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Ecological Intelligence: The Hidden Impacts of What We Buy [Paperback]

Daniel Goleman

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Book Description

March 30 2010
The bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership now brings us Ecological Intelligence—revealing the hidden environmental consequences of what we make and buy, and how with that knowledge we can drive the essential changes we all must make to save our planet and ourselves.

We buy “herbal” shampoos that contain industrial chemicals that can threaten our health or contaminate the environment. We dive down to see coral reefs, not realizing that an ingredient in our sunscreen feeds a virus that kills the reef. We wear organic cotton t-shirts, but don’t know that its dyes may put factory workers at risk for leukemia. In Ecological Intelligence, Daniel Goleman reveals why so many of the products that are labeled green are a “mirage,” and illuminates our wild inconsistencies in response to the ecological crisis.

Drawing on cutting-edge research, Goleman explains why we as shoppers are in the dark over the hidden impacts of the goods and services we make and consume, victims of a blackout of information about the detrimental effects of producing, shipping, packaging, distributing, and discarding the goods we buy.

But the balance of power is about to shift from seller to buyer, as a new generation of technologies informs us of the ecological facts about products at the point of purchase. This “radical transparency” will enable consumers to make smarter purchasing decisions, and will drive companies to rethink and reform their businesses, ushering in, Goleman claims, a new age of competitive advantage.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (March 30 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385527837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385527835
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 12.9 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #259,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Goleman's critiques are scathing, but his conclusion is heartening: a new generation of industrial ecologists is mapping the exact impact of every production process, which could challenge consumers to change their behavior in substance rather than just show.”

-- Publishers Weekly

“A convincing case that information alone–provided that it’s easy for shoppers to access–can spur an ecological revolution.”

-- Kirkus Reviews

“Former New York Times columnist Goleman (Emotional Intelligence)… persuasively argues that radical transparency–which includes environmental, social, biological, and worker safety and health impacts–will better enable consumers to make decisions based on what matters most to them. Goleman's discussion of individual shopping habits is particularly interesting, including the need to be aware of superficial service and product claims…Although individual decisions are important, he asserts that group action and institutions can create market pressure to shift to sustainable practices and that digital tools can play an effective role in shaping collective awareness and creating coordinated action. Recommended for readers interested in business or environmental issues.”

-- Library Journal

"Ecological Intelligence is a fascinating whodunit revealing the intricate processes that create our material world. Written by the acknowledged master on how to be a truly intelligent human being, Goleman reveals the complex web of impacts everyday products have upon people and habitat and how a new form of intelligence can radically alter consumption patterns from destructive to constructive."

-- Paul Hawken, Author of the Ecology of Commerce and Blessed Unrest

“The eight hundred pound gorilla behind virtually all of the ‘sustainability challenges’ is you, and me, the consumer.  The problem is not that we are bad but that we have been blind to the impacts of our every-day choices - which is about to change. As Goleman shows, new information technologies and growing public concern are awakening our intrinsic desire to do what is right to shape a healthier world for our children and grandchildren.”

-- Peter Senge, Director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of The Fifth Discipline, The Dance of Change, Presence, and The Necessary Revolution

“Drawing on his capacious intelligence Daniel Goleman dissects the issues involved in the attainment of long term sustainability and details promising and intriguing solutions. Once again, he has written an essential book.”

-- Howard Gardner, author and Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Our civilization faces a sobering, momentous challenge, one of the most profound in its history: the ominous possibility of ecological collapse, and Dan Goleman provides fresh insight and the most intelligent, thoughtful plan to confront it. Goleman skillfully weaves together his argument, through a masterful combination of logic and persuasion, about how we can apply our intelligence to this pressing question. Goleman makes a powerful and compelling case that how we answer this question will determine not just our fate, but the fate of our children and even life on this planet. This book should be required reading for every politician, policy maker, and citizen of this planet. It should sit on the desk of everyone who is concerned about making the best, most intelligent choices for our destiny.”

-- Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics, author of Physics of the Impossible and Parallel Worlds

“The market place is a democratic voting booth, if we chose to make it so -- we the consumer get to decide which companies will succeed and which ones fail. Dan Goleman's  Ecological Intelligence provides tools for voting consciously and rationally. An eloquent "must read" bridge between business and consumer that crosses generational gaps and lights the path to an environmentally sustainable and socially just destination.”

