Environment Conservation: Social Worker as a Catalyst of Sustainable Development (Some Observations)
Earth provides enough to satisfy everyman’s needs
but not to every man’s greed
Social Work Profession, over a period of time has undergone and still is undergoing changes in its philosophy, approaches and ethics. Its goal of addressing the problems of individuals, group, community and society at large is being addressed in a variegated manner in keeping with changing scenario of present times and in view of changing complexity of problems. One such new dimension is to understand the desirability and possibility of associating problems of human beings vis-s-vis physical environment. Environmental Social Work is an emerging field, as social workers like other environmentalists can work towards addressing the problems confronted by human beings as a consequence of environmental degradation and other related issues. The author, in this paper has attempted to understand this emerging field and briefly deliberated on the role of Social Workers in this field.
Friends, I am writing this to share some of my views, from my observations and experiences regarding the relevance and importance of Environment conservation for Sustainable Development and how Social Work as helping profession and Social worker an agent of Social Change, can contribute together towards ensuring environment conservation for sustainable development adopting social work principles and methodology. My writing is largely based on theoretical understanding of the subject with reference to my observation of the programmes designed for this purpose by the government and NGO’s.
It is rather difficult to conceptualize, and technically define this subject as the availability of literature pertaining to this and research undertaken is limited. Also this area (Environment Conservation) according to me is still in its infancy and is yet to emerge a recognized discipline of Social Work. However, a few questions arose in my mind when I started working on this paper, and I have tried to have them answered. I bet you too may have similar questions.
1. Environment Conservation: Meaning/Definition and its relevance to social work.
The word ‘Environment’ is derived from the French word “Environ” which means “surrounding”. Our surrounding includes biotic factors like human beings, flora and fauna, microbes, etc.; and a biotic factors such as light, air, water, soil, etc,. It is also used to mean ‘surrounding and everything that affects an organism during its life time’. It is often defined as “the sum total of water, air and land inter-relationship among themselves and also with the human being, other living organism and property”. The environment can also be defined as ‘the totality of circumstances surrounding an organism, or group of organisms especially (a) the combination of external and physical condition that affect and influence the growth, development and survival of organism and
(b)The complex of social and cultural conditions affecting the nature of individual or community. In Thesaurus the word environment is used to mean the totality of surrounding conditions.
Environment Conservation is the act of conserving or saving our natural resources through careful management. This means we can use the resources but wisely and responsibly. It is nothing but protecting the natural environment for the benefit of both humans and nature. Protection of environment is important because if we use our natural resources we will eventually run out of them so, it is necessary to save our environment and it is natural by-products for posterity.
Social Work since its inception, development and acceptance as a profession, underwent a significant changes both in its philosophy (from charity, to right based approach) and methodology of addressing the problems of individuals, groups, communities and society at large. The present subject is yet to become an area of focus and intervention in social work (as either to social work has focused on social components of the environment (like customs, culture, habits, income, occupation, religion, etc) and not much on physical (water, air, soil etc.) and biological (like planet and animal life) components of the environment. The recent incidents of natural disasters have demonstrated beyond doubt that these two components also have significant bearing on the lives of human beings. Thus social work has a role to play in ensuring environmental conservation as environmental conservation is necessary for sustainable development. Social Work having the objectives of facilitating and empowering people for their development strongly believes in sustainable development. Mary Richmond way back in 1922 itself acknowledged the physical environment as an important contextual consideration for Social Work practice.
2. Why we should think about this subject
Mainly, because of the following reasons
3. How environmental conversation and sustainable development are related?
4. Can Social worker be a catalyst for Environment Conservation and Sustainable Development?
Obviously, Social workers can serve as catalysts, - as by definition, catalyst means ‘an event or a person causing a change’. Social workers have worked and are working to effect a positive change in the lives of people by facilitating change in them. What is required now is, they should use the environment for positive change and work on in building/incorporating environmentalism in social work profession and in development sector. To be more specific the social workers can do / perform the following roles which are catalytic in nature.
a. Creating Awareness: Social workers can play a important role in advocating the cause of Environment Conservation and Sustainable Development. They can do it by sensitising the public, policy makers and all stake holders of development sector (including social work activist) on various positive dimensions of environmental conservation specially its relative relevance, and to some extent, its inevitability for sustainable development.
b. Social Workers are expected to address social issues related to development and environment. They can effectively do it by creating critical awareness on the importance of conservation of natural resources and biological diversity, control of environmental pollution, and finally stabilization of human population and environment. As discussed already, welfare and development of people has got much to do with natural resources.
c. Social Workers can/may develop familiarity with conservation issues and programmes both at micro and macro level. For example, over the past three decades the Govt. Of India has launched a large number of environmental health programmes.
