Fostering Sustainability and Mitigating the Social Impact of Climate

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Using Community Projects to
Teach Sustainability Theory: An
Advanced HBSE Course
Eileen M. Brennan, John Dean Ossowski,
and Jessie Camille Kadolph
Annual Program Meeting
Council on Social Work Education
October 16, 2010
This presentation was supported by a grant from the
James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation through the
Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices,
Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA
2
Objectives - Participants will be able to:
1.
2.
3.
Discuss the three aspects of sustainability theory:
economic, environmental and social; and apply
each component to social work practice at the
micro, mezzo, and macro levels.
Identify key components of a model curriculum
for an advanced HBSE course that focuses on
sustainability.
Use community-based learning projects to help
students apply abstract HBSE theory to practice
situations and to generate excitement through a
transformative learning approach.
3
Sustainability Defined


Definitions are wide ranging and varied.
Common themes:
 A long-term, intergenerational focus
 Example: “…meet[ing] the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs.”
(World Commission on Environment and
Development, 1987)
4
Sustainability Defined (continued)
 Common themes:
 Connection between collective human behavior and
environmental impacts:
 Example:“[Four dimensions of sustainability] all of
which are conditions that must be attained to
ensure the continuation of all life on the planet
[are]: human survival, biodiversity, equity, and life
quality. These dimensions are interconnected and
imply that sustainability means living in harmony
with fellow humankind, bird, beast, air, land, sky,
and sea.” (Mary, 2008, 33)
5
Models of Sustainability


Three Pillars
 Economic, Environmental, Social
Two Common Models:
Environment
Society
Economy
Environment
6
Society and the Environment:
A Two-Way Street
Mitigation
There is a growing need to
prevent human activity that
is associated with
environmental damage.
Example: Smog attributed to
motor vehicle emissions.
7
A Two-Way Street: Society
and the Environment
Adaptation
There is a need to rectify
and alleviate the humans
suffering resulting from
environmental damage.
Children Exposed to Excessive Ground Level Ozone
100%
90%
80%
70%
60%
Disproportionate and
Intergenerational effects
of Urban Air Pollution
(Bell, Cohen &
Malekafzali, 2010)
Not Exposed
50%
Percentage of Children Exposed
to Excess Ground-Level Ozone
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
African
American
Asian
American
Latino
White
8
Highlighting the Importance of the Social
Dimension: Our Ecological Crisis as
Symptomatic of a Social Problem
CONSUMERISM – Industrialized economy
needed to support the consumption demands.
Provides means to procure and process materials
from natural world.
Culture
Economy
Natural World
ALIENATION – Values individual achievement
above all else. Inordinate resources to maintain
lifestyles (i.e. everyone must own the best car they
can afford). Everyone competes for everything.
POLLUTION and ENVIRONMENTAL
DEGREDATION – Economic activity produce
pollution and deplete natural resources faster than
they can be replenished.
Based in part on a model proposed by Stephen McKenzie
in McKenzie, S. (2004).
9
Highlighting the Importance of the Social
Dimension: Towards a Culture-Shift as a
Solution
COHESION –Values a long term perspective in
terms of economic growth to support human health
and well-being. Competition exists within limits.
Culture
Economy
Natural World
CONSUMPTION – Growth is planned with
needs of future generations in mind. Materials
extracted in ways that promote long-term
human health. Respect eco-systems and natural
limits.
ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY – Waste is
carefully managed so the future can meet needs and
are equally distributed among society. Resources
consumed with nature’s ability to replenish them.
Based in part on a model proposed by Stephen McKenzie
in McKenzie, S. (2004).
10
How can social workers help?
Social workers are professionals who work to
promote human health and well-being on micro,
mezzo and macro levels of practice.

