Diane McMillen Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas

"Social Work: Curator of the Environment?
Your mission... should you choose to accept..."

It's Monday evening, the last day of my Labor Day holiday, and I find myself chuckling as I ride home in my husband's truck. As he drove along gravel country roads, I had been aimlessly pondering what I should write "in support" of generating interest in a Web site my friend and colleague Fred is creating. He wants to establish a forum where concerned social workers can join voices in encouraging the profession to evidence a commitment to our physical world. In my moment of near bliss, as a cool breeze blew across my face while I watched a magnificent orange ball of fire sink into the hazy steel blue of the horizon, I found it laughable that we needed to generate interest and try to create this sort of "movement." How could any self-respecting human being, to say nothing of an educated social work professional NOT be concerned about the treatment of our earth? Of all the laudable movements that Social Work has spearheaded or joined, it seems a groundswell of passion within the profession to recommit to "save the planet" would not require letters of support.

But here we are, living in a period in history where the destruction of our environment, the depletion of our resources, and the extinction of plants and animals from this planet, are accepted as inevitable by-products of progress. Although there are a few strong voices that have taken up this cause, a much more concerted effort is warranted if we are going to change this destructive direction. Typically, this would be the place in a scholarly writing to begin my litany of quotes from all the experts in the field who have MORE THAN documented the grim reality of what living "the good life" has created for the planet. But, this is really unnecessary. No informed person can reasonably deny the irreversible damage that we have done to the earth. The challenge for this group is to not only get the word out in the professional circle, but to translate our thoughts into action. Publishing our words in scholarly journals, promoting web sites, and presenting at national conferences is only a small part of the needed agenda.

I attended a live music performance recently where the artist Don Henley seemed to me to be delivering our message, at least conceivably, to a much larger and potentially more relevant group. As Don Henley sang, his words haunted, as well as inspired me. In one tune, Working It, he says:

"We're partying fools in the autumn of a hay day
Although we're running out of everything, can't afford to quit
Before this binge is over...gotta squeeze off one more hit
We're working it"

In another line from Good-bye to a River, Don Henley concludes:

"The captains of industry, with their tools on the hill
They're killing everything divine...what will I tell his child of mine?"

Henley raises perhaps the most pertinent question. What do we tell our children? What are we actually saying and doing on a daily basis? What do we tell our students? What do we, as social work professionals model? Are we active, physically and literally, in doing something to make a difference? Perhaps this website is our place to begin translating our thoughts and beliefs into action.

This web site is a godsend in many ways. It will potentially give people a center, a location to dream, scheme, and plan ways to make a difference. This could become the forum where we share ideas about class assignments that worked and student projects that appeared to engage students and facilitate change. We make a big mistake if we keep this as just conversation among academics. Time is running out for us to simply indulge in philosophical musings or rely on aging rock stars to disseminate the word. I am totally supportive of the creation of this site and hopeful that it will mark the beginnings of a monumental movement. If it does not, every other meaningful social agenda, be it poverty, homelessness, violence, social justice, the right to work, or the plethora of "isms" to name only a few, will all be rendered a mute point.

Diane McMillen, Ph.D.