The Social Conquest of the Earth

Large Milkweed Bugs on Milkweed
Large Milkweed Bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus). Photo by Donna L. Long.

E. O. Wilson was here in Philadelphia to talk about biodiversity and his latest book, The Social Conquest of Earth.

I had seen E. O. Wilson in TED talks online  and have read some  of  his writings, but I had yet to see him in person.

The conservation-lecture was part of the Meelya Gordon Memorial Lecture held at the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 24, 2012.

E. O. Wilson at Free Library of Philadelphia
E. O. Wilson at Free Library of Philadelphia

Social Insects and Social Beings

Mr. Wilson studies social insects, namely bees and ants. The “social conquest” he spoke about referred to social insects and how successful they are on Earth. This is an idea I can relate to.

There are more ants than humans. Ants outweigh all other invertebrates four to one. It is their “community-focused” social structure that makes them so successful. Basically, they work together to ensure survival of the group.

Dorylus, also known as driver ants, safari ants.
Dorylus, also known as driver ants, safari ants. Photo: Nikhil More, CC Wikimedia Commons

Community-focused Human Cultures

Much like North American Native American communities. “American Indian indigenous cultures are communitarian/communitist by nature” (page 15, A Native American Theology by Clara Sue Kidwell, Homer Noley and George “Tink” Tinker. ISBN 978-1570753619).

Amer-Europeans mistakenly call indigenous societies “communist”.  But, communism is a western European concept that arose out of European history and experience. Communism is essentially capitalism controlled by the state.

Native American societies worked for the good of the community because the community was made up of related and interrelated families and living beings. They worked together for the survival of the group, for the good of their families. The group was altruistic, much like social insects.

Amer-European and Western Culture is highly individualistic. The “rugged individual” is an American mythic figure near and dear to many American hearts. These are the folks who want to do whatever they want, whenever they want, to whomever they want and don’t you try to  stop them.

Mr. Wilson said that altruist social groups always beat out over individualism.  In addition, ” individualism selection produces sin; group selection produces virtue and makes us human.” Ain’t it the truth?

Social Conquest Now

So, for us humans it has been proven many times in history that working for the good of community is a good thing.  And the community includes all living beings.  Community includes all humans (including other ethnic groups), all the plants, animals, waterways and land. Community doesn’t begin and end with the human species.

So, keep working for your community. Keep pushing for common sense environmental decisions and policies. Let your socially conscious flag fly high!

More on Sustainable Living

They need us. Environmentalists save the world.

Sustainability and Cottage Garden Life

Paris Lessons: How to Make a Liveable City

Bounded Space: A Timeless Concept for Conservation



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