Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Social service-Environmental aspects, Human ecology, Social justice, Social work, Natural environment, Environmental justice, Social problems, Psychology, Environmental health, Environmental medicine, Environmentalism, Ecopsychology, Child development, Physical environment, Ecological approach, Ecosystems approach, Ecosocial work, Ecological self, Ecofeminism, Deep ecology


Given the natural environment's importance to humans, this study was undertaken to understand how social work has considered the natural environment in approaching social problems compared to other fields that consider the natural environment. In addition, comparing literature from several fields, the author sought to evaluate the adequacy of social work's attention to the natural environment as the field analyzes and conceives solutions to social problems and carries out its mission. The study examined the gaps in social work literature regarding the natural environment. The author compared published literature from social work, psychology, environmental health and medicine, and environmentalism to understand how the other fields can inform social work on levels from micro to macro. Apparently little literature attends to the natural environment in social work despite the field's origination in response to problems due to urbanization and industrialization. The study gives greater attention to social work scholar John Coates's (2003) comprehensive new paradigm for social work and the natural environment. The selected comparison fields provide perspective and information (both scientific and philosophical) on the natural environment's relevance in social work's domains including ecological systems approach (person-in-environment), child development, social welfare policy, environmental justice, and clinical practice. In addition, current global challenges call on social workers to collaborate with environmental and social activists and participate in community led responses.




iii, 136 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 126-131)