The three EcoTypes themes of Place, Knowledge, and Action are statistical summaries of all twelve EcoTypes axes. Each theme expresses a key difference found among thousands of responses to the EcoTypes survey. The most general ways our EcoTypes—our environmental frameworks—differ are thus related to Place, Knowledge, and Action.
These differences are expressed via a key question underlying each theme, and theme attractors summarizing our divergent answers to this question. Theme poles are called attractors for theoretical reasons, more fully developed in the EcoTypes book: think of each as an attractive, common, yet only partial solution to the complex question posed by each theme.
The statistical procedure used to determine EcoTypes themes is factor analysis. Though factor analysis has been wrongly applied in past, it remains a powerful technique to group similar variables (EcoTypes axes) based on their greatest common differences (statistical variance). Factor analysis thus suggests both key differences (themes) among the twelve EcoTypes axes, and their similarities (the axes corresponding to each theme). Theme attractors are the statistical tails of each factor, identified by their contributing axis poles.
Confused about theme attractors?
Many people are confused by the two opposing attractors for each theme. For more context, see the Survey Report FAQ ("Why do axes have poles, and themes have attractors?")
In short, though there are twelve different EcoTypes axes, there appear to be only three major differences in our environmental frameworks, expressed via EcoTypes themes and theme attractors.
By completing the EcoTypes survey, you will receive scores for each theme. As with axis scores, your theme scores are between -1 (left attractor) and +1 (right attractor). Also similar to axes, you may score near one or the other theme attractor, or somewhere in between. Your theme scores are more robust than your axis scores, as they are based on eight vs. two environmental statements. Your report will, however, offer you an estimate of how well your theme score fits you, based on the similarity of contributing axis scores.
See below for more details on each of the three themes of Place, Knowledge, and Action, including their key questions, attractors, and a brief narrative that summarizes each attractor via linked axes and portions of EcoTypes survey statements.
The world we want is a place where nonhumans—animals, plants, and their habitats—ultimately take ethical priority because they were here first. Ecosystems were stable and in balance before humans arrived. Even today, nature knows best; people should let natural processes flourish. Indeed, the most aesthetically pleasing things on Earth are found in wild nature. There can be a place in this world for humans, but only if it does not interfere with nonhumans.
The world we want is a place where human well-being ultimately takes ethical priority, because we must meet our needs first. Ecosystems have long been dynamic, even before humans arrived. Today, it is naive to just let nature take its course, as many landscapes have been affected by humans. Indeed, people can craft aesthetically pleasing things that look better than nature alone. There can be a place in this world for nonhumans, but only if it does not interfere with humans.
The best knowledge to help us build the world we want comes from old traditions, because they have worked for years. Our approach to time must honor the past; we cannot wish for environmental solutions in the future. We have neglected the important spiritual dimensions of environmental problems, along with alternative sources of facts beyond science. Moving forward, technology will create more problems than solutions.
The best knowledge to help us build the world we want comes from new discoveries, because they offer the latest insights. Our approach to time must trust in the future; we cannot not look to the past for environmental solutions. Likewise, spirituality does not offer insights on environmental problems; nor do alternative sources of supposed facts not based on science. Moving forward, technology will offer good solutions.
The most effective action to help us build the world we want is at small scales. We all contribute to society, so each one of us is partly responsible for environmental problems. In fact, individual-scale actions like recycling can accomplish a lot if we all do them. At the level of our economy, free markets solve environmental problems better than government regulations. Ultimately, incremental change will do more than attempting radical change.
The most effective action to help us build the world we want is at big scales. Big action can focus on the powerful subset of society mostly to blame for environmental problems. In fact, individual-scale actions won’t make a big difference; we need institutional-scale action. Our economies need to be more regulated than a free market system to support environmental protection. Ultimately, radical, not incremental, change is needed.
Going Deeper With Place, Knowledge, and Action
The three EcoTypes themes you read above gather all twelve axes into three big questions, for which there are two divergent answers, summarized via their attractors.
These attractors derive from survey responses, but they are evidenced in environmental discourse—the ways we commonly talk about environmental issues. Can you imagine some examples for each?