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Media Type: Article - Recent
Date of Publication: April 25, 2013
Year of Publication: 2013
Author(s): James D Proctor, Susan G Clark, Kimberly K Smith, Richard L Wallace
Journal: Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
The interdiscipline of environmental studies and sciences (ESS) has emerged in response to the multiple and complex environmental challenges facing this world. Its origins as a problem-oriented field tend to direct it toward practical versus theoretical endeavors, the authors argue this needs to change.
ABSTRACT: Environmental studies and sciences (ESS), an inherently practical field, nonetheless demands greater attention to its theoretical assumptions as a necessary step toward continued intellectual and pedagogical development and real-world relevance. This need for theory arises from the status of ESS as an integrative interdiscipline—one practitioners of ESS celebrate, yet with considerably greater challenges in achieving inclusivity and coherence than other interdisciplinary fields face. Three examples are briefly raised here: the definition of environment in ESS, how environmental actors are conceptualized, and the identity of ESS as a problem-oriented field. These three examples are initial priorities requiring better theorization, with many intellectual resources ESS can draw upon to address them. We close by reminding the reader that theories are ideas that take us places, not just idle speculation, and by advocating “theory across the (ESS) curriculum.” In addition to the three examples we cover, we invite the reader to join us in identifying and evaluating other current theoretical assumptions in ESS, in reframing ESS on more robust theoretical grounds, and in integrating this work into the curriculum.