Elevating the social justice impact of climate change

Many hands holding up a globe.

Many people think of sustainability as only being about the environment and natural resource preservation. In fact, most probably do not think social work and climate change belong in the same sentence. But the increase in climate-related disasters and pollution disproportionately impacts marginalized communities around the world. This makes climate change a core social justice issue. 

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is elevating awareness of environmental justice for its students, across the USC community and beyond in line with the university’s moonshot initiative focused on sustainability. A new sustainability-centered course has been added to the school’s curriculum. An ongoing faculty workgroup is tackling the issue through interdisciplinary collaboration. And researchers are leading an international colloquium this summer exploring AI-driven solutions to human problems resulting from climate change and environmental disruption. All of this reflects an overall commitment by USC Social Work to ensure that education, research and practice around climate change and sustainability includes the ways in which it continues to generate increasing inequality and injustice. 

“Climate change impacts the populations that the social work and nursing disciplines seek to help,” said Devon Brooks, associate dean of academic affairs and associate professor. “If you are poor or marginalized, you are particularly likely to be exposed to the effects of climate change. Our hope is that by adopting this lens in a deliberate, thoughtful way, we will better see, address and prevent the human impact, while also transforming how we think about both health and sustainability.” 

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