MICRO
(Individual)
MEZZO
(Organization, Community)
MACRO
(Policy)
11
Expanding Our Thinking: A
Conceptual Shift
SOCIAL
MICRO
(Individual)
ECONOMIC
Traditional Area
Of Focus
MEZZO
(Organization,
Community)
MACRO
(Policy)
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Illustrating the Conceptual Shift:
In a Sustainability Framework
SOCIAL
MICRO
(Individual)
ENVIRONMENTAL
Inter-relationship
Inter-relationship
MEZZO
(Organization,
Community)
MACRO
(Policy)
ECONOMIC
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H2O Project: Example Matrix
SOCIAL
ECONOMIC
ENVIRONMENTAL
MICRO
(Individual)
Personal health
promoted by
drinking clean water
instead of soft drinks
Individuals save money
by using free water in a
reusable container,
rather than paying for
bottled water.
Individual gains peace of mind
knowing that their choice
prevented the environmental
damage caused by bottled water
(i.e.: plastics and hydrologic cycle
interruption)
MEZZO
(Organization,
Community)
Community health
improves by using
water stations as a
educational device
(informing the
campus community
about the benefits of
drinking filtered tap
water)
Local water bureau is
supported as water
provided by the bureau
is used – local job
creation.
Reduction in waste and litter
caused by using bottled water in
disposable plastic containers.
Reduction in energy needed to
refrigerate many bottles of water
(in contrast to water that is filtered
as used).
May cause a shift
away from policies
that support
privatization of water
supplies.
Aggregate effects of
supporting local water
bureaus creates local
jobs and ensures
ongoing support for a
public source of clean
drinking water.
Aggregate effects of reduced
reliance on bottled water results in
reduced pollution (wasted plastic
bottles) and reduced interruptions
of the hydrologic cycle. Less
petroleum-fueled transportation
needed to supply water to people
results in less air pollution and less
greenhouse gas emissions.
MACRO
(Policy)
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Education for Sustainability in Social Work
Using a Transformative Learning Approach
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Supportive Educational Environment


Portland State University
 Houses the Center for Sustainable Processes and
Practices.
 Received a $25 million grant from the Miller
Foundation to move sustainability ahead.
 Offers a Graduate Certificate Program in
Sustainability.
School of Social Work
 Faculty members were given a grant to team with
other departments to form a Social Sustainability
Network with PSU faculty, students, and community
members.
 Emphasizes community-based learning.
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Sustainability at PSU

“Sustainability is often thought of as comprised of three
overlapping goals:
 (a) to live in a way that is environmentally sustainable
or viable over the long term;
 (b) to live in a way that is economically sustainable,
maintaining living standards over the long term; and
 (c) to live in a way that is socially sustainable, now and
in the future”
(Dillard, Dujon, & King, 2009, p. 2)
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Challenging Course Content









Introduction to climate change and environmental
challenges—relation to micro, mezzo, and macro levels
of practice.
Environmental, economic, and social justice for
individuals, groups, and communities.
Sustainable development and SW.
International and global context.
Sustainability and groups at risk.
Working toward sustainability at the community level.
Creating empowering partnerships.
Sustainability and SW ethics.
Revisiting sustainability and social work—theory and
practice.
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Emphasized an Ecocentric
Perspective



Encouraged students to develop a view of the
earth in which humans are one species in a planet
that is enveloped by a complex web of life, rather
than dominated by people and their technology
(Capra, 1996, 2002).
Sought to help them end their alienation from the
natural environment (Jones, 2010).
Fostered a re-indigenization of individuals by
connecting them to place (Coates, Gray &
Heatherington, 2006; Hall, 2010).
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Engaging Students

Three major concerns in designing the course:
 How to make the abstract conceptual frameworks of
sustainability come alive for the students in this
advanced HBSE course.
 How to get students to deeply examine their beliefs
about their place in the natural world, their own
environmental behavior, and their approaches to
practice.
 How to discuss the challenges of mitigating and
adapting to climate change without overwhelming
them with its enormity and immediacy (Hartmann,
2004; Weil, 2009).
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Transformative Learning


“Transformative learning is learning that transforms
problematic frames of reference—sets of fixed
assumptions and expectations (habits of mind, meaning
perspectives, mindsets)—to make them more inclusive,
discriminating, open, reflective, and emotionally able to
change” (Mezirow, 2003, p. 58)
The course was designed to have students engage with
the sustainability framework through dialog, personal
reflection, and social action—particularly appropriate
for social work education (Jones, 2009; Kitchenham,
2008).
21
Phases of Transformative Learning
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Disorienting dilemma.
Self-examination with
feelings of guilt or shame.
Critical assessment of
assumptions.
Recognition that the
process of transformation
is shared with others.
Exploration of options-new roles, relationships,
actions.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
Planning of a course of
action.
Acquisition of knowledge
and skills for implementing
one’s plan.
Provisional trying of new
roles.
Building of competence and
self confidence in new roles.
Reintegration into one’s life
with a new perspective.
Renegotiating relationships.
(Mezirow, 1991)
22
22
Enacting Transformation Reflection




Head-on discussions of climate change presented a
“disorienting dilemma” for class participants.
Lively discussions of environmental justice and
globalization evoked strong feelings—as class
members realized those who had small carbon
footprints were experiencing some of the gravest
consequences.
Basic assumptions regarding American exceptionality
and modernity were discussed.
First assignment was to write a paper on a personal
definition of sustainability, which was then applied to
a group at risk.
23
Enacting Transformation Social Action



