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Ecological Intelligence

ZhaoyrCecilia's picture


The concept of “ecological intelligence” proposed by Bower from my perspective involves the idea that people standing on the sides of others to think about themselves. This conception is mostly inspired from the article Vaster than Empires, and More Slow by Ursula Leguin.  From this article, I find everyone has empathy, but the ecological intelligence decides whether we can think from others’ perspectives.  The depth of the empathy decides people’s ability to sense the mood from others and ecological intelligence decides the ability to find out the thoughts from others’ perspective.

In LeGuin's story, Mr. Osden is a person that has ecological intelligence who has deep empathy with other people or things and he is thought to be autistic. He is the only one that can feel others’ emotion. He is considered as autistic or aggressive, but no one is sure that why he looks autistic. Actually, we cannot make sure that he is the origin of the aggressive emotion because he has the ability of empathy. His empathy is too powerful so that he can be easily influenced by the exterior. The aggressive mood may be conveyed by other first. This negative mood “projected onto him” (Leguin, 151) and then he somehow reflects the mood again. Thus, from the perspective of others, Osden is the one that is autistic because he transfer the negative mood back to others again in order to self-defense. Those people who think Osden is aggressive just the way he is are not ecological intelligence because they do not stand on the side of Osden to think about themselves. When they think it is Osden’s fault to be unfriendly and autistic, they do not introspect themselves that whether they have the prejudice first.

Then, the crew in Leguin’s story find that there is something that trying to attack them and Mr. Osden is attacked by the unknown things. The coordinator Tomiko finds fear in Osden eyes and think there has been something that scares Osden. They believe that there was “something” that attacked Osden, which makes him so afraid. However, Osden tells that it is the forest that sends him the fear. It is a “sentience without senses” (170). He has the empathy with the forest so he receives the fearful emotion from the forest and then he reflects the fear out when Tomiko looks into his eyes. Then the people without ecological intelligence make a mistake again. They think it is the forest that send out the sense of fear first; however, they ignore their original attitude. Osden, who has the ecological intelligence reminds them that they should think of their own moods. When Tomiko says that “we don’t intend harm, we are friendly” (171), Osden points out that they are not. It is the people who send the fear and aggress to the forest first, and due to self-defense, the forest sends the fear out again to attack the people. People without ecological intelligence always think that it is the fault from the exterior but never thinks from the perspective of others and inspect into their own.

In the end of the story, Osden is the only one that choose to stay on the planet and live with the forest because he has ecological intelligence. He is able to get along with nature well because he is not a person that only thinks of himself think from the perspective of surroundings. He is able to change the reflection from nature because he knows how to think from the perspective of nature first. He thinks the forest lives alone—“no roots, and no enemies. To be entire… No invasion. No others. To be whole…” (174), so that his empathy with the forest is “rejection” (174). The forest rejects him and he rejects the forest. There is no harm to each other.

Bruno Latour’s idea of subject and object can be considered as a lens here: when people’s emotions transfer to others, they are subject; however, when others reflect the emotions back to themselves, they are object. To have ecological intelligence helps people to aware why they are objects and how to do when they are objects.

Children should start to learn ecological intelligence in order to avoid thinking only from the perspective of themselves. Ecological intelligence can help them with their social relationship, and more important, to think about the issues that happen between human and nature environment. People need to think from the perspective of earth now.