The Meandering Social Worker

wandering : wondering : learning

Green Social Work

Green Social Work: From Environmental Crises to Environmentl Justice, is the title of a 2012 book by renowed social work academic Lena Dominelli.  Polity. ISBN 97-0-7456-5401-0. Paperback: £15.99 (www.politybooks.com)

How could social work be ‘green’ I wondered as I approached this book.

Starting with the historical foundations of social work up to identifying it as the weakest (and progressively weakening) player on the professional stage, Green Social Work is a rallying cry for the re-politicisation of social work.

Dominelli uses examples from the impact on the poor and disadvantaged caused by international ecological disasters, and the role played by big business and the ruling elite in both the cause and response to those disasters, and the disenfranchising of the world’s poor, thus linking social work practice and values to ecological values and a possible solution to the profession’s “crisis of confidence”.

In doing so she demands the practitioner think beyond the micro level of day to day practice with individuals in their immediate circumstances to the role and responsibility of social work to make a difference at the macro level and reclaim the strengths of the profession.

Practical case studies, particularly from community social work, along with suggestions as to how social workers could be involved in environmentally related politics, illustrate how, with a little application, these concepts can be incorporated into everyday practice.

What is not clear is what impact societal and government expectations, employment criteria and current funding of community social work in particular will have on the ability of the profession to apply the green social work values.

As an academic work the book is not always light reading, but is of especial relevance at a strategic level and to those with an interest in the ‘bigger picture’.

The profession is in crisis and this is one voice among a growing number that wants to see social work rekindle its early political roots.  I look forward to following up more of this theme in future.

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