Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 331–337

A manifesto for theory in environmental studies and sciences

  • James D. Proctor
  • Susan G. Clark
  • Kimberly K. Smith
  • Richard L. Wallace

DOI: 10.1007/s13412-013-0122-3

Cite this article as:
Proctor, J.D., Clark, S.G., Smith, K.K. et al. J Environ Stud Sci (2013) 3: 331. doi:10.1007/s13412-013-0122-3


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.


TheoryInterdisciplinarityEnvironmentActorsProblem solvingCurriculum

Copyright information

© AESS 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • James D. Proctor
    • 1
  • Susan G. Clark
    • 2
  • Kimberly K. Smith
    • 3
  • Richard L. Wallace
    • 4
  1. 1.Environmental Studies ProgramLewis & Clark CollegePortlandUSA
  2. 2.Yale School of Forestry & Environmental StudiesNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Political Science and Environmental StudiesCarleton CollegeNorthfieldUSA
  4. 4.Environmental StudiesUrsinus CollegeCollegevilleUSA