Unpacking Environmental Theory

The past three weeks in Envs 350 have been centered around discussing what environmental theory is and why it is valuable to study. We began by reading A Manifesto for Theory in the Environmental Studies and Science (Proctor 2013) and Approaching Environmental Theory (Proctor 2019). The first addressed a lack of discussion and scholarship on environmental theory, and called for greater attention to be given to theory in the environmental studies and sciences. The later focused on how not to engage with environmental theory and discussed three tenets of unnecessary environmental scholarship. These readings all addressed the importance of environmental theory, while also attempting to navigate the fact that there is little scholarship on environmental theory. One of the most interesting things about this class is that while there are plenty of environmental theories out there, environmental theory is still not an established field. It is engaging to talk about defining where it’s value is and how best to learn it in a classroom.

One of the most clearly defined benefits of learning environmental theory is the space it provides to discuss different through a scholarly lens. With this in mind, we began considering the ecotypes survey, an alternative to the NEP scale (Dunlap 2008) that operates as more of a sliding scale. The ecotypes survey takes into consideration where individuals have conflicting beliefs or ideals and the nuances of how those ideals and beliefs connect. The ecotypes survey is a great way to consider the importance of engaging across difference. The ecotypes survey compares individuals results to the averaged results of everyone who has taken the survey. There numbers are not representative of the population as a whole because a majority of people who have taken the survey are white, female college students. However the numbers are an interesting tool to compare results to.