Ecological Intelligence – Book Review

Ecological Intelligence Book CoverDaniel Goleman’s Ecological Intelligence: The Hidden Impacts of What We Buy explains why we buy what we buy. It offers some intriguing ideas on current and future trends that may influence us to put more emphasis on buying products that are good for people and the planet.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit we know we make buying decisions based on our emotions, at least some of the time. Well, okay, maybe a lot of the time. We buy stuff on impulse, select a cosmetic because it comes in a pretty box, and upgrade to the latest electronic gadget because everyone else is upgrading.

Take heart. It is not our fault. Ecological Intelligence describes how our brains function and direct our purchasing behaviors. Do not get too complacent, though, the book also informs us that our brains are capable of developing new pathways that can change how we shop and what we buy. This is a good thing. Our behavior can drive companies to make and sell healthy, environmentally friendly products.

“Customer shifts and government regulations are the two things that can change the business reality in the right direction.” —Joseph Stiglitz

Book Review

A glance at the list of chapters in Ecological Intelligence is sure to pique your interest with names like, “Green is a Mirage,” “Twitter and Buzz,””The New Math,” and my favorite “The Amygdala Goes Shopping.”

Goleman mixes brain science, psychology, and observations from nature with examples of what people and companies are doing to bring information and transparency to our everyday shopping experiences.

Observe how ants use swarm intelligence to work together to achieve hive-wide goals, like finding food. No ant is the leader; each ant observes simple rules, such as following the strongest pheromone trail, the one laid down by ants that already found food.

Consider how humans might address our common ecological objectives by employing swarm rules:

  • Know your impacts
  • Favor improvements
  • Share what you learn

Explore how digital tools and electronic gadgets have altered the relationship between customers and product manufacturers and sellers. Buyers now have an amazing amount of information available, literally at their fingertips, which can instantly influence and change buying decisions.

Companies no longer control how the public perceives the company or its products. For instance, thousands of moms and dads may read a blog post about a potentially toxic ingredient in the baby shampoo they have been buying; they instantly switch brands and tell their friends.

Learn about the brain’s amygdala, which plays the primary role in processing memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions. Our early ancestors relied on the amygdala to constantly scan for danger and then trigger the appropriate fight-flight-freeze reaction.

We are hard-wired to deal with urgent or short-term threats, not necessarily long-term threats like global warming. Fortunately, our brain’s neocortex can learn new things and new behaviors which bode well for our future.

“Green is a process, not a status—we need to think of ‘green’ as a verb, not an adjective. That semantic shift might help us focus better on greening.” —Daniel Goleman

The Bottom Line

Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist, journalist, and bestselling author. He is the co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning and co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations.

Ecological Intelligence is a fascinating book. Individuals have an opportunity to gain insight into their own buying behaviors and consider how they might change to better benefit themselves and the planet. Company CEO’s, R&D groups, and retailers are offered a view of the future marketplace where customers increasingly demand information, transparency, and products that are good for them and the planet.

If you have ever bought or sold anything, or intend to in the future, read Ecological Intelligence.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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