The Guru of Green

Becoming a grandparent is a life-altering experience for a lot of people, but for Daniel Goleman, it was more than that. It was a planet-altering experience.

The prolific psychologist and science writer is best known for his 1995 bestseller “Emotional Intelligence,’’ which challenged existing definitions of what “smart’’ means. (He factored in interpersonal strengths, such as people skills and empathy.) He parlayed the book into a mini-industry as a researcher and lecturer promoting emotional literacy in schools and at work.

But having grandchildren propelled his work in a new direction. He has four, between the ages of 3 and 10, and like a lot of grandparents found himself thinking about the world that he’d be leaving them. Given what he does for a living, Goleman worried about things like global warming and toxic chemicals in the water and soil, problems he felt were exacerbated by his generation’s propensity for making and buying things without necessarily considering their impact on the environment.

“Unfortunately, [my grandchildren’s] world is likely to be a sadder version of the world we know now, because of our collective everyday choices,’’ said Goleman, 64. A former science writer for The New York Times who writes books about subjects he feels passionate about, Goleman was starting to feel passionate about this one. The result is his latest book, “Ecological Intelligence: The Hidden Impacts of What We Buy,’’ just out in paperback in time for Earth Day, which is Thursday.