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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 83 Green Dharma reviews at tHe moment, everyone’s attention seems to be riveted on the economic crisis undermining financial stability around the world. meanwhile, on land and sea and sky, environmental systems continue to collapse. in Ecological intelligence, daniel Goleman, well-known for his work on emo- tional intelligence, details his efforts to grasp the widespread im- pact of “stuff,” while in A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emer- gency, John stanley, david loy, and Gyurme dorje take on climate change from a buddhist perspective. central to both books is the hopeful view that understanding and awareness will lead to be- havior change—that motivation can produce results. Goleman’s book tracks his journey from being “clueless” to re- alizing a green social vision based on informed consumer choice. He explores the hidden impacts of production and consump- tion, rousing readers with mind-numbing lists of widespread environmental damage. the impact of various products is well documented in other volumes by other writers; Goleman’s con- tribution is imagining a collective understanding he calls “eco- logical intelligence.” this phrase is typically associated with environmental insight based on a sense of place, close relations with nature, or indigenous ecological awareness. but this is not Goleman’s approach. He envisions ecological intelligence as data driven—the cumulative knowledge of product life cycles and the impact those life cycles have, as described by industrial ecolo- gists. He argues that by drawing on complex life-cycle analyses (lcas) and product-rating criteria, consumers can become a powerful market force tipping the scales for sustainability. the book introduces readers to a virtual network of people who represent the skills we need to build a storehouse of shared ecological intelligence. they include scientists and entrepreneurs in neuroeconomics, computing sciences, and industrial ecology. Key to Goleman’s vision are comprehensive data-management systems that can offer consumers “radical transparency” by ex- posing as much information as possible regarding the life cycle of a product and the full range of its consequences. assuming a human proclivity for empathy and adaptive behavior, he argues that informed consumers will make virtuous choices and drive the business world toward social and ecological responsibility. to convince us that this potent force is already in action, he shares examples of green thinking from around the world. in berkeley, california, a start-up business is developing the GoodGuide, an electronic resource with access to product rat- ings via cell phone. in britain, the supermarket chain tesco has calculated carbon footprints for more than 70,000 store items. in europe, organic produce distributor eosta provides environ- mental ratings for farming practices with e-profiles of featured farmers online. and in response to consumer protest in india, coca-cola is consulting with the world wildlife Fund to analyze the water costs of every aspect of its production. For Goleman, shopping can be compassion in action, a path to social liberation from our destructive environmental habits. but there are many assumptions here that may undercut his vision. study after study shows that consumers do not necessarily act ra- PaintinGbycoRinneHicKey Ecological intElligEncE How Knowing the Hidden impacts of What We Buy can change Everything by daniel Goleman Broadway Business, 2009; 288 pp., $26.00 (cloth) a BuddHist REsponsE to tHE climatE EmERgEncy edited by John stanley, david loy, and Gyurme dorje Wisdom Publications, 2009; 200 pp., $16.95 (paper) REviEWED By sTEPHAniE KAzA sTEPHAniE KAzA is a professor of Environmental studies at the Uni- versity of vermont and the author of mindfully Green: a Personal and spiritual Guide to whole earth thinking.