-- John Perkins, bestselling author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

DANIEL GOLEMAN is the author of the international bestsellers Emotional Intelligence, Working with Emotional Intelligence, and Social Intelligence, and the co-author of the acclaimed business bestseller Primal Leadership. He was a science reporter for the New York Times, was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and received the American Psychological Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his media writing. He lives in the Berkshires.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Desperately needing organization-- April 8 2011
By N. Forrester - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I like Daniel Goleman, but this was so poorly organized, I found it hard to read. An interesting topic but in need of an editor--
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A call to become an eco-conscious consumer Sept. 21 2010
By Sarah B. Warren, PhD - Published on Amazon.com
As a psychologist, environmentalist and concerned parent, I eagerly read the father of emotional and social intelligence's contribution to the growing field of literature on the ecological impacts of our choices. Goleman applies the same wisdom he displayed in Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence to what might be considered the most pressing issue of our time--the dire state of the natural world that nourishes and sustains us.

Daniel Goleman helps us understand our difficulty confronting hard truths about the state of our planet. He points to the need to stop telling ourselves comforting "vital lies" that mask hard truths. He nicely describes from an evolutionary and psychological standpoint why it is difficult--although not impossible-- for us to register and therefore act on gradual threats such as the increases in temperature we are experiencing. I am a highly informed, engaged, environmentally aware psychologist, and even I struggle sometimes to face the reality of the state of our natural world and the implications for our society--and our children's lives.

He offers a wonderful of example of recycling as a vital lie that allows us to feel like we're doing our part, when in fact we're barely making a dent given the nature and scale of the problem. Recycling is one of our favorite eco-actions-- it's a no brainer. Yet he suggests that until we have "total recycling" in which all the components of a product can be completely reused, we are simply lulling ourselves into thinking that we are doing enough when in fact we are doing very little of real environmental good. This kind of vital lie, he argues, "creates a collusion among us all not to look squarely at the hidden impacts of our choices."

He makes a compelling argument for "radical transparency' on the part of companies that would allow us to make fully informed choices about what we buy. To achieve radical transparency, however, will require us to use not just our wallets but our voices and votes to incentivize companies to reduce their impact on the natural world--and to tell us fully what they are doing.

My mission is to empower people to take action to protect the planet for our children and grandchildren. Ecological intelligence is required of us if we are to protect the planet-- the air we breathe, the fields that feed us, the oceans we enjoy-- for those we love.

If you want to be a conscious consumer-- or business leader, for that matter-- read this book. Pause, reflect, pass it on to a friend, and use your spheres of influence to act in an ecologically intelligent manner-- on the greatest scale possible.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good high-level product views. Recommended Nov. 24 2010
By J. Flynn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I recommend it. Nothing else quite like it out there. I'm literate and numerate and in these times there's a huge need to be eco-literate to go with the other two. I recommend Innumeracy also. You don't want to be innumerate. Climate science is way too complex to grasp if you don't have some basic foundation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecological Intelligence July 13 2012
By Pauline Poncy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A must read for anyone exploring sustainable activities. Daniel Coleman has focused perspective that illuminates details of the world of sustainability. Going green is a necessity in today's economy and this book will help you with the process.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relevance, Content, Price--Solid Five Dec 29 2011
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on Amazon.com
I chose this book over Ecological Intelligence: Rediscovering Ourselves in Nature and seeing the author's note about this other book "by a physician, Jungian analyst, and poet" am certain I made the right choice.

The author's "big idea" is called "Radical Transparency," what the rest of us have been calling "Open Books" for decades. I like it, and in the context of his elegant story-telling, I buy in. This book also goes to a five because it is an Information Operations (IO) books, ably focused on data, information, and information-sharing as well as collective sense-making. He author anticipates most of us becoming "active agents" for change, armed with information as Thomas Jefferson understood so well.

CORE NUGGET: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is not done for most things, but when done right, it is mainly data and it tracks impacts on human health, ecosystems, climate change, and resource draw-down, for every single component and every single process including transport, packaging, etcetera. Toward the end of the book when the author talks about how an LCA commons is emerging, and quotes Andy Ruben of normally ultra-evil Wal-Mart as saying that LCA innovation "is the largest strategic opportunity companies will see for the next fifty years," I am seriously impressed.

