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Sustainability and the Environment: Developing New Disciplinary Norms in the Social & Health Professions

12 Mar 2021

Interdisciplinary Webinar held

Dr Angela Flynn together with colleagues from the School of Applied Social Studies (Fiachra O Suilleabhain, Catherine Forde, Mary Hurley) established an interdisciplinary Environmental Education teaching cluster here in UCC. A webinar held on Weds 10th March was the second in a series of events that form part of their pedagogical endeavours to include ecological justice, the climate emergency, sustainable and global development on the curricula of applied professions, such as nursing, midwifery, social care and community development.

Climate change and its social, cultural and economic impacts poses one of the most critical challenges of the 21st Century.  Climate change impacts are significant for populations all over the globe and lead to major challenges for front-line professionals, including those working in human services.

Goal 13 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals refers to the need to educate populations in the causes and effects of climate change and in how human and natural ecologies are fundamentally entwined. This knowledge and awareness is essential for front-line professionals in the human services, including Social Workers, Youth Workers, Community Development Workers and healthcare workers such as Nurses and midwives. All of these professions work with individuals, families and communities in a diverse range of settings. Qualifying degree programmes in these professional areas must prepare graduates to work, lead and educate on climate change and the multiple challenges that stem from it.

This is the second in a series of webinars that seeks to share knowledge and ideas on the connections between climate change and the Social Professions, build the awareness and capacity of educators in the Social Professions to envisage and develop innovative environmental education practices through disciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration, and facilitate co-operation in this area between academic and practitioner colleagues across the Social Professions in Ireland and internationally. The webinar is hosted by the Research for Civil Society and Social Action (REACT) Cluster of ISS21 at University College Cork. There was an excellent line up of speakers.

The keynote presentation was given by Benny Goodman, an independent scholar and retired lecturer in Adult Nursing in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Plymouth University. He is a Registered General Nurse and holds a BSc in Sociology and Politics. Benny writes on topics such as sustainability in nurse education, climate change and health within a socio-political framework. He gave a fascinating paper giving a broad overview of the global climate crisis and the impact of carbon based economies on the planet. He drew our attention to the complex interplay between health and the environment with examples such as the obesogenic environment. He gave excellent advice to those of us seeking to green our curricula advising us to incorporate sustainability in change and to examine practices to ensure they are socially sustainable.

There was then a very beautiful video from Sarah Kearney, a qualified Social Worker who works as a lead practitioner in the Edel House homeless service in Cork.  She is an enthusiastic beekeeper and her video showed how she uses beekeeping in her work with service users as a form of education and mindfulness.

Maeve Foreman is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Social Work at the School of Social Work and Social Policy in Trinity College, Dublin. She is an ex-medical social worker and community worker. Maeve gave a superb presentation on her work with the Mud Island Community Garden in North Strand, Dublin.

Will O’Halloran runs the Wild Work education and biodiversity project of the SECAD local development company in east Cork.  Will holds an MSc in Ecological Assessment and is a former co-ordinator of the Community Academic Research Links Project (CARL) at University College Cork. He gave a great presentation on his work to enhance biodiversity along with social inclusion activities through Wild Work.

Lots of work needs to be done to embed the UN Sustainable Development Goals into our respective  curricula in collaboration with the University-wide work by Dr John Barrimo who is working with Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching & Learning (CIRTL) in an effort to embed the UCC Sustainability Strategy and the connected curriculum.

This event was supported by funding from the National Forum for Teaching and Learning Seminar Series 2020/21.

School of Nursing and Midwifery

Scoil an Altranais agus an Chnáimhseachais

Brookfield Health Sciences Complex College Road Cork, Ireland , T12 AK54

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