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Nurturing Ei3

(Environmental intelligence,

Emotional intelligence,

Eco-innovative Intelligence) or the true reason behind opening eco-sewing centres in Sri Lanka

 

We have all heard about globalization. Scholars have given us this concept to point at a common and not yet clarified experience of radical change. However, do we have the means to think globalization? Do we have a new mode of thinking, new neural connections and a new brain architecture enabling us to think that new awareness? The answer is negative for the majority of our contemporaries. This is also very true for the ladies working for LCEJ eco-sewing centres.

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Expressions such are ‘environmental crisis’, ‘global warming’, ‘great pacific garbage patch’, and many other expressions related to ecology are heard on a daily basis but cannot be processed by an ill-fitted mind. These words and sounds often generate in the minds of listeners indifference, scepticism, rejection or more simply a sense of unease. They unfortunately do not bring out the best out of most people. Governments and associations, not understanding the problem most of us have to process the information about the environmental crisis, turn to legislations, punishments and threats to create new behaviours. This is a very ineffective way to proceed.

 

How can our contemporaries acquire a new mode of thinking that will allow the smooth processing of those notions? To boggle an ill-fitted mind with those notions has very little positive effects and we should not be surprised. One of the failures of ecology is to accumulate and theorize information about the contemporary state of our planet without nurturing a new mode of thinking.
Ecology is often expressed in a mode of thinking that is ill-fitted to produce creative and joyful reactions in the mind of listeners. Ecology is perceived as a toxic stress and a danger to the developing brain.

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If LCEJ aims at effectiveness, one major aspect of its activities will be to nurture a new mode of thinking adapted to globalization. LCEJ calls that mode of thinking Ei3 (read Ei cubed): Environmental Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence & Eco-Innovative Intelligence.

 

Ei3: Focus on Environmental Intelligence

Here environment is taken in its broadest meaning as what surrounds, what encircles and what encompasses. Environmental intelligence favours a circular mode of thinking, rather than a linear one. To give an example, a linear mode of thinking sees Sri Lanka as far away from Japan. The physical, cultural and economic distance is such that the Japanese can justify a certain level of indifference to Sri Lankan problems. They delegate to their government the management of aid to Sri Lanka as part of Japan’s geostrategy, and do not feel much concern about that far distant entity called Sri Lanka. Ei3 on the contrary, cannot conceive Japan without taking into account Sri Lanka. Japan is part of a vast network of relationships. One of the many names of Japan is Sri Lanka. The aggregate of the conditions for Japan as a living entity encompass Sri Lanka.

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Another example would be a linear thinking approach to waste found on Sri Lankan beaches. In this case linear thinking starts with an awareness of waste on beaches and the unease that is created by such observation. Linear thinking bases its problem solving strategy on an image of clean beaches and how enjoyable this is for tourists and wealthy citizens. The usual solution is to invite a group of people to clean the beach. Huge plastic bags are given to volunteers who collect the plastic waste and pile the trash somewhere. Powerful citizens make sure that those bags are collected by the local waste management workers. However, because of a lack of waste management, most of the plastic waste goes back to the sea. Linear thinking is for short-term efficiency while environmental thinking is for long-term effective solutions. Environmental intelligence is deeply related to emotional intelligence and innovation, something that we will be able to clarify later.

 

Environmental intelligence is also related to artificial intelligence (AI), dealing with the overwhelming amount of data collected and processed mechanically by satellites and other devices. AI systems work by combining large sets of data with on-going processing algorithms to learn from patterns and features in the data that is analysed. Here, intelligence is understood as the prossibility for those systems to constantly improve their expertise. As such, the results given by AI are often not very insightful. Environmental intelligence has the potential to make data and data processing a source of innovation for lasting solutions.

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Ei3: Focus on Emotional Intelligence

The greatest obstacles to enrich our thinking processes with the information received from scientists about the environmental crisis, are generated by our emotional brain. Our emotional brain protects the thinking process from “stressors” (emotional difficulties) perceived as toxic. In order to survive and adapt to a situation that appears to be hopeless, the emotional brain reduces the stress generated by the information received. Emotional intelligence helps us to recognize that process, map it and find ways to overcome it. LCEJ defends the hypothesis that only joy and playfulness are able to generate the new architecture of our emotional brain. Eco-sewing centres must pay great attention to the potential emotional intelligence has to entanglement and liberation. Eco-items produced by LCEJ centres are made to liberate, not to entangle. This is one of the reasons why eco-items are not sold but distributed as gifts, are made professionally by a team which cares about the environment. When dealing with eco-items, the emotional brain reacts to the shape of the object, and evaluates its effectiveness. However, it is a third mode that is triggered by objects that matters most. The emotional brain reacting to the presence of an object enters a reflective mode, the development of self-awareness through empathy, apathy or antipathy. This is where emotional intelligence affects environmental intelligence. The emotional brain generates chemical reactions in the brain and the body that triggers feelings of empathy. apathy or antipathy. Organic thinking is possible only if emotional intelligence allows it.

 

Ei3: Focus on Eco-Innovative Intelligence

Without a transformation of our emotional brain affecting the growth of our environmental intelligence, the dissemination of innovative eco‑friendly ideas is ineffective. Eco-innovation is any form of innovation resulting in or aiming at significant and demonstrable progress towards the goal of sustainable development, through reducing impacts on the environment, enhancing resilience to environmental pressures, or achieving a more efficient and responsible use of natural resources. Very often, eco-innovation is left to high-tech specialists undermining the low-tech innovations that can be produced by low-income families. High-tech is definitely important. In Sri Lanka, innovation is often in the hands of very skilful craftsmen who compensate the lack of new products, high-tech machinery or spare parts by creating very innovative forms of reusing the existing material. A study of repair shops in Sri Lanka is one of the research topics of LCEJ Research Unit. Our low-tech sewing machines are producing aesthetically pleasing and effective items. LCEJ promotes innovation based on low-tech machinery. However, effective innovation is not possible if the emotional brain and the environmental brain are not liberated in a way that increase empathy towards solving the environmental crisis.

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As the LCEJ Director, Ei3 is on my mind. LCEJ activities are meaningful first and foremost because they create the possibility to think in an Ei3 mode. That mode of thinking is in the making and slowly becoming the favoured mode for LCEJ members when making important decisions. One day, the mind that fully thinks in an Ei3 mode will be able to clarify the characteristics of that mode of thinking. We are still in a not yet state aiming at thinking in an Ei3 mode. What we have realized is that thinking in an Ei3 mode begins with bracketing all mental constructions that do not lead to a joyful and playful relationship to environmental problems. The rest is improvisation.