EcoTypes is designed not only for you to explore your environmental ideas, but to explore ways that you and your ideas can grow. Why? Contemporary environmental issues may be the most complex and contested issues we collectively face. As the EcoTypes FAQ said:
…with obvious environmental issues like rivers burning, we all pretty much agreed on what to do. But many environmental issues today, like climate change, are far more complicated and conflictual, demanding greater insight, creativity, and collaboration.
Insight, creativity, collaboration: these require growth for most of us, no matter how concerned and involved we might be at present.
If you wish to grow a bit via EcoTypes, consider the three steps below—all to be expanded in the forthcoming book. Each step gets harder!…it’s okay if you take only one or two, but see if you can possibly do all three. They may take some time! There is also a Going Deeper exercise at bottom.
The first step is to situate your approach to environmental issues relative to others.* How do you address fundamental debates of Place, Knowledge, and Action at the heart of these issues? You can situate yourself via the survey and accompanying report.
Take the EcoTypes Survey
You’ll receive your own personalized report.
The report includes your axis and theme scores, and your EcoType, all detailed below.
Let’s consider an example: say your survey report assigns you the EcoType of Ecospirituality. As you read about this EcoType, you’ll see that it has two significant theme-based characteristics, including nonhuman Place and old Knowledge. So, you can better situate yourself by appreciating the distinctive features of these two theme poles. Here are their narratives, from the Themes page:
[Nonhuman Place] 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.
[Old Knowledge] 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.
Ask yourself: what do these two theme poles say about you and your approach to environmental issues, characterized by a greater tendency than others toward nonhuman Place and old Knowledge? And why, in your life experience, might you lean toward these poles?
Remember to be curious and non-judgmental as you seek to situate yourself and answer the questions above. You may wish to journal about it, draw a diagram connecting some main ideas that came up as you pondered these questions, etc.
If you like quantitative data, you may benefit from comparing your selected EcoType theme scores to others. In the above example, for instance, the comparison table demonstrates that Ecospirituality scores closest to the nonhuman Place pole and old Knowledge pole of all five EcoTypes. Or, you can examine contributing axes to the Place and Knowledge themes to find those that are weighted most highly.
It’s possible, as discussed in the survey report FAQ, that you may’ve also scored relatively close to other EcoTypes in addition to the one you were assigned. If so, how might you situate yourself differently if you chose a different EcoType?
*By “others,” we mean over 2500 participants who completed the EcoTypes survey between 2019-21; see the survey report FAQ for methodological information, and the EcoTypes FAQ for a related concern: “I don’t think your EcoTypes data are applicable to me.”
The second step may strike you as fun, or possibly threatening!…but you will learn a great deal if you do it. This step is to engage with one or two people—friends, family, classmates, coworkers, etc.—whose EcoTypes are different from yours.** Just ask them to take the survey if they haven’t done so already, share with them your EcoType, and see if you are different! If so, they are well suited to do this second step with you.
[The EcoTypes book will expand upon difference as both a challenging reality in our world, and in other ways a good thing to be appreciated. For now, make the generous assumption that your friend (or classmate, etc.) has also thought a lot about environmental issues and will have something interesting to say.]
So, how exactly do you engage across difference? Here are some tips for starters:
- Keep it small. Consider engaging with just one other person, or two maximum. This gives each person time to share.
- Keep it fun…and doable. Try to agree in advance on a timeframe, so that you can commit knowing it won’t last forever. And consider snacks!
- Share/compare your EcoTypes. Start with how you situated your approach to environmental issues as summarized in Step 1 above. Be as curious and non-judgmental with your partners as you were with yourself.
- Speak…but mostly listen. Engagement allows you to share your thoughts, but if you want others to listen to you, you might want to listen to them! A good strategy is to ask questions showing your interest and curiosity.
- Achieve civil disagreement. The objective of engagement is not necessarily to find common ground. The very reason you and your engagement partners came together was because of your differing EcoTypes; see if you can understand your differences more deeply.
Let’s continue with the example above: say your EcoType is Ecospirituality, and you are engaging with a person whose EcoType is Science for Humanity. It turns out that these two EcoTypes are in some ways the opposite of each other!…see these comparison charts, where they occupy entirely distinct sectors with respect to the Place and Knowledge themes. Maybe you two would focus on the following:
- What, in our life experience, leads one of us to lean toward nonhuman Place and the other toward human Place?
- Again, what leads one of us to lean toward old Knowledge and the other toward new Knowledge?
- What, then, seems to be at the heart of our differences?
Remember, curiosity and non-judgment are your bywords in engagement; this is not an arm wrestling match. As you engage with this Science for Humanity person, you will certainly feel challenged, and you may desire to challenge them or defend yourself. Try, however, to simply be curious as to why two intelligent, caring people ended up with such different takes on Place and Knowledge!