EARLY INSIGHT: Drawing on Howard Gardner's Five Minds for the Future and other works, the author observes that the human brain is optimized by heredity for the here and now, able to sense "obvious" but not subtle changes.

EARLY INSIGHT: Everything we buy or use was designed to tackle one need without regard to social or ecological costs. It was NOT designed to be green (the author cites Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The author states "Green is a process not a status."

QUOTE: "Ecological Intelligence allows us to comprehend systems in all their complexity, as well as the interplay between the natural and man-made worlds." I am reminded of Buckminster Fuller and Critical Path.

Later, when he speaks of collective shared intelligence as a partial answer, he outlines three rules:

1. Know your impacts (others would add, know true costs first)

2. Favor improvements (others would add, at every level)

3. Share what you learn (others would add: this is the core concept of Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making (M4IS2) that is the 21st Century implementation of the 20th Century concept of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)).

QUOTE: "As control of data shifts from sellers to buyers, companies would do well to prepare ahead for this information sea change."

QUOTE: [When people mobilize you see] "the dual marketplace power of lowering the cost of information combined with information sharing. The multiplier effect meats networks of people pooling their knowledge can diminish information asymmetry."

QUOTE: "To be trustworthy, Radical Transparency needs to be authoritative, impartial, and comprehensive." Sounds like a World Brain with embedded EarthGame to me, see Earth Intelligence Network or Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Blog.

MIDDLE INSIGHT: There are huge social benefits to be had by increasing wealth of the bottom billion to bottom five billion that far outweigh the ecological costs. I smile as a read this, as it coincides with the mushroom cloud over the Climate Change Unit (CRU) in England, now outed for its fraudulent practices and possibly criminal misbehavior.

MIDDLE INSIGHT: Need to tap native wisdom and combine this with better use of sunlight and rainwater.

The author discusses three inter-locking spheres in a very easy to appreciate manner:

1. GeoSphere

2. BioSphere (with four costs: Cancer, Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY), loss of bio-diversity, and embodied toxicity.

3. SocioShere (labor and labor practices)

I have a number of fly-leaf notes, many of which will not fit within the 1,000 world limit, so here are a few:

+ "Compassionate Capitalism" is a term used, NOT in the Index (which does have "compassionate consumption" This book easily falls within the category I label "Cultural Intelligence."

+ Industrial Ecology, Environmental Health, Neuro-Economists, Epigenetics, and "Freegan"

+ Value chain analysis ignored value subtracted

+ Recycling recycles toxins [this blew my mind, I should have known better, see among many other works Pandora's Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy and High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health

+ 88 billion plastic bags in USA along, "an ecological disaster," and paper bags are NO BETTER

+ Sun Screen washed off in the ocean nurtures algae capable of killing 10% of the coral reefs

+ Greenwashing is common, virtually nothing advertised as "green" really is

+ Distance of goods shipped is NOT a good indicator of carbon footprint--NZ lamb beats UK lamb every time, and KE roses beat NL roses, when all local carbon savings are counted.

+ Tens of thousands of toxins can combine in billions of combinations--US a dumping ground for stuff Europe will no longer allow

+ 11% boost in sales achieved for products with "fair labor" tags, and as price is increased, sales increase!

+ Two thirds of shoppers WANT to make ethical decisions, but the information must be EASY to grasp

+ UN Environmental Program joins the UN High Level Panel in my good book, see A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility--Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change also available free online. The UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should probably be disbanded, they lack both integrity and a strategic analytic model.

Bottom line: consumer perception has more weight in today's information environment, and that will only grow in relation to the declining weight of the manufacturer or offerer of any good or service. We are literally on the verge of creating the virtual fulcrum to move the Earth--information with integrity, shared freely across all boundaries.

Bottom line: Activists that used to lobby governments for regulations are now recognizing that shared information delivered directly to the consumer is the Holy Grail of doing good, at the same time that corporations are starting to "get" sustainable design equals sustainable profit.

The book is a solid four on its own merits, with the gifted story-telling, the gripping details, and well-crafted "outcome" of understanding making up for a relative lack of depth. This is double-spaced journalism, not a Toffler-esque cultural research project.

Three other books within the limit:
Ecological Economics, Second Edition: Principles and Applications
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World
The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism

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