Students were asked to form groups to design
and carry out projects that would promote
sustainability.
Often involved discussions in depth of course
concepts and community conditions, and
required them to acquire new skills (such as
social marketing).
Also resulted in trying out new roles as
promoters of sustainable thinking and actions.
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Enacting Transformation Reintegration



Students kept personal journals that recorded their
experiences in the groups and reactions to readings.
Final assignments involved sharing their work with
other students, faculty and community members
through posters presented in a Sustainability Fair at
the end of the term.
Synthesized work in a final paper that included selfreflections on the ways the community-based projects
were applications of sustainability theory.
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 Worked in Central
Appalachia repairing homes
with families experiencing
poverty
 Saw environmental and
economic impacts, but less
aware of social aspects
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 Course tied personal
experiences with academic
perspectives on topic
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a re n e e d e d to s e e th i s p i c t u re .
d e c o m p re s s o r
Qu i c k T i m e ™ a n d a
HBSE Graduate Course on Social
Work and Sustainability
Case Studies
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Supply Exchange: Sustainability Promotion
Started an exchange of usable school supplies for
the School of Social Work.
28
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Supply Exchange: Sustainability Promotion
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Green Cleaning - Sustainability Promotion
Held sessions teaching social workers how to make
non-toxic cleaning substances
30
“Social Work and Sustainability:
A Narrative Approach to Social, Economic and
Environmental Issues in the Profession”
Participant Quote from a worker in the field of child welfare:
“…I haven’t had a lot of training in this (physical environment
in social work)”.
“Integrating Environmental Elements into
Social Work Education”
Participant Quote: “I believe without a greater knowledge of the
world environmental issues, we miss an an opportunity to
improve the quality of life holistically”.
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Class Outcomes


New skills such as social marketing, partnering with
community organizations and behaviors that promote
sustainability.
Additional knowledge about the current environmental
crisis, globalization, sustainability theory and the
relation to social work.
 “In order to transition to a sustainable future, we
must concern ourselves with what leads individuals
to engage in behavior that collectively is sustainable,
and design our programs accordingly. Then, the
transition must be shaped well in such a manner that
in the end, communities will be able to pass down the
values to the next generation with ease.” (Naanyane,
2009, final paper).
32 32
Outcomes for Outside of Class
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33
N=200
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References
Bell, J., Cohen, L., & Malekafzali, S. (2010). The transportation prescription: Bold
new ideas for healthy, equitable transportation reform in America. Oakland:
PolicyLink. Accessed on March, 15, 2010 from:
http://www.policylink.org/atf/cf/%7B97C6D565-BB43-406D-A6D5ECA3BBF35AF0%7D/transportationRX_final.pdf
Capra, F. (1996). The web of life. New York: Doubleday.
Capra, F. (2002). The hidden connections: Integrating the biological, cognitive, and
social dimensions of life into a science of sustainability. New York: Random House.
Coates, Gray & Heatherington (2006). An “ecospiritual” perspective: Finally a
place for indigenous approaches. British Journal of Social Work, 36 (3), 381-399.
Dillard, J., Dujon, V. & King, M.C. (2009). Introduction. In J. Dillard, V. Dujon,
& M.C King (Eds.) Understanding the social dimension of sustainability (pp. 2-12).
New York: Routledge.
Hall, D. E. (2010). A call home: Rediscovering ourselves through re- indigenization.
Manuscript submitted for publication. Department of Psychology, Portland
State University, Portland, OR.
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References
Hartmann, T. (2004). The last hours of ancient sunlight: The fate of the world and
what we can do before it’s too late. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Hawke, Stephen (2004). Social sustainability: Towards some definitions. Hawke
Research Institute Working Paper Series, 27, 1 – 29.
Jones (2010). Responding to the ecological crisis: Transformative pathways for
social work education. Journal of Social work Education, 46 (1), 67-84.
Kitchenham, A. (2008). The evolution of John Mezirow’s transformative
learning theory. Journal of Transformative Education, 6 (2), 104-123.
Mary, N. (2008). Social work in a sustainable world. Chicago: Lyceum Books.
Mezirow, J. (2003). Transformative learning as discourse. Journal of
Transformative Education, 1 (1), 58-63.
Weil, Z. (2009). Most good, least harm: A simple principle for a better world and
meaningful life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
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Questions?
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