Axes are the building blocks of EcoTypes. Each addresses a fundamental consideration in how we approach environmental issues. There can be differing opinions on each, summarized via axis poles. Some may sound clearly related to your EcoType—your environmental worldview—such as Ecosystems and Nature; but many others, such as Change, Spirituality, Technology, and Time, may strike you as surprising. Yet thousands of completed EcoTypes surveys have suggested that each of these axes is highly relevant.
There have been as many as eighteen EcoTypes axes. At present there are twelve: the four most statistically significant axes for each of the three EcoTypes themes of Place, Knowledge, and Action. There are two environmental statements in the EcoTypes survey for each axis, one summarizing each pole, thus 24 total. These two statements were selected from many others in previous versions of the survey.
By completing the EcoTypes survey, you will receive scores for each axis, calculated as the average of your responses to the two related statements, from -1 (left pole) to +1 (right pole). There are no right or wrong answers! But the environmental statements associated with each axis in the survey are strongly worded: you may find you highly agree or disagree with some, or you may find your opinion to be somewhere in between the two poles.
Below you will find a quick summary of each axis, the fundamental question it asks, its two poles, and related environmental statements from the EcoTypes survey. These resources will give you a start in exploring each axis, and the forthcoming EcoTypes book will offer greater background on each.
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Wild): "When it comes to beauty, it is hard for people to improve upon wild nature."
–Right pole (Crafted): "People can craft beautiful things, such as gardens and parks, that look better than nature alone."
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Incremental): "Small changes toward solving environmental problems will get more done than attempting radical changes."
–Right pole (Radical): "There is no way to solve major environmental problems via incremental changes; we need radical change instead."
The ways governments organize their economies can have significant impacts on environmental protection. A classic difference exists between proponents of free markets as the most efficient way to achieve environmental benefits, versus those who favor planned economies with greater centralization and regulation. The EcoTypes Economies axis considers the merits of these divergent arguments.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Market): "We can improve environmental conditions more via free markets than government regulations."
–Right pole (Planned): "For environmental protection, economies need to be more centralized and regulated than a free market system."
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Stable): "Earth’s ecosystems tend toward stability and balance among the animals and plants that comprise them."
–Right pole (Dynamic): "Earth’s ecosystems actually tend less toward equilibrium and stability, and more toward dynamism and change."
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Biocentric): "It is shortsighted for people to manage nature with only human interests in mind."
–Right pole (Anthropocentric): "Since we are people, it's justifiable to value nature for how it serves human needs."
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Pure): "Nature knows best; people should get out of the way and let natural processes flourish."
–Right pole (Hybrid): "Many landscapes have already been affected by humans, so it's naive to just let nature take its course."
Many environmental positions are grounded in facts. But these facts emanate from diverse sources, resulting in diverse 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 established, orthodox science.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Heterodox): "Alternative sources of facts often reveal more environmental insights than established science."
–Right pole (Orthodox): "Science offers a better way to learn the truth about environmental issues than alternative claims to truth outside of 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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Consensus): "Since all of us contribute equally to society, each one of us is partly to blame for our environmental problems."
–Right pole (Conflict): "A small, powerful subset of society, not each one of us, is mostly to blame for our environmental problems."
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Sacred): "Nature has an important spiritual dimension that we must not neglect in coming to terms with our environment."
–Right pole (Secular): "People who look for spiritual dimensions of environmental problems and solutions are wasting their time."
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Technophobic): "Some people think we can solve environmental problems with technology, but this may just create more problems."
–Right pole (Technophilic): "Given the complexity of today's world, technology will play a key role in how we manage our global environment."
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Past): "Many environmental problems arose from our headlong rush into the future; we must look back to the past to find solutions."
–Right pole (Future): "We need not look to the past for environmental solutions, given our potential for future ingenuity and progress."
Going Deeper With EcoTypes Axes
You just learned about twelve 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?