Friday, 18 January 2013

AFRICA a story of cooperation

David Attenborough's beautiful recent series on Africa is marred by constantly referring to the competition between species. The same situation could equally be described in terms of cooperation. Indeed the whole environment is a study of how species not just co-exist but work together to make a thriving community. His constant reference to violence and struggle is countered by huge flocks of birds and animals that manage their needs without decimating their surroundings. But what David constantly emphasises is the fights between males for females, and between species for space and food, a reflection of his orientation towards an interpretation of widespread agression in the natural world. He presents this interpretation as fact which is misleading for someone who is seen as an authority. What a pity he cannot express the incredible communal togetherness of these interdependent societies.

In Tough Times, It's in Our Nature to Cooperate

Peter Kropotkin was a zoologist, geographer, and activist in pre-revolutionary Russia.  When he was posted to remote government jobs in Siberia and Manchuria, he spent three years observing and writing about human and animal communities. Cooperation, he found, was more important for survival than competition, especially under harsh conditions. Kropotkin watched pelicans paddle in a narrowing circle to herd fish, chamois adopt orphaned young, and captive Molucca crabs spend hours trying to right a flipped comrade.  “Sociability is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle,” he wrote in his 1902 book, Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution.

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