image: Pat Shelly

Questions for discussion:

  1. How do you define environmental justice?
  2. Is sustainability the same as environmental justice? Why or why not?
  3. How does the recent March for Science and the Peoples’ Climate March relate to social work?
  4. If you participated in the marches, why?
  5. Give examples of practices that fulfill our mandate to work for environmental justice. What would Catherine Hawkins suggest?


Sustainable Development Goals_E_Final sizes
Image: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: 17 Goals to Transform Our World

(This is adapted from the April 22, 2017 post SocialWorkSynergy.)

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