After you complete this engagement exercise (and feel free to do it several times, with different partners), try to find time to reflect on how the experience worked for you. Again, with curiosity and non-judgment, ask yourself how it felt, what you learned, what remaining questions you have, etc. Writing or diagramming may be a good way for you to process the experience.
And make sure to give yourself something special for doing this engagement exercise!: whether it’s chocolate or a quiet walk or a movie, treat yourself. You just did something the vast majority of people avoid today. Conversation across difference is hard, and good, work.
**If you cannot find someone with whom to engage, consider an imaginary partner!: just go back to your EcoTypes survey report, choose the EcoType you are farthest away from (see graph, bottom of EcoTypes section), and conjure up an empathetic possibility of who might embrace this very different EcoType.
The third step builds on Situate and Engage to find ways you personally and intellectually can grow. It’s based on the admonition to stretch, to occupy a realm that exists somewhere between what is known as your comfort and stress zones.*** Comfort is, well, your EcoType: it’s how you have learned to approach environmental issues. Stress is, well, too much: usually when we meet stress we retreat to our comfort zone. The stretch zone, however, is within your realm of possibility.
But, how? Here, EcoTypes offers a novel pathway for growth, one that may only make sense once you’ve completed the two steps above. It’s based on the notion of paradox—a contradiction that may actually be true.
Where is paradox in EcoTypes? Below you’ll read what it is not. But consider for a moment: EcoTypes has been full of opposing poles, in both axes and themes. While certain of the axis poles might be better justified than others, at the integrative scale of themes, both poles of Place, Knowledge, and Action arguably speak important truths. Paradox is a possible way to appreciate the contradictory truths inherent in these themes.
Embracing paradox has been associated with among the greatest minds, and leaders, in recent history. Perhaps, given the extreme complexity and significance of environmental issues, this may be how you make a difference as well.
Here is a background on paradox from a paper on EcoTypes (Proctor 2020, 186):
Consider what Nobel Prize winning physicist Niels Bohr—known among others for exploring the wave/particle paradox of electromagnetic radiation—had to say:Proctor, James D. 2020. “EcoTypes: Exploring Environmental Ideas, Discovering Deep Difference.” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 10 (2): 178–88. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-020-00592-y.
The opposite of a truth is a falsehood. But the opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.
…This…realm is built on what Bohr called complementarity, with paired truths—each accurate, yet incomplete—arising from different ways of interacting with reality, as in the wave vs. particle understanding of light.
What if we approached Place, Knowledge, and Action as representing opposing yet complementary truths? Your EcoType, by embracing particular theme poles, situates you in one of a pair of truths at the heart of environmental issues.
For instance, nonhuman and human Place represent two very different narratives of living well on Earth, and they cannot readily be reconciled, but perhaps we must incorporate both into our approach to environmental issues, in a sort of creative tension between the two.
The Engage step above brought together real people to embody these different narratives of Place, Knowledge, and/or Action. The goal of Engage was not to achieve consensus, but rather to achieve difference—a distinct nod, you now realize, toward embracing paradox.
EcoTypes suggests that stretching involves embracing our shadow—specifically, the theme poles to which our personal EcoTypes are opposed. To carry on the example above, if your personal EcoType is Ecospirituality, what might you learn from, and how might you embrace, the opposing theme pole of human Place? new Knowledge?
This all may sound lofty, so to adequately stretch yourself, choose an environmental issue—maybe, climate change or environmental justice—that you care a great deal about. Then ask (assuming the Ecospirituality example): where is your need, personally and intellectually, to embrace human Place and new Knowledge as applied to this issue?
As you potentially stretch to embrace paradox, let’s be clear about what paradox is not:
- Paradox is not compromise: you are not finding a happy medium within yourself, or among others. If you do, great!…but to require compromise in all instances may water down the very positions for which people are passionate.
- Paradox is not holism: you are not assuming some grand Oneness behind all apparent differences. If you can resolve these differences into some integrated whole, great!…but holism is often just a fuzzy solution to cognitive dissonance.
- Paradox is not dualism: if holism turns two positions into one, dualism allows those positions to remain independent of each other. Paradox, in contrast, plays out as creative tension, a fruitful dialogue across difference within, or among, ourselves. It might be helpful, then, to approach paradox as counting between one and two.
Finally, it may be helpful to consider that paradox, enacted as creative tension across difference, may best be understood and enacted beyond yourself. Paradox may inspire you to personally stretch, but ultimately it is a way to appreciate, and work productively with, the differences among people we see around us all the time.
So, that’s it!: Situate, Engage, and Stretch. Take time to pause and write what you learned via these three steps.
***Thanks to Georgia Reid for this background on stretch zones.
Going Deeper With Situate/Engage/Stretch
Complete these three steps, then reflect and write/sketch what you learned. How have you grown via this process, in a manner fully mindful of difference and paradox as suggested in EcoTypes?