Aesthetics | ANIMALS | Change | CITIES | Diversity | Domain ECONOMIES | Ecosystems | Ethics | Future | Nature | Science
Social Scale | Society | Spatial Scale | Spirituality | Time | Technology | Going Deeper
As you read in the overview, axes are the fundamental ideas of EcoTypes. All eighteen 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. You may decide you embrace one pole or the other, or both poles!...but do remember that each expresses genuine difference of opinion, and even if we wish to embrace both poles it may be difficult to do so. Choices are hard, yet bringing together all opinions is hard too.
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. The statements were derived statistically from a number of candidates. You’ll see your scores for each axis—an average of your response to the two statements—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 statements, and its related theme (Place, Knowledge, or Action). There is also a brief video for most axes, 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.
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."
Humans relate to nonhuman animals in many ways. One issue concerns whether it is right for us to keep domesticated animals for enjoyment or consumption, given that their lives are not free. The EcoTypes Animals axis considers the history and morality of animal domestication in light of recent calls for greater autonomy.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Autonomous): "We should have fewer pets and livestock, and allow animals to live more natural lives."
–Right pole (Domesticated): "We should continue to domesticate animals to serve our human needs."
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."
Cities are where many people of the world live; indeed the word civilization relates to cities and their human citizens. But this longstanding civic tradition has been challenged by those who want to recognize and restore cities as a place for nonhumans too. The EcoTypes Cities axis considers whether this biophilic approach is laudable, or whether cities understandably focus primarily on their human inhabitants.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Biophilic): "A good city is a biophilic city, one that includes both humans and nonhumans."
–Right pole (Civic): "The call for nature-friendly cities is elitist; cities primarily serve the people who live there."
Some argue that environmentalism has primarily reflected elite or powerful interests, leading to actions over the last few decades toward greater inclusion. These actions, however, may or may not have been sufficient. The EcoTypes Diversity axis considers the current priority of diversifying the environmental movement.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Low priority): "The needs of poor and marginalized populations are being adequately addressed by environmentalists today."
–Right pole (High priority): "We must focus less on traditional environmental issues like wilderness protection, and more on those affecting poor and marginalized populations."
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Ideal): "Environmental problems will only go away if we focus on our values and paradigms, not just our practices and behavior."
–Right pole (Material): "Environmental solutions require changing things that govern what we do, like laws and policy, not just changing our values."
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."
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Possibility): "I'm an optimist about possibilities for people to solve environmental problems and avert disaster in future."
–Right pole (Crisis): "Future ecological disaster is almost a certainty at this point, no matter what people try to do."
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 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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Heterodox): "Alternative sources of facts from wisdom traditions often reveal more environmental insights than mainstream science."
–Right pole (Orthodox): "Science offers a better way to learn the truth about environmental issues than alternative claims to truth."
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."
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.
Related survey statements–Left pole (Local): "The best way to address global environmental problems is at the local scale, where we can make a difference."
–Right pole (Global): "Major environmental problems today are global, and so must be their solutions; we cannot accomplish much at local scales."
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 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?