Synopses & Reviews
What if Nature is more cooperative, and less competitive, than we think?
A follow-up to Kristin Ohlson's previous book, The Soil Will Save Us (Rodale 2014), Sweet in Tooth and Claw extends the concept of cooperation in nature to the life-affirming connections among microbes, plants, fungi, insects, birds, and animals — including humans — in ecosystems around the globe. For centuries, people have debated whether nature is mostly competitive — "red in tooth and claw," as the poet Tennyson wailed and Darwin insisted — or innately cooperative, as many ancient and indigenous peoples believed. In the last 100 or so years, a growing gang of scientists have studied the mutually beneficial interactions that are believed to benefit every species on earth. This book is full of stories of generosity — not competition — in nature. It is a testament to the importance of a healthy biodiversity, and dispels the widely accepted premise of survival of the fittest. Ohlson tells stories of trees and mushrooms, beavers and bees. There are chapters on a wide variety of ecosystems and portraits of the people who learn from them: forests (the work of Suzanne Simard); scientists who study the interaction of bees and flowers in the Rocky Mountains, inspired by the work of Russian scholars in the 19th century; the discovery of bacteria and protozoa in the mid-1600s by Dutch scientist Antoni von Leeuwenhoek; a stream biologist restoring wetlands from deserts in northeastern Nevada; and more. Ohlson also covers older cultures that recognized the necessary balance between nature's and human's needs, and to which we must turn at this time of climate crisis. It is a rich and fascinating book full of amazing stories, sure to change your perspective on the natural world.
"Ohlson looks at nature through the lens of cooperation, from the intricate workings of one-celled creatures all the way to entire forests and cities (above and below ground). This deeply reported and stunning book holds up a mirror to us humans, showing how we thrive when we embrace nature's generous spirit. " Judith Schwartz, author of The Reindeer Chronicles and Other Inspiring Stories of Working With Nature to Heal the Earth
"Deftly weaving together science, social thought, and a remarkable cast of characters, Ohlson's book uncovers the marvelous partnerships that make life possible, showing that cooperation, not competition, is the key to survival." Elizabeth Carlisle, Author, Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming
"The author has a clear storytelling style." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Kristin Ohlson is an author and freelance journalist in Portland, Oregon, who has published articles 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 Science Writing.
Ohlson's 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 called "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 lives in Portland, Oregon.