Anibal and I were really excited about this latest review of our book in Basic and Applied Ecology by Christoph Kueffer. I loved that he used the word “manifesto” in the first sentence, as I always called the book “our little green manifesto”.
Christoph notes that by putting this fairly concrete concept of “observation” at the core of the book, rather than a more theoretical concept like “holism” or “complexity” it makes the book more accessible to multiple audiences, especially students, which is what we were going for.
His main critique–guilty as charged–is that we don’t delve deeply, or even give much of a nod to theory. Rather than a “love-hate” realtionship with theory, I personally have a kind of “hate-try to avoid” relationship with it, and it’s burned me plenty. I just got yet another NSF rejection–this one from NSF Anthropology (Anthropologists love their theory!)–and the main criticism was, “there’s no overarching theory.” On the other hand, I do have many arguments with my wife, an anthropologist (she loves her theory), and she inevitably gets me to acknowledge the importance of theory to help make sense of a complex world, in some cases.
I think Kueffer put it really well in the review of our book, “Only based on observations, would we by now believe in climate change? I doubt it.” So, I’ll acknowledge theory has a key place, but I’ll also warn you – if the prospect of venturing forth to make discoveries in the world without a nice thick theory to prop you is unacceptable, you might not like our “little green manifesto”.
Just remember, though, Ricketts and Steinbeck in the Sea of Cortez, and Darwin before them, built theories after their observations, or as the former two said of the latter, “out of long, long consideration of the parts, he emerged with a sense of the whole”.