Untangling "Eco" from 'Enviro"

on Thursday, 06 February 2014. Posted in Artists, Blog

How are these terms applied to art?

To artists, the adjective “environmental” is often associated with a particular manner of displaying sculpture (outdoors), a scale (large), and a time period (1960s-1970s). It does not infer a theme (concern for the well-being of eco systems).

To artists, the prefix “eco” infers a theme (concern for the well-being of eco system conditions, functions, and their inhabitants), and an intention (to remediate, preserve, and vitalize these systems). It does not indicate a particular manner of display, or scale, or time period.

Brandon Ballengee is an example of ecology.

The Beehive Collective is an example of environmentalism.


How are these terms applied outside of art?

The confusion between these terms originates in the common disregard for their definitions:

Ecology is a rigorous scientific discipline. There are many types of ecology (e.g. wetlands, evolution, marine, plant, community, forest, etc.)

However, the term ‘ecology’ appears as frequently in non-scientific contexts (e.g. Deep Ecology, Social Ecology, Eco Feminism).

Furthermore, the definition of ‘ecology’ within popular discourse often contradicts its scientific orientation (e.g.ecology of commerce, ecology of fear, and ecology of money, etc.).


Environmentalism refers to strategies directed at conditions of the planet and advocacy for specific species. There are many types of environmentalism, some of them include the word ‘ecology’ (e.g. Preservation, Conservation, Restoration Ecology, Urban Ecology, etc).

The meaning of 'environmentalism' is also muddled by academic Environmental Studies Programs. , even those that offer B.A. degrees, are science-based: (e.g. earth system sciences, geography, statistics, chemistry, biology). Others feature social sciences and humanities (e.g. ethics, environmental justice, food systems, understanding places, allocating scarce environmental resources, etc.).

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