American Academy Blog

Can social work promote ecocity citizenship?

December 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm Comments are off for this post

1. The state of the world is challenged by issues of inequality, population change, and environmental justice. Global climate change threatens many populations through weather related disasters and loss of habitats needed for a sustainable livelihoods. It is imperative that people reduce carbon emissions and live sustainably. Cities are the largest structures built by humans. The ecocity is a city in balance with nature. The ecocity is where social and economic justice meets environmental justice. An ecocity has citizens, or active members with a voice and responsibility, not limited to consumption. Social workers and social work scholars can play a role in using community organizing for to promote ecocity citizenship.

2. Despite the social problems one associates with cities, they also have manifested themselves as sites of solutions. Social workers have been working to solve urban problems in cities as early as the Settlement House days. Urban economists have noted the agglomeration effects of cities to produce economies of scale and efficiency in the labor market. Recently, it has been observed that the density of cities can produce a lower per capita carbon consumption. Social work scholars have recently noted innovations in community organizing using consensus to build social capital through community gardens and work on blight remediation.

3. It is possible to make meaningful progress in a decade. All the technologies required to lead sustainable lives and get the planet within its biocapacity exist. What is missing is political will and a common framework of assessment and evaluation. Social workers may use skills as social planners and employ a community indicators approach to evaluation that can support bringing cities within their biocapacity. The International Ecocity Framework & Standards is being developed by Ecocity Builders and a team of core advisors to serve this role. This project is timely because the United Nations is shifting from the Millennium Development Goals as the primary tracking mechanism to the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.

4. The ecocity is a vision of the city being built by ecocitizens from different backgrounds activists, planners, architects, scientists, engineers, artists, and scholars across the globe. There is an existing interdisciplinary network that includes social work that meets at the semi-annual Ecocity Summit.

5. Solving the problem of global sustainability will require cities to become ecocities. This will require a great deal of innovation. We have to create solutions beyond consciousness raising, regulation, and market incentives. We need to build relationships that are different than those of the 20th century and need to have ways of understanding progress that are culturally competent in a global society.