Social workers and students join the Climate Justice March in New York City
The IFSW Climate Justice Program is also a tool for advocacy to promote policy and practice changes within organizations to shrink our collective ecological footprint.
For example, IFSW has now established a practice of only printing books on post-consumer waste paper products and makes digital copies available for free as PDF downloads.
Other policies and practices that organizations and event planners could consider advocating to establish:
- hosting virtual meetings rather than only face-to-face meetings
- ordering locally sourced, organic, and plant-based food
- using reusable or compostable products
- reducing the printing associated with conference programs, and instead offering cloud-based options
- contributing to the IFSW Climate Justice program for all organizational sanctioned travel (i.e., each employee or volunteer traveling on behalf of an organization would compute their ecological footprint using the IFSW Climate Justice Program’s calculator tool and then their organization would contribute the suggested donation amount)
In addition, we are currently presenting at the World Forum on Climate Justice and reaching out to conference organizers within IFSW Regional partners, and beyond, to collaborate and see if they will promote the IFSW Climate Justice Program on their webpages for their event participants to consider. Please consider ways you could help us promote this at events you host or attend.
We are thankful for all who were involved and who painstakingly sorted out the Global Agenda 2010-2020. Now, looking ahead, we are all invited to contribute to the next Global Agenda (2020-2030). For example, you can advocate for climate justice by offering input about how the climate crisis is urgently demanding our personal and professional attention, especially how it impacts your local areas. Please share your thoughts on how we can shape the Next Global Agenda by offering your feedback here.
Social Workers Share Perspectives on COP26, Glasgow, UK
Around the world, social workers continue to lift up the critical concerns of climate change, as well as working towards climate justice in action and through advocacy efforts. For example, several social workers who were present for COP26 shared their perspectives and are noted below:
Dr. Benjamin Heim Shepard inspires us with his MANY local efforts as well as his participation in the frontlines of protests, such as the #COP26 Global Day of Action march. See his blog for photos and narrative, play and ideas: “Life Is Full of Smiles and Radiation!” Between Abundant Optimism and Chaos: #COP26Glasgow, Fridays for the Future and Global Day of Action
Dr. Lena Dominelli extended the global invitation to a COP26 Seminar featuring young people as Climate Action Champions on behalf of both the International Association of Schools of Social Work and the University of Stirling, featuring Vishanthie Sewpaul (PhD) as a keynote speaker.
Dr. Sandra Engstrom, attended COP26 for the first time, and completely agrees with the criticisms that COP26 is facing. “It felt exclusionary at times, the day focused on gender was woefully inadequate (and shouldn’t have been shared with the theme science and innovation) considering we know the massive disparities in how climate change impacts women and girls, indigenous voices were still not included as much as they should be considering their vulnerability and yet protection of 80% of the worlds biodiversity, this is the 26th COP and we have yet to see extensive and sustainable change from the world leaders so it is hard to trust what gets said and what will be the final agreed outcomes. But, it was also inspiring to see just how many people are passionate about these issues, inspiring to see those that came out every day to call out the leaders, protest, push and make their voices heard. It was impressive to see some of the innovative ideas that are out there within industry to do what they can as we “race to zero”. Social workers are at the intersection of so many of these issues and we need to continue to be at the table to push for change and increase our knowledge about the true impact of climate change on vulnerable communities.” Read her blog on the University of Stirling’s website here.
Dr. Praveen Kumar, also in attendance at COP26, shared that he had the privilege to meet environmental justice champion, Dr. Robert Bullard, and saw Former President of the USA, Barack Obama. The overall philosophy of this conference was to build bridges, bring climate equity, and help countries that are most vulnerable to climate impacts. However, I noticed the disparity in the event itself. The pavilions of the richer countries such as the US, UK, EU, Australia witnessed a number of media agencies, delegates, participants, and observers. On the contrary, the pavilions of the poorer countries such as Sierra Leone, Congo, Bangladesh had limited audiences. This was routine for every day of the event. It is surprising how the conference participants were more inclined to hear from the Global North over the Global South, where it is the latter who have been at the receiving end of the disproportionate climate disasters. In addition, what was striking to me was that there was no dedicated pavilion for environmental justice and equity. This was the issue raised by Dr. Bullard, too, in my conversation with him. On a positive side, I would like to commend that this was the first CoP meeting that garnered a huge response from around the world. This event did a great job in resonating the urgency to limit the global mean surface temperature within 1.5 degree Celsius. Social workers merit a significant role in the call to action by the CoP26. The conference emphasized the role of adaptation and working with local institutions, awareness building and engaging with local population, role of youth in climate advocacy, and promoting a nature-positive pattern of life. Each of these endeavors naturally call for social work research and practice.
Dr Sebastian Cordoba highlighted the need for urgent government action beyond COP26, prioritising First Nations knowledges and the key role of social workers. “As we have highlighted in our COP26 Climate Action Statement in Australia, the worsening impacts of climate change are undeniable. From increased rates of extinctions, heatwaves, bushfires, floods and droughts, the impacts are real and already having a significant effect on the health and wellbeing of individuals, groups and communities in Australia and across the world. Climate change is inherently a social justice issue as the effects compound and exacerbate existing inequalities. There are impacts across every aspect of life, including increased food prices and electricity costs, failing public infrastructure, and inundation of coastal areas. We need urgent, systemic and inclusive action from governments while we still have time. Governments around the world, to commit to stronger targets and to cut climate pollution this decade. The knowledge and solutions exist to make effective reduction of the negative outcome of climate change, it only requires commitment.
This was reaffirmed at the recent IFSW Asia Pacific Conference (with the theme being Social work and the SDGs) where IFSW UN Commissioner Priska Fleischlin, IFSW Secretary-General, Dr Rory Truell and IFSW UN Asia Pacific Representative Dr Sebastian Cordoba reaffirmed the urgent need for transformation to a just, fair, solidary and eco-friendly world. Asserting the need for climate justice as climate change is affecting the people we work with who, even before the climate crisis, were already in vulnerable situations. This must be driven by a bottom up approach built on collaboration, partnership and respect.