Let’s Not be Stuck in The Myth of Sisyphus: Gravity, Feedback Loops, & Social Work

Gravity is “invisible” but not removed from sensation; we can feel the effects of gravity daily, for example dropping something on your foot. In short gravity relates to mass, “People have mass too, and while our physical bodies might not exert gravity the way the Sun affects the Earth, our interests, experiences, appearance, ethics, morals, values, and life choices combine to create a peculiar gravitational pull” (Frono, 2019) on those around us. 

As social workers we go to great lengths to understand how our; values, ethics, morals, values, and life, affect our practice. Through this individual introspection we cultivate the type of practitioner we will be. 

For me, it seems relevant to analyze the physical environment as a variable which holds tremendous “gravitational pull” on each aspect of ourselves and client population we work with or advocate for.  So, to analyze my thoughts I turn to research.

Since most environmental systems are open and interconnected, the changes in any process-response system have effects on many, these effects are known as feedback loops. The term ‘feedback’ refers to the effect that occurs when the output of a system becomes an input to the same system (Smithson et al 2008 p. 12). 

Feedback loops may be positive or negative: positive feedback occurs when the effects of an original change are amplified or accelerated to produce a ‘snowballing’ effect, in other words a positive feedback loop… in contrast, a negative feedback loop in the environment occurs as a result of the interaction between predators and their prey (The Earth Systems and its Components). 

Let’s think of the metaphor of a tree. A Tree gives us shade: when were hot we might seek it out. However, whither were consciously aware of it or not, medical science tell us that there are feedback loop within our body to regulate body temperature. 

This tree is then cut down, we no longer have access to the consciously seeking out shade when we’re feeling hot. In terms of human environment interactions, I purpose that the removal of the tree disrupts a feedback loop that we established with this element of our natural environment. 

The lesson is that feedback loops may be interconnected. One action acting as a variable to more than one “loop.” 

If humans are understood as predators of the environment, that is preying on the natural earth through destructive actions then the result becomes a negative feedback loop. 

The who, where, where, when why, how, questions have large answers that are interconnected. Blaming the cause of the occurrence of Environmental Injustice on one system working within a feedback loop (say an oil company or builders who deforest for the means of a new shopping mall) doesn’t work. This is because the systems are interconnected. It seems the best way to advocate for the progression of environmental consciousness is to understand the variables and impacts of each system and begin to make links. 

Thus, the Person-In-Environment theory that the practice of social work uses becomes a valuable tool. As I have promoted before, the practice of social work must engage heavy with research to back links with statistical significance. Without empirical research, we are study is a version of, The Myth of Sisyphus, because no large-scale change will occur, in other word, policy change. 

It seems pertinent that social work professionals begin or continue to integrate themselves into all professional fields. This integration will allow for elevated pressure on the individual worker as other schooled professionals can provide their theory/research. 

From the context of analyzing my personal philosophy on social work I arrived at activism that serves to dismantle the negative feedback loop. I hope that as I continue to learn my “educational mass” increases; thus, exerting a larger gravitational pull. However, I believe that my effectiveness will come from working with other professionals who have a deep understanding of their profession. 

What I mean is that my explanation of gravity, feedback loops, environmental science, ecx, would be more valuable if I were working with individuals who dedicated their lives to these practices. With the current state of the environment, now more than ever, it seems so pressing to finally collaborate and leave the typical built environments which we typically preform our professions. 

The researcher in a lab has a lot to say but is anyone giving them a platform? Sure, published papers are a platform is only as effective as the amount of professionals it reaches who are going to apply the academia to real world interactions. 

To be Continued…… on the topic of – Professional “Romantic Gravity” 


Built environments can also produce negative health risks when developers are not thinking about the effects of built spaces. In particular, urban layouts are designed to maximize living space. The way in which prisons are built in America is another example of how population growth results in building structures to house the influx of humans, often with inadequate built infrastructure such as the lack of windows limiting one’s access to natural light. Consequently, the population has been exposed the potential for limited healthy food options and environmental toxins such as noise pollution and water pollution. The categories described above do not occur in an isolated form but are layered throughout the structure of a community, making it a multifaceted problem. Deducing personhood to common variables, or quantifiable ones, suggests that low income and minority groups face larger negative implications of the structural environment. Through this knowledge, urbanization becomes a variable which can cause health risks, if not designed properly. Overall, health through the environment depends on a range of social, economic, and environmental factors.

