Debates and Definitions

One issue during the founding of ESAC concerned the relative weight to be accorded to activist vs. academic interpretations of environmental studies. Some people argued that environmental studies, as a field, is inherently more activist in orientation than most, and thus a Learned Society in environmental studies should include an advocacy component to its activities. Other people insisted that a Learned Society is a purely academic institution, and that most opportunities for activism take place outside the framework of a Learned Society. It was pointed out that even activist members of a Learned Society would likely welcome the opportunity to engage in related scholarly activities.

Another source of controversy was the appropriate characterization of the term “environmental studies”. Opinions ranged from those of the proponents of a “critical” prescriptive environmentalism — which includes deep ecology and social ecology — to those of the proponents of something less apparently prescriptive. In the end, it was the hope of the founders that potential members from any discipline, area, perspective, or background would feel welcome in ESAC, and that it would be a pluralistic enterprise.

The objective of ESAC as set out in the Letters Patent is as follows: “the encouragement of research, and publication in, teaching and general development of, and activities related to, environmental studies”.

Please note: This material is adapted from the first newsletter of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada (ESAC).

Related Documents

By-Laws of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada (Letters Patent dated August 13, 1993. Amended June 2, 2005)