A learned society is a national association of academics and interested persons, the function of which is to act as a forum for discussion and a vehicle for communication in the area. The main projects of learned societies include the organization of an annual conference (which is often held during the Learned Societies Conference), the preparation and dissemination of a Newsletter for Members, and often the publication of a journal, among other things. ESAC also produces an annual directory of its members, listing their areas of interest and research. ESAC may also eventually prepare a guide to programs in Environmental Studies.
Everyone present at the first meetings to form ESAC discussed their reasons for wanting to form a research and education association in Environmental Studies. These reasons included the following: to provide a collective intellectual forum; to bring together a broad range of otherwise isolated scholars; to enable people to find out what other people in the area are working on; to provide the opportunity for some coherence in the area and offset the tendency towards fragmentation; to provide a vehicle for development of critical environmentalism; to increase the level of discourse in the area of Environmental Studies; to provide an antidote to “disciplinary phobia”; to provide opportunities for advocacy (although people felt that those activities should be kept separate); and lastly, to help people keep track of developments in the area without having to belong to, get schedules for, and attend sessions of, several different Learned Societies.