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.