Are Social Work Students Concerned About the Environment?: The Role of Personal Beliefs

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The profession of social work is committed to social justice issues, and part of this mission includes the environment. Specifically, the Council on Social Work Education supports equality in environmental justice, ecological unity among species, and using ecological resources in a responsible way. However, a dearth exists in the literature with regard to social work students’ concern about the environment and what predicts their support. This study sought to redress this gap. Social work students (N = 724) from programs throughout the country were surveyed about their environmental beliefs and behaviors. An ordinary least squares regression indicated that holding more liberal political beliefs, identifying as a nonreligious individual, placing greater personal importance on environmental issues, participating in environmentally conscious behaviors, espousing greater confidence in scientists’ understanding of climate change, and being older were associated with greater environmental concern, and these variables explained 51.5% of the variance. Greater inclusion of environmental justice and avenues for advocacy that create social change should be part of the social work curricula if practitioners who are ready for this area of practice across the micro–macro continuum are to be developed.