Global environmental changes—such as pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, and freshwater decline—affect people worldwide, with impacts that are not just physical, but also social and economic. These changes affect family and community stability, social relationships, health, and sometimes survival. Consequences of global environmental change range from minor inconvenience to injury and death. Common effects are food and water insecurity, respiratory illness and disease, mental distress and emotional health problems, family separation, social network loss, housing damage, unemployment, income disruption and asset depletion.
Environmental change is also a social justice issue. Consequences typically are worse for some groups than for others. People with less social, economic and political advantage are more likely to experience negative effects from pollution, resource shortages, severe weather incidents and other environmental problems.
The Environment and Social Development initiative at the Center for Social Development examines social vulnerability to environmental change, and strategies for social action and adaptation.
Social action is the mobilization of people in organized, collective efforts to question the status quo and advocate for policy change. We emphasize social action that leads to reductions in negative environmental problems. Adaptation is increased capacity to cope with changes that are already in motion or expected in the future. CSD emphasizes adaptation through formal programs and policies designed to reduce vulnerability to environmental change.
Through this work, the Environment and Social Development initiative aims to contribute to a more environmentally sustainable world, in which all people have fair and optimal opportunities to live full, healthy and productive lives.
- International Symposium: “People and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation, Social Justice”
- Grand Challenges for Social Work: “Create social responses to a changing environment.” Read the policy action statement urging development of policies targeting environmentally-induced displacement in the United States.