Which Environmental Social Work? Environmentalisms, Social Justice, and the Dilemmas Ahead

Authors: John Mathias, Amy Krings, and Samantha Teixeira

Social work has traditionally been concerned with the welfare of humans, a mission that some scholars want to expand to include other beings. How can concern for nonhumans and the natural environment best be integrated with the profession’s commitment to social justice? Although commentators have made several proposals, few have critically examined the dilemmas or trade-offs that may await a more expansive social work. Examining such challenges in environmental movements past and present, we identify three logics by which some varieties of environmentalism have perpetuated inequity among humans. We then explore how diverse movements for environmental justice—which make equity among humans central to environmental activism—offer a path forward. Environmental justice foregrounds dilemmas raised by integrating concern for humans and nonhumans, and it offers principles for addressing these dilemmas that are rooted in a living tradition of practice. This makes environmental justice the best paradigm for environmental social work.

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John MathiasAmy Krings, and Samantha Teixeira
Social Service Review 2023 97:3569-601

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