EcoTypes: exploring environmental ideas, discovering deep difference

  • James D. ProctorEmail author
Symposium: Embracing Disagreement in Environmental Thought


The EcoTypes initiative, launched in early 2017, is a joint research and educational effort focusing primarily on students enrolled in undergraduate environmental courses in US institutions of higher education. EcoTypes was designed for participants to explore the fundamental ideas that shape how they approach environmental issues. They do so via a survey consisting of 15 key scales or axes (e.g., Aesthetics, Change, or Diversity); in the last 2 years, the EcoTypes survey has been completed approximately 3000 times by students in roughly 50 institutions. These 15 axes can be gathered via statistical analysis into three themes, including Place (human/nonhuman), Knowledge (old/new), and Action (small/big). The tensions and contradictions inherent in each theme suggest deep difference, an unsettled environmental contradiction with plural truths that cannot readily be harmonized. EcoTypes themes offer participants an opportunity to discover and engage across deep difference in a manner resonant with the coproduction of knowledge, though never toward some static consensus. EcoTypes suggests that the disagreement and difference we commonly experience today are inherent in environmental issues, not simply a matter of differing opinion, challenging us to take seriously the necessity of engagement across difference.


Ideas Attitudes Values Survey Difference Paradox Engagement Education 



I appreciate the support of Lewis & Clark College for this multiyear initiative, via Institutional Review Board approval (HSRC #2019-40). My colleagues and students at Lewis & Clark have provided insights and provocations as EcoTypes took form over the last several years. My colleagues in related 2017, 2018, and 2019 AESS conference sessions and workshops have also provided support, recommendations, and applications of EcoTypes; some but not all of them are featured in this Symposium series. Symposium colleagues provided important feedback on an earlier draft of this essay, and one (Jennifer Bernstein) provided important support during initial steps of the EcoTypes initiative. More recently, Lewis & Clark student Nico Farrell offered input into an earlier draft. I am grateful to all who have participated in the EcoTypes initiative to date. Finally, I appreciate the input of reviewers on an earlier draft.


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Copyright information

© AESS 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Studies ProgramLewis & Clark CollegePortlandUSA

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