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Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything Hardcover – April 21, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; First Edition edition (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385527829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385527828
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #935,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two years ago, British fashion designer Anna Hindmarch produced the must-have accessory of the season: a bleached, organic cotton tote manufactured in fair-wage factories, subsidized with carbon offsets and emblazoned with the slogan, I'm NOT a plastic bag. But according to Goleman (Emotional Intelligence), the people who bought the bag were advertising their ecological ignorance, not their consciousness. In this thorough examination of the inconsistencies and delusions at the core of the going green effort, the author argues that consumers are collective victims of a sleight of hand, helplessly unaware of the true provenance and impact of the products they purchase: they reassure themselves by buying environmentally friendly tote bags that, upon ecological assessment, reveal some uncomfortable facts, e.g., 10,000 liters of water were required to grow the cotton for one bag, and cotton crops alone account for the use of about 10% of the world's pesticides. 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. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Goleman, best-selling author of such groundbreaking works as Emotional Intelligence (1995) and Primal Leadership (2002), brings his invaluable behavioral insights to our most urgent dilemma: how to halt environmental catastrophe. What’s required, Goleman believes, is ecological intelligence, which he defines as understanding the “hidden web of connections between human activity and nature’s systems, and the subtle complexities of their intersections.” More concretely, Goleman encourages readers to learn about the many invisible threats to our health and the health of the environment caused by product manufacturing. Wisely focusing on the one element we can control, what we purchase, Goleman calls for higher “green” standards and “radical transparency” regarding how products are made. An enlightening foray into industrial ecology reveals how new forms of analysis determine precisely how the manufacture of such disparate items as toys, shampoo, and paper contributes to natural resource depletion, chemical pollution, and global warming. Brimming with intriguing, useful, and galvanizing information, this is an exceptionally sharp, innovative, and realistic approach to raising the demand for environmentally safe merchandise. Given Goleman’s track record and the pressing need for smart strategies, this fascinating treatise has tremendous potential for reaching and motivating a large and diverse audience. --Donna Seaman

More 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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Customer Reviews

I recommend reading the book instead.
Donald Mitchell
Maybe Goleman and his publishers felt that it would make this book more attractive if its title followed on from his other books on variuos types of intelligence.
Andrew French
Its important to see how we as consumers buy things and the effects of that purchase while ignoring the obvious negitive impacts of production to the earth.
Roger L. Jackson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Mark D. Bello on April 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It's the ultimate detective work: examining the processes (including energy, chemicals, social impacts) involved with creating, transporting, storing and ultimately consuming and disposing of "stuff." Author Goleman digs deep into "life cycle analysis" (LCA) of a wide range of products, looking at the environmental and social ramifications that are usually "out of sight, out of mind," guided by expert Gregory Norris. The insights are illuminating and go far beyond the usual (casual) carbon calculation. The process of recycling glass alone-- and the energy and chemistry involved-- is a real eye-opener, reminding us that reducing our impact to CO2 emissions vastly oversimplifies our footprint on the planet.

In my mind, this approach of telling stories and conducting forensic investigations into "stuff" should be embedded throughout education, because it is inherently interdisciplinary, combining math and science, but also social studies, history, psychology, business, sociology. It's also timely and would contribute to "eco-school" and 100% green school goals that are currently being developed.

For business people, this book is a must. While the "greening" of business is nothing new and is all too often manifest as "green-washing," there are signs that business is taking "cradle to grave" analysis of products and the supply chain seriously, in part because regulation of embedded greenhouse gases will require careful accounting, in part because of increased social responsibility, and in part because, when done correctly, it can save money, reduce waste, and provide a competitive advantage over the competition.

Goleman rightly points out that we can't consume our way of the dire situation we are in, but we can reduce our consumption and buy smartly.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Stephen T. Hopkins VINE VOICE on May 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I thought about viral marketing after I finished reading Daniel Goleman's latest book, Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything. In the same way that companies can use organized word of mouth campaigns to push products, consumers have an increasing number of ways to let their views be known and shared to influence products. Goleman proposes or anticipates the development of what he calls radical transparency by which all the contents and hidden costs of all products are visible to consumers. With that knowledge, sustainability becomes more likely, dangerous ingredients are eliminated, and we are more likely to have product choices that are green and safe. While I found Goleman's presentation to be pedantic at times, and preachy at others, the bulk of his book presents some clear thinking about one area in which consumers can take action: the decision of what to buy and what to avoid. Anyone making products will find Ecological Intelligence a useful book to read and compare organizational readiness for consumers that will be more activist in their expectations and actions.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'" -- Genesis 1:26

It's one thing to have power over the Earth; it's another to take good care of that gift. Dr. Daniel Goleman has long been concerned about how people can become more aware of the trade-offs that affect their health, the purity of the environment, and the sustainability of the resources that are being wasted. Most of the rules of thumb we learn about what's best for the environment are wrong in many particular instances. As a result, you need someone to analyze everything very carefully and tell you what the net effects are of option A versus option B, much as details about food contents of packages help consumers pick the best choices for their families.

In this book, Dr. Goleman looks at the information challenges and how people have responded to being provided with better information. He makes an aggressive and optimistic argument that information alone will provide the basis for people to make more rational decisions about ingredients, practices, and eliminating waste. While I hope he's right, I think he's over optimistic. While Dr. Goleman doesn't believe that government has a useful role, it's entirely possible that pollution and waste taxes can provide additional incentives to make more appropriate decisions.

Based on many years of best practice research my students and I have conducted, I agree with his assertion that eliminating waste, taking out harmful ingredients, and upgrading the surrounding environment is more profitable than the alternative.
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