As you read in the overview, themes are statistical combinations of axes that address a common big question and embody a key tension in how we approach environmental issues.
These themes were determined via factor analysis of over 2500 responses to the EcoTypes survey. Factor analysis combines similar axes based on the biggest differences among respondents. Thus each theme also has two poles to express the key tension at its heart: nonhuman vs. human Place, old vs. new Knowledge, and small vs. big Action.
See below for more details on each of these three themes, in particular how their contributing axes might offer very different answers to their big question. Below the three themes are details on the contributing axes for each.
These radically different poles suggest opportunities for creative tension and conversation across difference, as our environmental ideas stretch to take both poles seriously.
This pole approaches the place of nonhumans and humans in our world as one in which nonhumans were here first. Bringing together the wild pole of Aesthetics, the biocentric pole of Ethics, the static pole of Ecosystems, and the pure pole of Nature, the nonhuman pole sets aside and prioritizes the natural world, and is not particularly impressed with human accomplishments, needs, and impacts. There can be a place in this world for humans, but only if it does not interfere with nonhuman flourishing, which is the necessary foundation for nonhuman place. One possible online example: Half-Earth Project.
Human accomplishments and well-being define for this pole the relative place of nonhumans and humans in our world. Building on the crafted Aesthetics pole, the anthropocentric Ethics pole, the dynamic pole of Ecosystems, and the hybrid Nature pole, the human pole sees this world as a good place for humans to flourish, a place where change happens. It prioritizes human needs, and accepts—even celebrates—human transformations of the nonhuman world. One possible online example: Seeds of a Good Anthropocene.
One approach to ways of knowing values what we have inherited from the past, what has stood the test of time. The old pole of the Knowledge theme builds on the ideal Domain, alternative Science, sacred Spirituality, fear of Technology, and veneration of past Time to trust these old ways of knowing more than newer approaches to knowledge. The old pole moves tentatively into the future, leaning more into wisdom than innovation. One possible online example: Order of the Sacred Earth.
The new pole of the Knowledge theme prioritizes contemporary approaches, those that reflect the advancement of knowledge over time. Weaving together the material Domain, mainstream Science, secular Spirituality, love of Technology, and trust in future Time, this pole may or may not respect past traditions, but certainly places far more emphasis on the recent flourishing of scientific and related forms of knowledge. One possible online example: The Breakthrough Institute.
This pole prioritizes small-scale action by each of us to build the world we want, as the only practical alternative and one that will eventually make a big (at least bigger) difference. Joining the incremental pole of the Change axis, the low priority Diversity pole, the possibility pole of the Future axis, the individual pole of the Social Scale axis, the consensus pole of the Society axis (thus we share equal responsibility to act), and the local pole of the Spatial Scale axis, the small pole of the Action theme is bottom-up, hopeful, and attempts to be apolitical through and through. There are many possible online examples via e.g. a “Simple Things Environment” search.
Another way to think about what scale of action we need is based on the premise that big problems do indeed call for big solutions. The big pole of the Action theme weaves together the radical Change pole, the high priority Diversity pole, the crisis pole of the Future axis, the institutional Social Scale pole, the conflict Society pole (i.e., we are unequal, even in our responsibility to act), and the global Spatial Scale poles to focus on structural, more politicized change. Focusing on the little things we each can do, according to the big pole, is not action but distraction; yet there is less possibility for change at these bigger scales. One online example is System Change not Climate Change.
The three EcoTypes themes above were determined by factor analysis of all fifteen axes. Our method of factor analysis rotated the three factors (themes) so that (a) they were orthogonal to each other, and (b) each contributing axis loaded primarily onto one theme.
The weighting of each contributing axis was calculated based on the above. Those with bigger values are more significant in determining a theme. The weighting table below of contributing axes thus helps us determine more specifically the nature of that theme. For instance, Place is primarily influenced by the Aesthetics and Nature axes. For your convenience, the top two contributing axes for each theme are in bold.
Note that axis poles correspond to theme poles: thus, the left poles are related (i.e., nonhuman Place is primarily related to wild Aesthetics and pure Nature), and so are the right poles (i.e., human Place primarily corresponds to crafted Aesthetics and hybrid Nature).
Going Deeper With Place, Knowledge, and Action
The three EcoTypes themes you read above summarize all fifteen axes into three big questions, for which there are two very different answers! You may not personally agree with both poles, but try to take them seriously.
Choose any one theme above, and reflect on how you might answer its big question while honoring both poles.