As an early career researcher, Sylvia Ramsay has already made a significant contribution to the emerging field of environmental social work.

Dr Jennifer Boddy (left) with PhD Candidate, Sylvia Ramsay

Dr Jennifer Boddy (left) with PhD Candidate, Sylvia Ramsay (right)

Working with Dr Jennifer Boddy from the School of Human Services and Social Work, Sylvia recently had an article published on the concept of environmental social work in the British Journal of Social Work. She has also undertaken her first research project, exploring the usefulness of permaculture to social work. Now a PhD candidate, Sylvia is researching solutions to integrate the natural environment into social work practice.

‘Environmental social work encompasses a number of perspectives such as concerns about social justice, environmental sustainability, and the health of our planet,’ Sylvia explains.

‘Change can encompass behaviours on an individual level, such as reducing meat consumption, and using alternative transport, and within the workplace by implementing practices such as recycling and efficient resource use. It can also include working with the community to find ways of being that preserve the natural ecosystem. Some examples are wind farms that provide income to indigenous communities, business models that utilise fair trade, and organic land use practices and certification programs such as B Corp that empower ordinary people to make social and ecologically sustainable choices. Currently there’s also a great need to advocate for our ecosystem, with government and business interests still exploiting our long-term future for short term goals.

‘It’s important to be able to assess and understand the reaction of the natural ecosystem to our actions.

‘I hope my work will contribute to a future where humans have adapted their practices to live sustainably within the boundaries of our natural ecosystem.’

Sylvia has also been part of the team of staff and students from Griffith University who organised the very successful ‘Shades of Green’ trivia event for this year’s International Social Work Day on 21 March. The theme was “Promoting Community and Environmental Sustainability”. 80 social work practitioners and students from a number of universities gathered to test their knowledge of ‘green social work’ and questions of environmental interest.