Our environmental crisis is, in significant ways, a crisis of ideas.
At first glance, the above statement sounds absurd. Don’t we simply need better policies to address climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental injustice, and so forth? And what does this have to do with ideas?
EcoTypes is built on the premise that ideas—values, attitudes, perceptions, imaginaries—matter. Exploring environmental ideas may feel like a distraction: once upon a time when rivers caught fire, we pretty much agreed on what must be done. But many environmental issues today are far more complicated and conflictual, demanding greater insight, creativity, and collaboration. In all such respects as these, ideas matter.
Ideas are the conceptual vehicles that take us places. Some ideas will get you farther than others. Some ideas will do so more quickly, or inclusively, or beautifully than others. Attending to environmental ideas will help us cultivate more insightful understandings of causes, more creative possibilities for solutions, and more collaborative actions toward lasting progress.
EcoTypes won’t tell you which environmental ideas are best. But by exploring environmental ideas you will learn three important things: first, there are many relevant ideas; second, you have choices with respect to these ideas; and third, these choices boil down to a few key themes and related questions.
- The scope of environmental ideas. Environmental ideas are ideas of environmental significance. Many don’t initially appear to be “environmental” at all, but they indeed are relevant. EcoTypes includes fifteen different kinds of ideas, each called an axis. There are axes you would probably expect—say, Nature or Ecosystems. But then there are other axes—Time, for instance, or Change or Diversity. All may be relevant to how we approach environmental issues.
- Choosing a position. Each of the fifteen EcoTypes axes has two poles, giving you space to choose your position on that axis. You may have heard some of these choices—for instance, between biocentric and anthropocentric Ethics—but you will probably discover choices you haven’t yet considered—say, between the ideal and material Domain. It’s always best to make an informed choice, thus the EcoTypes axis survey to help you understand your current positions, and the EcoTypes axis pages, each going into much further depth.
- Exploring key themes/questions. These fifteen EcoTypes axes are summarized via three overarching themes of Place, Knowledge, and Action, each built on a key question (below). It may be a challenge to make an informed choice on all fifteen axes, so studying these themes—and related key questions and poles—will orient you to the most important choices you and others make.
Do remember that ideas matter in a quite literal way too. Ideas aren’t just things in our heads: they arise from, and inform, our daily material lives. In a larger sense, saying “ideas matter” means that environmental ideas accompany the gritty material politics and practices that define environmental issues. You may wish to reflect on your own environmental ideas as suggested via EcoTypes, how they arise from and influence your material life, and how this relates to larger environmental discussions and debates happening around you.