The Social Workers can mobilize community resources, participation for these programmes by not only creating awareness about the importance of these programmes but also by making them partners of such development initiatives.
d. Many of the problems and ill effects of environmental degradation can be effectively addressed/ mitigated by adopting a policy of sustainable development. Sustainable development is defined as ‘the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their needs. (UN 1990). According to Odette (1993) to achieve sustainable development involves a judicious use of natural resources such that the carrying capacity and the productive capacity are not overexploited.
e. Interventions based on social work principles can be developed and implemented to deal with environmental issues like destruction of natural resources, global warming and climate change, toxic materials production, and waste disposes, and also air and water pollution. The intervention can be both for micro levels and macro levels problems. For example the following type of interventions can be considered
“The study of disease is really the study of man and his environment”
5. Social Work Intervention towards Sustainable Development through Environment Conservation -A case study of Veerapura Lake, Karnataka, India
Sustainable Development is a pattern of resource utilization that aim to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present but also for future generation it is some time also taught as ELF-Environment, Local People and Future.
Keeping the ELF in view the Dept. Of Social Work of Acharya Institute of Management and Science, Bangalore(Under the leadership of the HOD of Social Work Dept.) in collaboration with a community based organization initiated activities (2008-09) to save water body and thereby prevent environmental degradation. The Dept. has organized several rallies and Save –A –Lake Campaign. By adopting the principles of community organization the people at gross root level were motivated to take part in this campaign through conducting street plays on the campaign and also on environment related issues like pollution, ban on plastic, encroachment on water bodies etc. The Social Work students had several meetings with the local authorities (President & members of the municipality) regarding the Veerapura Lake Campaign and the importance of lake for the people and even Lives Stock. The local people were made a part of this effort through consensual and welfare based approach.
The Govt. and local bodies were also involved in order to fasten the process of change. The Dept. of Social Work took an active part in Plantation of 3000 samplings around the area of lake so that the water could be preserved along with the ambition of “Go Green”. Awareness campaign was organized regarding the encroachments and the scarcity of water that will follow. Distribution of pamphlets and handbills, awakening the people to participate, prevention of the immersion of the idol of Lord Ganesha were also undertaken as part of the campaign. The general objective of Social Work, in this initiative was the improvement of the well being of people, as well as promoting environment sustainability through participation and empowerment of people.
Only because of the effort of the Dept. of Social Work, the lake was protected both from encroachment and environmental degradation. It appears nowadays people are also using this lake water for drinking!!
The prospect of social workers being catalyst in achieving environment conservation for sustainable development greatly depends on building these interdependent systems into the academic and practical realm of social work. I strongly recommend and hope that in view of the relative significance of environment conservation for sustainable development over the years, in due course this will become a most sought field/ area of social work practice. Advocacy programmes on social work lines should be inbuilt into the policies on environment conservation and sustainable development. Social workers on their part should strive to acquire knowledge in this field and a set of skills specifically to address the problems related to environment conservation and sustainable development.
1. Chandrashekara, T.S (2012) : Sustainable Social Development;Challenges And Prospects (Some Observations) in the proceedings of the National Conference on Sustainable Social Development in India: New Vistas and Challenges” Tumkur University, India, P. No-1 & 2.
2. Channappa, S (2012) : Social work Intervention towards Sustainable, P.No-55.
3. Development-A Case Study of Veerapura Lake, in the proceedings of the National Conference on Sustainable Social Development in India: New Vistas and Challenges” Tumkur University, India
4. Mukhpadhya, A (1997) : The Independent Commission on Health in India.
“Report of The Independent Commission on Health in India” Voluntary Health Association of India publication, New Delhi, India, Ch-11, P.No-145-510.
5. Park, K. (2009) : Preventive and Social Medicine, 20th edition, M/s. Banarsidas Bhanot publication, Jabalpur, India, Ch-13, P. No-87.
6. Zapf., M.K. (2010) : Social Work and the Environment: Understanding People and Place, Critical Social Work, 2010 Vol. 11, No. 3.
2. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/5081/8/08_ chapter%201.pdf
M.A., MSW., Mphil.., (NIMHANS)., PhD. Guest faculty, Department of Social Work, Bangalore University, Jnanabharati, Bangalore -560056 And Consultant Psychiatric Counsellor, Spandana Hospitals Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore-560010.
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