Research Papers: Lawrence A. Palinkas

Social Sustainability and Global Climate Change

By Lawrence A. Palinkas, Marleen Wong

Social Work and Sustainability in Asia


Maintaining social sustainability in the context of global climate change is among the most pressing challenges facing contemporary societies in the Asia-Pacific Rim. These societies are increasingly being confronted with a host of changes in the physical environment, ranging from natural disasters, rising air and water temperatures, rising sea levels and ocean acidification, prolonged droughts and scarcity of fresh water in some regions, and extensive flooding in other regions. All of these changes are contributing to the wholesale destruction of natural ecosystems on land and sea. They also have profound social implications, threatening human health and well-being, destabilizing assets, coping capacities, and response infrastructures, and substantially increasing the number of socially, economically, and psychologically vulnerable individuals and communities. Moreover, these impacts will not affect everyone equally, leading to new social inequities with significant social justice implications. In this chapter, we summarize the human impacts of global climate change with a focus on the sustainability of individuals, families, and communities. We then address strategies for promoting sustainability in the face of two specific impacts: population displacement and disaster response and recovery. These strategies adhere to a three-tier model of climate change impact and response, and include microlevel interventions designed to prevent and mitigate behavioral and mental health impacts; mezzo-level interventions to prevent and mitigate social conflict within families and communities; and macro-level policies and programs designed to build and support individual, families, and community resilience, assets, and action.

A conceptual model to assess stress-associated health effects of multiple ecosystem services degraded by disaster events in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere

By Paul A. Sandifer, Landon C. Knapp, Tracy K. Collier, Amanda L. Jones, Robert-Paul Juster, Christopher R. Kelble, Richard K. Kwok, John V. Miglarese, Lawrence A. Palinkas, Dwayne E. Porter, Geoffrey I. Scott, Lisa M. Smith, William C. Sullivan, and Ariana E. Sutton-Grier



Few conceptual frameworks attempt to connect disaster-associated environmental injuries to impacts on ecosystem services (the benefits humans derive from nature) and thence to both psychological and physiological human health effects. To our knowledge, this study is one of the first, if not the first, to develop a detailed conceptual model of how degraded ecosystem services affect cumulative stress impacts on the health of individual humans and communities. Our comprehensive Disaster-Pressure State-Ecosystem Services-Response-Health model demonstrates that oil spills, hurricanes, and other disasters can change key ecosystem components resulting in reductions in individual and multiple ecosystem services that support people’s livelihoods, health, and way of life. Further, the model elucidates how damage to ecosystem services produces acute, chronic, and cumulative stress in humans which increases risk of adverse psychological and physiological health outcomes. While developed and initially applied within the context of the Gulf of Mexico, it should work equally well in other geographies and for many disasters that cause impairment of ecosystem services. Use of this new tool will improve planning for responses to future disasters and help society more fully account for the costs and benefits of potential management responses. The model also can be used to help direct investments in improving response capabilities of the public health community, biomedical researchers, and environmental scientists. Finally, the model illustrates why the broad range of potential human health effects of disasters should receive equal attention to that accorded environmental damages in assessing restoration and recovery costs and time frames.

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