Skip to Content

“While there may be social workers who work more directly with the environment, we don’t want to give anyone the image that environmental social work is actually a niche or subset of social work… in reality what we want people to understand is that all social work should be environmental social work meaning that all social workers in any area of practice should consider the inextricable links between the social and environmental justice issues. So we as a profession are based on the framework of person-in-environment we must consider that physical environment as well as the social, political, and economic environments of our clients and their communities. This often referred to as broadening or expanding the person-in-environment framework to include the physical environment.”-

Rachel Forbes, Dr. Andrea Nesmith, Meredith Powers, &
Dr. Cathryne Schmitz

In this episode, our guests discuss their contention that environmental social work and environmental justice represent a subset of our traditional conceptualization of social justice. Whether it is the water in Flint, Michigan or the effects of global warming, the disproportionate impact on vulnerable and marginalized communities requires that social workers practice beyond the micro level and enter into the arenas of advocacy, influencing policy-making, social action, and various other social work role sets.

Rachel Forbes, MSW, LSW, is an assistant professor of the practice of social work at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. Rachel is the Western Colorado MSW program director and is also an adjunct professor at Colorado Mountain College, where she teaches in the Sustainability Studies Bachelor of Arts Programs. Courses that Rachel teaches across the two institutions include contemporary social work issues in western Colorado, fostering sustainable behavior, MSW foundation and concentration field seminar, and sustainability capstone, among other foundation-level sustainability studies courses. Rachel worked with the International Federation of Social Workers in her concentration year internship at Monmouth University, where she obtained her MSW in 2011. Rachel is a member of the CSWE Committee on Environmental Justice and the CSWE Council for Global Learning and Practice.

Ande Nesmith, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the St. Kate’s-St. Thomas Master of Social Work program. Her research examines the intersection of environmental justice and current social work practice and where practitioners see educational needs. She integrates environmental content into research, HBSE, and large client systems, including service learning with local communities and policy advocacy. Dr. Nesmith mentors students in preparing grant proposals and in implementing independent research projects on environmental justice.

Meredith C. F. Powers, MSW, is a sustainability faculty fellow and the project coordinator for the College of Social Work’s Green Initiative at the University of South Carolina. As a doctoral candidate, her current research includes the professional socialization of social workers, ecological justice, and university-community partnerships for sustainability. Meredith also serves on the Environmental Justice Committee for the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and is a leader in the use of social media to impact social change and to engage in international collaboration, as she has established and administers the growing, online network ‘Green/Environmental Social Work Collaborative Network’ for social workers around the world who are committed to ecological justice.

Cathryne L. Schmitz, Ph.D., MSW, is a professor within the department of Social Work and the department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She is also an affiliate faculty member in Women and Gender Studies and a research fellow with the Center for New North Carolinians. Her scholarship focuses on analysis of the privilege/oppression nexus, critical multiculturalism, environmental sustainability, leadership, interdisciplinary education, global engagement, organizational development and community building, and peacebuilding. She is engaged in intercultural global education and knowledge building. She has numerous publications and is currently focusing in the areas of peace assessment, environmental justice, and organizational/community transformation.

Interviewer: Louanne Bakk, PhD

Show Notes

Join the discussion

More from this show

The inSocialWork Podcast

The inSocialWork Podcast