Sweet in Tooth and Claw: Cooperation and Generosity in the Natural World

TUE, DEC 13, 2022

Most people believe that nature is characterized by competition and conflict—red in tooth and claw, as the poet Tennyson said. But recent science suggests that cooperative relationships among living things have both shaped the world around us and knit ecosystems together. How can we uphold these cooperative relationships and become a cooperative partner with the rest of life?

Join us with Biodiversity for a Livable Climate as we host Kristin Ohlson, a Portland, OR, writer and author of Sweet in Tooth and Claw: Stories of Cooperation and Generosity in Nature and The Soil Will Save Us.
Kristin is joined in conversation by ecosystem restoration specialist Jim Laurie.

+ BIO: Jim Laurie

Jim Laurie is a Biologist, Futurist, and co-founder of Biodiversity for a Livable Climate. He believes that our species can thrive if we can rapidly shift to a symbiotic world view and restore the world’s great ecosystems.

Jim got his BA in Biology from Rice University, and his MS in Future Studies from the University of Houston. He worked in the chemical industry in Texas where he was the laboratory technical trainer.

In 1988, Jim met John Todd, a visionary biologist at the New Alchemy Institute. Learning from John and evolutionary biologist, Lynn Margulis, Jim built several biodiverse ecosystems to clean toxic wastewater at the chemical plant. Self-organizing ecologies of microbes linked with plants, and animals made it possible to break down ammonia, chloroform, and BPA to very low levels. In 1995, Jim moved to Vermont to manage the Vermont Living Machine designed by John Todd and funded by EPA. This research project cleaned 80,000 gallons of sewage per day in a biodiverse greenhouse.

While living in Texas, Jim also met Allan Savory, a biologist from Zimbabwe and New Mexico who was helping ranchers reverse desertification with his Holistic Management process. These ranchers were tripling herd sizes and moving herds frequently on degraded lands. Proper timing created healthy grasslands built on rich soils where rain water could easily infiltrate and improve the water cycle.

Jim also volunteered at the International Wolf Center to learn about Wolves and Bears and the Northern Minnesota Forest. In 2005, he studied Redwood Forests and Salmon runs in Northern California on the Eel River. Paul Stamets wrote “Mycelium Running” that year and Jim built a small lab in Maryland to grow mushrooms and learn about fungi.

These foundations of ecological thinking helped create Biodiversity for a Livable Climate in 2014. Climate change had become a major concern, but few realized the importance of biodiversity. The Bio4climate Team has since been determined to make ecological restoration of grasslands, wetlands, forests, and regenerative agriculture a centerpiece for future planning. Jim wrote “Scenario 300” in 2017 challenging humans to restore 12 billion acres globally by 2061.

Jim loves teaching and spreading the message of biodiversity and restoration. He started with homeschool biology classes for teenagers and the “Homeschool Symbiosis Team” students have spoken at many Bio4climate events. He is now teaching Biodiversity Courses by Zoom to a world wide audience of all ages.

+ BIO: Kristin Ohlson

Kristin Ohlson is a writer from Portland, Oregon. Her new book Sweet in Tooth and Claw: Stories of Generosity and Cooperation in the Natural World – which the Wall Street Journal calls “excellent and illuminating”–probes the mutually beneficial relationships among living things that undergird the natural world. Her last book was The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers and Foodies are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet, which the Los Angeles Times calls “a hopeful book and a necessary one…. a fast-paced and entertaining shot across the bow of mainstream thinking about land use.” She appeared in the award-winning documentary film, Kiss the Ground, to speak about the connection between soil health and climate health.

Ohlson’s articles have been published in the New York Times, Orion, Discover, Gourmet, Oprah, and many other print and online publications. Her magazine work has been anthologized in Best American Science Writing and Best American Food Writing. While she has written about many things over her long career— from proton decay to the pleasures of getting lost in Afghanistan—she is now focused on the work to regenerate landscapes and cities. She has a special interest in writing about science, particularly in turning complex subjects into narratives that ordinary people read with relish.

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