Methods: Authors used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) to create the study protocol and reporting strategies. In consultation with a university librarian, a comprehensive search string was developed, and seven academic databases were searched. Inclusion criteria were: 1) published on or since January 1, 2005; 2) is social work literature; 3) examines at least one topic related to the transition away from fossil fuels; and 4) describes, examines, or evaluates a specific form of practice for the transition away from fossil fuels that occurred or is occurring. Authors screened 2,011 titles and abstracts for inclusion, and 640 articles were reviewed in full. Of these, 25 articles met study criteria and were included for data extraction and analysis.
Results: Practices to transition away from fossil fuels included 48% of articles addressing energy at home (e.g., alternative cookstoves, solar lamps, reducing energy generally), 28% describing community organizing efforts (e.g., transition towns, traditional neighborhood developments, community food systems), and 16% focusing on policy change (e.g., United Nations initiatives and federal/state policies). Practice location spanned 34 countries, with the two most frequent being the U.S. (36%) and India (28%). Most practices focused on individuals or households as the target system for change (64%). However, the scale at which practices were implemented was more frequently at higher system levels such as neighborhood or village (16%), more than one neighborhood or village (12%), city or county (12%), more than one city or county (12%), nation (16%) or more than one nation (12%). Analyzing study design found that 48% of articles were research studies, including quantitative (16%), qualitative (16%), mixed methods (12%), and policy analysis (4%).
Conclusion and Implications: Social workers are involved in the transition away from fossil fuels at individual, community, and policy levels. While practices are occurring at multiple scales, the target of change is often individual or household behavior rather than systemic, structural change. Findings illuminate needs and opportunities for further social work engagement in efforts to promote policies, social interventions, and community action in the transition away from fossil fuels.