Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Like an Ant

Networks in nature show how, for the networks that we engineer and those that tie us to each other, the pattern of links at the local scale sets the options for stability and transformation. Almost everything that happens in life is the result of a network. Making, or breaking, local links is the way to change. – from “Local Links Run the World,” by Deborah M. Gordon, professor of biology at Stanford University in California. 

If someone asked you to name the most powerful creature in nature, the lowly ant probably wouldn’t be first to come to mind.

But maybe it should be, especially if your mission is transformation—of something like, say, our food and farming system.

In her article, “Local Links Run the World,” Stanford University Professor Deborah M. Gordon writes about the intricate behavior of ants and power of local networks. 

Turns out, we humans would do well to emulate the ways in which individual ants connect locally to build extensive colonies—advice that couldn’t be more relevant in times when we face overwhelming challenges when it comes to influencing national food and farming policies.

If we want to transform this country’s industrial agribusiness model to an organic regenerative one, we’ll have to throw ourselves into working for change in our own communities.

We’re already seeing it happen. Local citizens saying “no” to more factory farms. Local communities saying “no” to pesticides. Voters asking tough questions about food and agriculture when considering which candidates to support for local offices.

We just need more of us. In more places. 

As Gordon writes:

In his novel “War and Peace” (1869), Leo Tolstoy argues that local relations among people, rather than the military strategy of the generals, allowed and then repelled Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. As Tolstoy pointed out, rather than following orders, people acted like ants.

Maybe it’s time we all started being a little more ant-like.

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