Sunday, September 21, 2008

Killer Lesson from Killer Whales: Let Moms Rule

Although rulers of the sea—even sharks fear them—killer whales (aka orcas), in contrast to humans, have not over-run their habitat. Instead they maintain stable populations and live in equilibrium with the world around them. In the orca world, everyone is part of the community; there are no outcasts, there is no poverty, there is no war. We homo sapiens have much to learn from them.

Why are orcas so successful? An orca's existence is marked by stability centred around the pod. They travel in groups of 10 to 25 with males living up to 40 years and females up to 70 years. The pod or family is organized into matrilines, that is, a matriarch and all her offspring plus her daughters' offspring live together. A unique feature is that all males and females stay in the pod for life. In contrast, human society is marked by high divorce rates, much job changing and enormous choice in everything from consumer goods to entertainment.

It seems a simpler life is better.
A key is the central role of females. Human experience shows that when women get education and responsibility, birth rates drop. The orca matriarch guides the pod and is a storehouse of knowledge, like an enormous computer database. And by adopting the gentleness of females instead of the testosterone-driven aggression of males, orcas avoid the conflict that brings poverty and misery to human society.

We should follow the orcas and let moms and a simpler, gentler life rule.

Sadly, resident orca numbers are decreasing under a myriad of threats, virtually all caused by humans, such as toxic chemicals, decreasing salmon stocks, noise pollution, and warming and acidification of oceans from climate change. I hope we can learn quickly, for if we don't, a century from now they—and possibly we humans also—will be mere footnotes in the long list of species driven into extinction.

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