12 June 2011

Ecological Literacy versus Environmental Intelligence

I keep getting updates from the Alliance for Earth Observations, about their 14 June 2011 Forum on Earth Observations (TM). They're meeting, with lots of big names, in Washington, DC to discuss "Creating a National Strategy for Environmental Intelligence." I'll admit, I would have more faith in their conference if their links worked better, but I'll put that aside for the moment....

Here are the highlights of the day's program:
  • The Need for Improved Environmental Intelligence
  • Environmental Intelligence Roundtable: Three Perspectives on U.S. Needs
  • The Role of Observations in Food Security
  • Linking Environmental and Business Intelligence
  • U.S. Earth Observations, Contributing Beyond Our Borders
  • Measuring to Manage
  • Innovative Solutions for Environmental Intelligence
So, I'm reading along, and it finally twigs. Hold on, wait just a minute! They're not talking about environmental intelligence as a synonym for ecological literacy (as I thought they were). So I click on What is Environmental Intelligence? (a link that works), and this is what I find out.
"Simply put, environmental intelligence is the most accurate and timely information available about our planet that enables governments, communities, companies and individuals to make sound decisions – decisions that save lives; protect and grow the economy; strengthen national security; and improve quality of life. Environmental intelligence is a result of a critical supply chain that begins with science and observations – ground sensors, ocean buoys, stream gauges, satellites, etc. – and ends with actionable information that allows decision-makers to better respond and adapt to a changing planet."
Darn, I thought I'd finally found a group of big shots (after all, this event is sponsored by the likes of NASA and, oops, Lockheed Martin) who understood the importance of people learning about how the Earth works. Ah, no.

Let's play a game, these folks said many decades ago. Let's screw up the planet with our growth-at-all-costs economic system and our imperialistic military view of the world. Then, once the world is screwed up, let's pretend we're interested in solutions by sugarcoating our growth-at-all-costs economics and our imperialistic militarism and we'll call it, let's see ... hey, how about environmental intelligence?

So, instead of environmental intelligence meaning information + knowledge + understanding + wisdom (with some important skills and attitudes thrown in), it has been turned into a military term meaning we're gonna use the scientists to collect data and then we're gonna use the data to stay alive as long as we can in our country while we keep making more and more money off the rest of the world.

I'd like to suggest to the organizers (in case their intelligence leads them to this lowly blog post), that they infuse their notion of environmental intelligence with a little compassion for the most climate change vulnerable in the world, especially the children, of all species. Give me heart over brain any day ... look where intelligence — of both sorts — has gotten us.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?