Lisa J. Maddux
Graduate School of Social Work Student, University of Houston

"The Intrinsic Value of The Planet"

Although new to the field of social work, I can say with a certain level of confidence that, generally speaking, the social work profession seems derelict in addressing the intrinsic value of our planet and the ways in which the physical environment affects our clients. As a student in an MSW program, and someone who is currently performing research on the subject, I can attest that the curriculum link between our physical environment and our client base is fragmented at best and non-existent at worst. Our physical environment, more often than not, takes a back seat to our concentrated efforts with regard to social environment. This is troubling, not only in terms of the implications for planetary sustainability, but also for clients whose issues are related to the physical environment and abuses to same. Until we take all forms of environment into account, we are not completely assisting clients.

I commend the founder of this site for not only recognizing but also addressing a seriously unmet need. As with any type of social action, coalition building is crucial. Concern for planetary sustainability is no different. This site will provide a unifying element for those interested in deep ecological social work-offering not only a central location for information, resources and links, but also a meeting place for academics, social workers in the field and students-whether already committed or with a burgeoning interest.

As a society, we tend to discard the old and herald the new. With each technological and societal advance, we become further and further removed from that which was responsible for our early sustenance, and still is in many untold ways. We seem to be very complacent in terms of environmental sustainability and ignore, with increasing severity, the deterioration of our physical environment and the resources it provides-much of this deterioration occurring at the hands of human beings. This neglect of our environment is in no way benign. More correctly, it is a case of malignant neglect. For, if we continue to ignore the importance of the environment and its impact on our lives, we will awake one day very soon to discover that those resources, on which we are so blindly dependent, have disappeared.

I am ashamed to admit that my interest in the physical environment and deep ecological social work is extremely new. Prior to my awareness of the initial education about environmental issues, my concern for our planet was limited to looking at disgust at the person who littered out of their car window or walking down the street. If someone had asked me if I was concerned about planetary preservation, I would have proudly said "of course." Until recently, they would have been only words.

My interest in our physical environment began with research on environmental racism and classism. I was appalled to learn that the dumping of toxins and waste in, on and under the environment could be used as another form of oppression against people already faced with incredible barriers. Despite the fervor of this new interest, I discovered that it is not only difficult but also dangerous to advocate on behalf of something while not fully educated about it. So, I made a decision to start from the beginning; that is, to educate myself about environmental deterioration and learn about the ways in which we can contribute to protection of the environment. As I become more educated on the subject, I am increasing my level of comfort about delving into some form of action, whether it is arguing for a full and complete environmental focus in social work curriculum or using my interest in human rights to become involved in the Amnesty International/Sierra Club joint campaign to defend those who are imprisoned, tortured or murdered for defending the environment.

For academics and social workers concerned with deep ecology, my words may not have much impact but I hope these words will affect the student interested in planetary sustainability or the student who, by word of mouth, or through web surfing, will come across this site. For those students, I ask you to educate yourselves about the environment and deep ecology. I impress upon you the importance of pushing for a stronger focus on the physical environment in social work curriculum. I implore you to consider the many ways in which our clients can be and are affected by our physical environment. Lastly, I plead with you to recognize the urgency with which these things need to be done.

Lisa J. Maddux