[LINK] Surviving Climate Change

Jim Birch planetjim at gmail.com
Fri Jan 23 13:10:10 AEDT 2015

On 22 January 2015 at 17:11, jore <community at thoughtmaybe.com> wrote:

> Most built on cooperation and mutual aid. It's what makes life possible.

It is certainly what allows some the "advanced" life of humans and possibly
some other mammals to occur but it by no means underlies nature.  We are

Call it what you like but the cleaning fish exploits the hippo for food,
the hippo exploits the cleaning fish for parasite removal, the parasites
themselves exploit the hippo, and something else eats the cleaning fish.
There certainly are symbiotic inter-species relationships  in nature but
they are rare exceptions.  Exceptions are lauded by humans (and by humans
alone).  Bees pollinate flowering plants in exchange for food, but a
million other insect species just want to eat the plants, and would do if
the plants didn't devote a large chunk of their physiological resources to
filling themselves up with toxins.

Cooperation itself didn't evolve for altruistic reasons or to make an
ecosystem work or something teleological, it arose because it is more
adaptive, ie, a better way for the individual organism to exploit its
environment.  It is an investment driven by returns.  For example, a male
fox will bring food to his mate at the lair while she is feeding their
offspring.  Once she stops lactating, the deal is off.

Humans are the supercooperators of the living world but it is still pretty
difficult for us: take a look around.  Cooperation is a kind of conundrum:
it is incredibly powerful (allowing us for example to create the global
warming problem) yet it is unstable, inherently at risk of gaming by
defectors. A bit of self evaluation reveals it is conditional for all of
except a few Buddhist saints. Despite the fact that we have a number of
radical adaptations that facilitate cooperation, maintaining cooperation in
human societies requires the relentless application of sanctions, threats,
rules, culture and training.  It is a higher brain function and falls apart
quite easily during stress when we tend to revert to lower brain
functions.  Cooperation is a new and weird evolutionary development.  We
humans are, relatively, full of biologically weird emotions like love and
compassion.  Bacteria and reptiles don't have a sense of fairness or an
urge to help out.

Exploitation wasn't invented by late 20thy century capitalists or wingnut
libertarians (admittedly, they may have developed it in the religious
direction a little) but it has been the norm of biology for billions of


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