What do us and the planet have to do with emotional intelligence? One way of describing emotional intelligence is our ability to override our animal instincts. Our animal or emotional brain, being the most powerful part of the brain, has the upper hand at birth and as babies. Think of infants – when they’re happy they are so joyful they hug and kiss everything in sight. But when they don’t get what they want, they get angry and frustrated and have a huge tantrum. If we stayed that way as adults, we would cause chaos – we would just follow our animal impulses which are to get our own needs met to the exclusion of everything else – for food, drink, sex, fighting to gain control or primacy. Rather like animals. Or politicians!
You could see the human world as gradually gaining emotional intelligence, or maturity, on a global scale in recent years. All through history we just took whatever resources we wanted, regardless of the cost. We destroyed forests, habitats, dug up coal and oil, and caused massive extinction. In the 20th century alone the death toll of humans at the hands of other humans stands at 100 million-plus. We wanted to eat lots of meat so we keep animals in the most incredibly cruel and inhumane conditions to make our meat as cheap as possible, and we treat it as normal to tear billions of calves from their mothers at birth (plus forced annual pregnancy) in order to supply our dairy industry. Imagine the outcry if even one human mother was deprived of her baby nowadays!
That’s how everyday business always used to operate, as well. To be successful, even as late as the 80s, we learned that you take what you can from others and do whatever it takes to get ahead, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. It was during that decade that Steven Covey’s groundbreaking book, The Seven Habits of highly effective people, came out. That was one of the first works in modern times that demonstrated what emotional intelligence looks like in practice, and how it can work in business and at home. It was maybe the beginning of a new age of living responsibly and ethically.
Unfortunately, big agribusiness still operates in the slash and burn way – chopping down ancient forests and habitats for palm oil and cattle grazing, and continuing to burn oil and coal even though we now know the consequences. However, signs are hopeful that these things are gradually beginning to change, although having people like Trump and Bolsinaro in power more recently represents a big step backwards.
Now we are just waking up, and human beings, at last, are beginning to care about something other than themselves. Undoing the havoc we wrought before is going to take a while but at least we are now aware of it and it’s on the agenda.
Whether we survive as a species or become extinct like the dinosaurs depends on our response to the global climate crisis. Watch this space…