Ecological Intelligence

While learning and discussing traditional ecological knowledge for the past few weeks, I wondered how ecological thinking had recently been embraced in Western mainstream academia and schools. In Western academia and public discourse, the concept of ecology seems to be applied more practically, rather than philosophically. As one example, I like to point out Daniel Goleman’s notion of Ecological Intelligence; it emphasizes the enhanced awareness of environments, which may be different, to some extent, from indigenous ecological thinking and living based upon a fundamental harmony between the land and the human. Goleman defines Ecological Intelligence as “the ability to adapt to our ecological niche” and argues that “an all-encompassing sensibility can let us see the interconnections between our actions and their hidden impacts on the planet, our health, and our social systems”.

Although it is not certain if Goleman’s writings are influenced by indigenous ecological knowledge, his concept of Ecological Intelligence seems to present how the Western industrialist way of thinking is negotiated by an ecological approach. That is, I would suspect that Western adoption of ecological thinking as shown in the concept of Emotional Intelligence may stem from a practical purpose (such as “safe” development; eventually for continuation of the industrialized world) rather than a fundamental harmony with the nature.

Goleman’s web-site of Ecological Intelligence does have some video resources (such as his PBS interview), yet it mainly aims to promote and sell his books and ideas. It appears that the site itself is an example of how ecological knowledge is commodified within the mainstream Western knowledge system.

Ky (Module 3: #2)

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