The Generosity of Nature

The Generosity of Nature
July 25, 2014

Nature is often viewed as being competitive, with many species vying for the same resources. But looking through another lens, you can see the generous and mutually beneficial relationships that thrive. 

 

  • Kai Morgener/Flickr

    Biomimicry pioneer Janine Benyus says the view that nature is a dog-eat-dog world is becoming a clearly outdated, erroneous notion. Rather, nature is built on cooperation between species. In a more poetic way, species on the whole are supremely generous. Nature gives and gives and gives.

  • James Petts/Flickr

    Bees go from flower to flower gathering nectar, which is then turned into food in the form of honey. The flowers get pollinated, enabling reproduction of the the plant.

  • Matt MacGillivray/Flickr

    As with bees and pollination, birds eat fruit and discard the seeds through digestion. Known as zoochory, the seeds are deposited a distance away from the original plant, helping the plant reproduce. 

  • mk_is_here/Flickr

    Sometimes cooperation is obvious; sometimes less so. Though we can’t easily photograph them, fungi in the root of trees often increase the capability of the plant to absorb nutrients. Known as mutualism, the plants provide support and a supply of carbohydrates to the fungi. 


  • Derek Keats

    Immune to the sting of the sea anemone due to specialized mucus membranes, the anemone fish can live in a more protective environment. Known as a commensalism, the fish is the one who benefits from its interaction with the sea anemone, while the anemone is unharmed. 

  • Ian White/Flickr

    Though it may seem intrusive, the relationship represented here benefits both parties. Oxpeckers land on animals such as rhinos, zebras, or water buffalo and eat ticks and other parasites that live on their skin. Oxpeckers get food and the rhinos or zebras get pest control.

  • Koshy Koshy/Flickr

    The relationship between golden jackals and tigers in India shows that even predators cooperate, sometimes to each other’s benefit. Sometimes a lone jackal will form a relationship with a particular tiger, tracking it from a distance and feeding on whatever animal the tiger kills. Sometimes the jackals even alert the tigers of a kill.

  • Ze’ev Barkan/Flickr

    Whether the relationship between human beings and the bacteria that live in our intestines is an example of mutualism or commensalism is debated. However, there is no question that healthy bacteria in our digestive track help us, as well as the bacteria themselves, to survive.

  • Teresa Alexander-Arab/Flickr

    The relationships that humans have developed with dogs, sheep, cows, and other domesticated animals are complex. Though they sometimes veer toward exploitation, as in the case of industrial agriculture, for most of human history humans have lived in a state of mutualism with various animals. In some cases, the relationship is not essential to the survival of either party but in some cases it is. Domesticated dogs would have a hard time in the wild; conversely, in some environments, humans would have a hard time living without the animals they raise.

© Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

 

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