As you read in the overview, axes are the fundamental ideas of EcoTypes. All fifteen* are below: examples include Aesthetics, Diversity, Ecosystems, Nature, Science, and Time. Some may strike you as surprising!…but all are relevant to how we approach environmental issues.
Each axis has two poles to express the full variety of opinion on each. The EcoTypes survey consists of two statements for each axis, one—often strongly worded—representing each pole, as a quick way to get your own opinion. You’ll see your results for each axis on the EcoTypes report you receive after completing the survey.
The summaries you'll see below include a key question and quick overview for each axis, its two poles, and its related theme (Place, Knowledge, or Action). There is also a brief video, including interviews with survey participants! You can consult this table detailing how each axis contributes to one of the three themes.
Detailed information offering context and justification for the tensions inherent in each axis is available in the forthcoming EcoTypes book.
*As of January 2022, we are testing three new pilot axes: Animals, Cities, and Economies; see What's New in '22?
Aesthetics is both an age-old philosophical tradition and an important determinant of human action: we are moved by what is beautiful. But beauty may reside in the eye—and the mind—of the beholder. The EcoTypes Aesthetics axis considers one key difference: whether we are drawn to wild vs. human-crafted landscapes.
Anyone wanting to make a difference must decide how best to achieve change. Change may best be accomplished a bit at a time—or, this approach may be too slow or insignificant. The EcoTypes Change axis compares incremental, step by step change against the belief that only radical change will successfully address environmental issues.
Some argue that American environmentalism has primarily reflected middle-class white people and their interests, leading to actions over the last few decades toward greater diversification. These actions, however, may or may not have been sufficient. The EcoTypes Diversity axis considers the current priority of diversifying the environmental movement.
Philosophers and scientists have long pondered the domains of mind vs. matter: do we best understand, and possibly transform, reality via mental consciousness or material practice? The EcoTypes Domain axis likewise ponders our emphasis on ideal vs. material dimensions of environmental issues—what we think vs. what we do.
It's common to assume that the natural world tends toward equilibrium and balance outside of human influence, but research into ecosystems suggests a more nuanced picture. Perhaps Earth and its ecosystems, left alone, are fundamentally stable, or maybe they are much more dynamic. The Ecosystems axis considers whether or not change is inherent to natural processes.
A longstanding question in environmental ethics concerns how we value the nonhuman world. Some might broadly approach it with human needs in mind; others may prioritize its own inherent needs. The EcoTypes Ethics axis compares biocentrism vs. anthropocentrism as two quite different ways to care about the realm of the nonhuman.
What sort of future awaits us? It is possible to imagine a future in which things get much worse than at present; but it is also possible to imagine that things can get better. The EcoTypes Future axis addresses our underlying sense of hope vs. hopelessness, of optimistic vs. apocalyptic views, thus of possibility vs. crisis, as we face our collective future on this planet.
Concepts of nature, and derivative notions such as natural vs. artificial, play a large role guiding our values and behavior. We often think of nature as entirely nonhuman, yet nature has been shaped by human concepts and practices. The EcoTypes Nature axis addresses a key environmental debate over pure vs. hybrid concepts of nature.
Many environmental positions are grounded in facts. But these facts emanate from different sources, and different kinds of truth claims. Thus science has at times been challenged—or perhaps supplemented—by other truth claims. The EcoTypes Science axis considers the relative role of heterodox (alternative) claims to truth vs. those of orthodox (mainstream) science.
Many environmental ideas actually build on ideas about people, including how we relate to each other, such as whether society arises as an overall consensus, or whether conflicts between people are at the heart of social relations. The EcoTypes Society axis applies this key debate, that of consensus vs. conflict views of social relations, to environmental problems.
The scope and magnitude of global environmental problems today can be overwhelming. Is it possible, perhaps even best, to address these problems at local scales? Perhaps this indeed is the only way we can move forward; or, perhaps local-scale solutions do not accomplish much at larger scales. The EcoTypes Spatial Scale axis compares local vs. global scale approaches.
We often think of environmentalism as grounded in scientific facts and rationality, but for many people it is also grounded in spiritual values. Perhaps a sacred approach is key; or perhaps a secular approach is a better way to address environmental issues. The EcoTypes Spirituality axis considers the interplay of these two important traditions.
People in late modern societies have long expressed ambivalence about technology: we depend on it, we love it, and yet we fear it. Technology may be our greatest hope in addressing environmental issues, or it may create even more problems. The EcoTypes Technology axis considers whether to approach technology as a threat or an ally.
Past- vs. future-leaning orientations are found across the political spectrum today. Some seek to recover traditions, whereas others seek to break from these traditions and create distinct futures. The EcoTypes Time axis considers how our options for environmental solutions take quite different forms if we seek to recover the past vs. innovate in future.
Going Deeper With EcoTypes Axes
You just learned about fifteen axes!...many more than you might have imagined. Which were particularly surprising to you? Which now seem most significant to you, in terms of how we approach environmental issues?