Global Warming: A Social Work Response


Webinar Presenters

Steve Rauh, MSW, RSW.  Executive Director of the Manitoba Centre for Families in Transition, and Co-Chair of the Institute for Sustainable Policy Studies.

I have played a key role as a social worker in responding to high conflict divorce in our community.  The work I initiated has been independently evaluated for outcomes (which saw positive changes in families that have been entrenched in dysfunctional patterns) and the agency has been independently evaluated.  As a social worker I have written articles and made presentations about the links between psychology and the environment.  Included in the presentations are: Environmental Sustainability and Clinical Practice (at the Internal Family Systems 2010 Annual Meeting, Chicago, Il), and Restoring the Global Environment: The Need for Social Impact Statements” (Keynote address at the Watershed Center’s 2005 Watershed Restoration Conference, in Oakland, CA)

In my environmental work I co-founded and initiated the Conference on the Hope and Fate of the Earth.  The conference was held bi-annually from 1982 to 1988 in New York, Washington, Ottawa, and Managua (attendance was approximately 900 people per conference).  I am the editor and producer of the film A Call for Peace: The Military Budget and You.  The film is a documentary regarding the work of Ron Dellums, a social worker who served in Congress for 28 years.  I served as editor of the Sierra Club bay area environmental newspaper from 1969 to 1990, and am past treasurer of the Canadian Environmental Network, and currently serve as co-chair of the Ron Dellums, David Brower Institute for Sustainable Policy Studies.

In this Webinar I would like to present focuses on the urgency of our situation and the need for action and participation by all sectors.  I believe that many people are quite anxious – perhaps despairing – about global warming, and that one of the best ways to help people with despair is by opening up avenues of engagement.  Many academicians have been working hard to define the important links between social work and the environment.   Building on this work, I am suggesting a webinar that responds to our long tradition of being advocates and taking action.



The most recent warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are clear.   The time to work together to end fossil fuel emissions of greenhouse gases is now. As professionals we can respond to the human behaviors that are undermining the earth’s ability to sustain and support our lives. The technologies to accomplish this task exist, but human systems are not responding to the crisis with their full capacity, in fact they are, by force of habit, exacerbating the problem.   

The general social narrative continues to be stuck, afraid of change and uncertain. The story is similar to the stories of segregation, apartheid, women’s rights, nuclear contamination and the need for a nuclear freeze. But in these instances, the narrative changed and we were able to respond in productive ways.  Social workers played a central role in all these cases.  Can we do the same for climate change?

Social workers, doctors, teachers, planners, architects, theologians and many others ought to add their perspectives to the overriding and real urgency of global warming. Social work, through its humane focus and multi-generational roles of promoting understanding between people and communities, and advancing humane care for everyone, can contribute to a new hopeful and inclusive narrative.  How can we do this, and what special insights and capacities can we contribute through our professional knowledge and experiences?   Would our understanding of the psychosocial consequences of stress on communities and families help broaden the conversation about the dangers of the moment?  Would our experience of the importance of community participation, and our abilities to listen to and help others be critical at this time?  Can social workers’ thoughtful participation and concerted action contribute to the global tasks at hand in a way that leaves no one out?


Webinar key learnings:

  • A brief presentation of the October 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and other warnings about the immediate need to address global warming. 


  • A brief overview of the off-the-shelf technological solutions that could respond to the IPCC recommendations for action.


  • The need to broaden the social narrative and take action – when has that worked in the past and why? 


  • How has denial and despair been overcome?
  • Do we feel despair?  Can we help professionally with denial and despair?


  • How can social workers contribute through our professional capacities to broadening the conversation and contributing to concerted actions?

    •   How can social workers support each other and the community at large during this era of “eco-anxiety”?