Resources for Prospective Social Workers — The Political Social Worker

Rachel L. West, MSW, LMSW The Political Social Worker A couple of days ago a Tumblr follower asked me for some advice about applying to an MSW program. This gave me the idea to put together a small list of resources for perspective (and current) social work students. socialworkhelper.com A social networking site for helping […]

Resources for Prospective Social Workers — The Political Social Worker

Economic Globalization, Sleep-Wake Rhythms & COVID-19

Macro/Policy Environmental Social Work Perspective

Economic globalization become a worldwide trend (Han, 2019). With globalization comes technology. Technology and the environment should be of growing concern. Now more than ever. Given COVID-19, are legislators and enforcers thinking of the stimulus and social welfare in terms physiological rhythms in humans? 

Studies show that relevant to the environment (the built environment that is, the once we are all confined to… if heavily impacted by environmental cues; light, noise, and temperature are synchronizing to Sleep-wake rhythms in humans. 

            As the current state of our lives will have it, much of work is being done in the same spaces we often strive, or should strive to keep sacred. This is because our rhythms are extremely effected by noise pollution, night work, social media, blue light. Thanks to open data it has been found that  

“Extensive open-access databases now focus on these disturbing environmental and societal cues”

Damien Legerab &  Christian Guilleminaultc

The fields associated with sleep are: noise, light, radio frequencies, transportation, and internet”

Damien Legerab &  Christian Guilleminaultc

These environmental open data may help us in understanding better sleep rhythms globally”

Damien Legerab &  Christian Guilleminaultc
  • Insight of the day: “the development index of Digital Economy and Society (DESI), an instrument that can detect a data system in order to quantify the level of technological development at the macro level and the micro level” (Vanessa Russo : Qualitative and Quantitative Models in Socio-Economic Systems and Social Work pp 427-442| Cite as Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). European Guidelines and Empirical Applications on the Territory)

The Nature of Silent-Welfare

Never have I ever ☝️👉 not found silence to be the most resourceful tool when met with disorder. Silence is an action & a weapon when not used appropriately as it likely causes an influx of unbalanced power dynamics. “The increase of disorder or entropy with time is one example of what is called an arrow of time, something that distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time” (Stephen Hawking) •

Silence is #selfcare

silence is #introspection

silence is #tactful

silence is #mindful

At times some will go silent but they are not invisible • each of us has a way of coping & that wayward style is intrinsically comorbid with time & place (#natural & #built)

Scale silence to many bodies and it’s heard loudly • now scale it down & somehow I find that society has juxtaposed varying stereotypes or archetypal #preconceptions on the scaled down version. Why didn’t you speak up? Why didn’t you reach out? Why didn’t you….? #silence now becomes a result of an unmet #expectation

Full Circle. Feedback Loops

I was in the sculpture and instillation program. A dual degree in psychology before I transferred to begin my path in Social Work. However for a brief moment my artistic self was at bay while I studied. It recently has come back through engaging with STEM research and environmental justice work in the form of infographics. The ability to conceptualize is critical but following my artistic intuition has led me further than I knew it would.

It seems I have inadvertently followed a path that led back to the one I started on, but I come back to the arts with a new intellectual knowledge base. Thank you for seeing that. In many ways what’s why I left, I needed more theory and grounding. I felt it strongly my first year at SMFA and it seems that the decision to leave and investigate into the scientific process Comes full circle as I Transcend back into my artist self. There is a newfound respect for my personal and professional self and with that I interject that Social Work is and will continue to be a professional path that brings about deep growth. We and our clients are impacted by the environment- the smallest shifts in the physical are variables to internal mental states. We support the environments of those around us.

Social Work and Environmental Justice


October 2019

Environmental Racism and Systems of Oppression

Gabrielle Conrad-Amlicke | Policy 2020

Frederick Olmsted, an American Landscape designer best known for Central Park (New York, NY) and The Emerald Necklace (Boston, MA), also designed Keney Park (Hartford, CT). Keney Park runs vertically up and down the west half of Hartford’s Northeast neighborhood. The northern areas of this city are where the highest rates of crime and vacancy are reported among a predominately Black population. The decaying aspects of the physical environment contextualize an aspect of loss, both for the community members and potentially for the general public. Despite powerful community-led efforts to reduce violence in the area, ongoing oppression and political marginalization undermine these activities.  Fear pushes even those who live in the Northeast neighborhood to seek out other community parks. Thirty-years of activities aimed at improving park conditions have been disrupted by the larger political failures to protect and nourish this neighborhood.

Famous natural spaces have the potential to stimulate individual and economic growth. Why then is Keney Park, which sits almost directly between NYC’s “Central Park” to the south and Boston’s “Emerald Necklace Conservancy” park system to the north, less renowned than its Olmsted siblings?

The answer: environmental racism.  Anytime environmental decisions are shaped by the intersectional identities of those benefiting from, or occupying, a particular environment—racism is at work. Social workers must identify and amplify these instances. We must advocate for investment in these environments or else the historic systems of oppression that harm our clients and our profession will never be dismantled.