How climate change is becoming a health and social care crisis
And why it needs to be in university curriculums for professionals in the field.
I am a social worker by profession, who likes to dabble in some writing, and occasionally touch on topics related to my “day job”. A couple years ago, it was time to decide on my thesis topic and I stumbled upon the concept of green social work. Having a personal interest in climate change and sustainability, this immediately caught my attention, but the material wasn’t quite there for a full thesis.
But what else is Medium for, if not this? Writing about a topic I like and raising awareness of a growing issue.
While the threatening effects of climate change are more and more commonly known and with my “little” city hosting COP26 in the upcoming month, it is gaining an increasing local awareness as well — whether it is positive or negative opinions.
But one of the less talked topics is the devastating effect climate change has on deprived communities, both on local and global level. It is another factor in the lives of these communities that is widening the equality acts and create a sense of exclusion from their wider environment and communities.
While at first, it might not seem as social workers would have a significant role in climate justice, this could not be further away from the truth. One of the most obvious examples of social work’s role in environmental justice is the extraordinary efforts they go into providing aid for affected groups following natural disasters and provide immediate support to those in need. Beyond that,
And during COVID-19 the need and the duty of social workers was highlighted more than ever. It has challenged professionals to rethink the way they engage with client groups and the general spread of COVID-19 has highlighted the environmental impact of humans.
The most important factor to consider within the COVID-19 context is the role of social workers in its role to endorse human rights, promote choice, and even lobby for funding support to eradicate COVID-19 or at least even minimise the impact on these communities that are most affected or at risk from having severe complications if contracting the virus
Lena Dominelli, a well-renowned researcher in the area of green social work emphasises that climate change and industrialisation as well as the loss of biodiversity was a major factor in enabling the virus to cross the animal-human transmission barrier (and COVID-19 was not the first zoonotic virus, remember H1N1 for example?) and cause a global pandemic.
Therefore, it is increasingly important that social workers utilise a green social work perspective to be able to speak out and address not only human inequalities, but address the wider environmental factors within these areas and participate in conversations to preserve areas, challenge land misuse, promote environmentally practices and improve lives.
Overall, there is a clear need for a new perspective from health and social care professionals, there is still a very long way to go to be able to achieve this and to equip professionals to be able to empower the communities most affected by the effects of climate change.