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Ecological Intelligence: An Idea

GraceNL's picture

Ecological Intelligence: An Idea

A classroom full of students. A School bell. Ring. Ring. Ring. The anticipation for the fun to come. For the freedom from the classroom. Recess. The innocence of childhood. Monkey bars. Slides. Swings. Games. The joyful sounds of children playing, unaware about the ever-changing world around them. There voices echoing across the school yard. Tag you’re it. Miss Mary Mack, Mack Mack… Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. One of the more morbid sayings heard in the schoolyard. Something, I myself, believed as a child. Ridiculous and fictional and yet it taught me an important lesson. Not that if I stepped on a crack I would break my mother’s back, but that every action I do causes a reaction. Cause equals effect. On the schoolyard, one of the most important rules of life is learned. But as we grow older we forget this. We get so tied up in our own lives, so tied up with the strive for money, power, and some higher form of happiness that we forget the lessons we learned on the schoolyard. As a child I thought about how my actions could affect another, and yet as an adult me, and most of the human population, only focus on what immediately effects us personally.

What’s cheapest? What’s easiest? What’s the least time consuming? We get so caught up in the rush for money and power that we forget to think about others. We forget that our actions have reactions. We forget to think ecologically.

As a race, we need to start thinking with ecological intelligence. “Ecological intelligence takes account of relationships, contexts, as well as the impacts of ideas and behaviors on other members in the cultural and natural systems” (Bowers 45). Our actions do not only affect our immediate selves and the people immediately around us. Human’s actions do not only affect humans.

If we only focus on what immediately helps us the most we can cause bad effects for other organisms. “Rachel Carson’s recognition of the connections between the use of DDT and the decline in the local population of birds…” shows the connection between action and reaction (Bowers 45). The use of DDT, which immediately helped humans with killing bugs that were harmful to crops, was creating a chain reaction, which was harming the local bird populations. Cause equals effect.

Thinking ecologically means thinking about the big picture as well as the results that directly affect us. Thinking ecologically means that we must open our minds up to the idea that we are not the only important organism. Ursula K. Le Guin, in her short story “Vaster than Empires and More Slow”, demonstrates what it truly means to think ecologically. She shows that to think ecologically we must think of our selves as part of the living, breathing organism that is our planet. We are not separate entities from our planet. We rely on our planet to breath, to live and when we don’t think ecologically we risk destroying the planet that we need to survive.

Today we are in the age of the Anthropocene and we are experiencing the Sixth Great Extinction. Our carbon-footprint on the earth is reaching a critical level. The polar ice caps are melting. The sea levels are rising. Across the world natural disasters are increasing uncontrollably. Drought and famine have caused some of the world’s most current human crisis.

Yet, people still think in their little bubbles with no acknowledgment of what their actions may do. People need to think ecologically to help save our planet. Now, I realize this isn’t easy. After being raised and spending most of our lives thinking only about ourselves and the immediate effect of our actions on us and those closely around us, it won’t be easy to start thinking with ecological intelligence. So start small.

Start by talking about how your actions affect others. Start by thinking about how what you buy affects other people in this world. In one of my college classes we have been talking about ecological intelligence and after reading “Steps to the Recovery of Ecological Intelligence” by C.A. Bowers I have realized that throughout the year we have, unconsciously even, started to think more ecologically. We have started to think and talk about the world we live in not as a separate entity from ourselves but rather as though we are all connected. And that is what it means to think ecologically.

We are all connected. As humans we are connected to other humans, whether we will ever meet them or not. As humans we are connected to the other organisms on the Earth, for we all share the planet and are all affected by each other’s actions. So next time you spray bug killer on your garden think about how it will affect the wildlife around you. Next time you buy something think about who is making it, where the materials are coming from, and how your action of purchasing the object may negatively affect others.

Imagine a world where people think about the environment with the same dedication and integrity they think about themselves. Think about a world where the impacts of the environment dictated economic policy rather than monetary gain. Such a world isn’t so far off, or is it?



Works Cited

C.E. Bowers, Steps to the Recovery of Ecological Intelligence." OMETECA 43: 14-15.

Ursula LeGuin. Vaster than Empires, and More Slow. The Wind's Twelve Quarters: Short Stories.  New York: Harper and Row, 1975. 148-178.



Anne Dalke's picture

I like the engaged play with which this essay begins (you have grabbed onto play this semester!) and I like the trope of thinking back, from today, to what you first learned on the playground. Latour would challenge your focus on action-reaction, however, since he claims the world is much more complex than such a linear chain acknowledges ("all agents share the same shape-changing destiny"; agency is distributed "as far and in as differentiated a way as possible").

I just posted a a list of things that you can do about climate change; it seems akin to some of the ideas you suggest: /oneworld/changing-our-story-2015/what-you-can-do-about-climate-change

I like, too, your use of Bower's definition of ecological intelligence as "taking account of relationships, contexts, impacts..." and/but I'd like to hear some data to back up your claim that "throughout the year we have, unconsciously even, started to think more ecologically. We have started to think and talk about the world we live in not as a separate entity from ourselves but rather as though we are all connected." How do you know this? What is your evidence? Do you want to do a re-write of this paper, and explore this claim?