Mutualism: It’s a Thing

Beautiful story-telling by Kristin Ohlson brings us home to our mutualistic roots

B. Lorraine Smith
6 min readOct 10, 2022


A beautiful new book by Kristin Ohlson — Sweet in Tooth and Claw — brings us home to our mutualistic roots.

Lately I’ve noticed the theme of mutualism coming up a lot. This notion, that we are all part of a symbiotic dance, is coming in waves, washing away the mythical belief in the “survival of the fittest”, revealing an awareness that “it takes a village”. And the village is willing.

One beautiful expression of this theme is Kristin Ohlson’s latest book, Sweet in Tooth and Claw: Stories of Generosity and Cooperation in the Natural World, published earlier this year by Patagonia. Her most recent book prior to this one, The Soil Will Save Us, literally changed the course of my life in several profound ways. I wrote about that book in 2018, here:

So when I knew she had another book coming out, I pre-ordered my copy as soon as I could, curious what she had in store for me this time.

She did not disappoint. Here is a tiny sprinkling of what I loved about this book.

Reality checks, brought to us from… reality

I love how she brings real insights from the real world — regardless if the “news” is keeping up. As someone who barely takes in any “news” — and when I do I am usually reminded why I don’t — I always find it refreshing and useful to hear from people gathering nuggets of objective reality and bringing them to our attention.

For instance, on the typical perception of American farmers,

… theirs are the faces called up by the alarming news bulletins about the aging of our agrarian population and agrarian scientists — white, male, and over sixty. But at the OSA [Organic Seed Alliance] and other innovative ag-related conferences, young people, women, and people of color swamp their demographic. I keep waiting for the news bulletins to catch up with what I’m seeing. [ — Chapter 5, Agriculture That Nurtures Nature]



B. Lorraine Smith

Recovering ESG "expert"; yarn spinner; distance runner; magical realist. Sensing a path to an economy serving life. also at