EcoTypes: Exploring Environmental Imaginaries

Authors: James Proctor*, Lewis and Clark College
Topics: Environment, Geographic Theory, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: environment, imaginaries, education, theory, paradox, engagement
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 28
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


After moving from geography to environmental studies in 2005, my work has focused on the undergraduate curriculum, but a recent hybrid initiative allows me to blend environmental theory with an online learning resource. Launched in 2017, the EcoTypes initiative (jimproctor.us/ecotypes) explores environmental imaginaries via fifteen axes—e.g., Change, Future, Nature, Science, Social Scale, Time—statistically bundled into three themes: nonhuman/human Place, old/new Knowledge, and small/big Action. For students, EcoTypes offers an array of ideas associated with how they relate to environmental issues, via an online survey, personalized report, dynamic charts, and additional resources. The survey has to date been completed roughly 5000 times by students in 75 schools, primarily US institutions of higher education. For faculty teaching environmental courses, EcoTypes includes instructional guides, anonymized student data, and approachable applications to six environmental topics—e.g., climate, food, and sustainability. In the context of theory, the rich EcoTypes dataset suggests—at least among these participants—a structure to environmental ideas, and some key paradoxes at the heart of contemporary American environmental thought. While there might be some scholarly resolution of the tensions inherent in EcoTypes axes—for instance, toward the hybrid (vs. pure) pole of Nature or the orthodox (vs. heterodox) pole of Science—the three themes of Place, Knowledge, and Action may entail irresolvable difference—paradox—as defined by their respective poles. If so, there are consequences for engagement across difference, beyond striving for agreement or expecting inevitable disagreement, toward some sort of creative tension and dynamic coproduction of environmental knowledge.

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