March 15, 2010
Tom Intven
LO President

tom intven In the course of my earlier studies, I discovered the great biologist, E.O. Wilson. He was the founder of sociobiology, which attempts to explain social behaviour in animals. Wilson studied social animals, including humans, noting that while much of human behaviour is culturally influenced, some behaviour is genetically determined. In other words, our behaviour is determined by our genes, by nature rather than nurture. Wilson found behaviour that was especially predetermined by our genes was altruism.

Altruism is the behaviour or act in which an individual sacrifices its own wellbeing for the benefit of others. The concept is that by sacrificing our individual interests, the group benefits and the survival of the group is ensured. Altruism is also the central virtue in most cultures and a core aspect of most of the world’s religions. Altruism is the polar opposite of selfishness. Auguste Comte, the French philosopher, coined the term altruism (from the French, autrui: other people). He believed that individuals had a moral obligation to renounce self-interest and live for others. While religions have seized upon altruism as the basis for their existence, Wilson suggests that this behaviour is rooted in our genes.

During my younger days, I also read the works of Ayn Rand. She rejected altruism and advocated the moral philosophy of Rational Egoism (aka objectivism). Rand believed that man must exist for his own sake. She was opposed to altruism, because she felt it was degrading and hindered one’s pursuit of self-development and excellence. Rand’s self-centred approach is at the heart of capitalism. Her philosophy attracted the leaders of capitalism at the time, including her personal friend Alan Greenspan, who later became the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve. When she died, her coffin was decorated with a 10-foot flowered dollar sign. Fascinating stuff.

So you are all asking, “What does this have to do with me and Landscape Ontario?”

In the capitalistic business world, we are trained to think like Ayn Rand, self-centred, egocentric. The competitive business stage is based on survival of self at all cost. It’s every man for himself, may the best man survive, and may the lowest bid win. For the most part, this is how we operate our businesses on a day-to-day basis; trying to stay alive by beating our competition at every turn.  

By contrast, our association of Landscape Ontario stimulates our altruistic gene and brings out the best in us. It’s the behaviour of giving of ourselves for the benefit of others within our industry. I have observed this behaviour from so many of our members; countless selfless acts that benefit the entire association above personal interest. I call it the ‘Landscape Ontario Gene’ at work. In other words, this altruistic action by the members of Landscape Ontario is an example of E.O. Wilson’s theory that it is our genetic nature to act this way – we are born to act selflessly, for the good of others within our association. Here are a few examples:


This core group of some 300 members that choose to serve as board and committee members demonstrates altruism at its best. They have tapped into their LO gene and get it. By their actions, they are saying they believe that by giving of their time, energy and resources, they are advancing our industry to new levels of professionalism and recognition that could not be accomplish by working as individuals. They believe that working co-operatively for a common goal, they can accomplish more than by working alone. These are our heroes and role models.


These are the members who teach our courses and personally mentor other members through Prosperity Partners and other programs. They are allowing their LO gene to express itself by their selfless actions. They believe that they will become better people by helping others to better themselves. They get personal satisfaction and happiness, as well as developing lifelong friendships, by mentoring others to raise their professionalism and level of excellence. We owe these people a great deal. They deserve our admiration and thanks.


We have so many events at which members volunteer. All of them are worthy of mention. One recent example is Canada Blooms. A group of some 40 Landscape Ontario member firms volunteered an incredible amount of their personal time, energy and resources to create a garden beyond beauty to inspire thousands at this year’s event at the Direct Energy Centre. They are motivated by a sense that what they do will create grassroots demand for gardening across Ontario for the benefit of all our member companies. Their LO gene is working at full tilt. They are Landscape Ontario. What can we say about these volunteers, other than WOW and Thank You?

For many of us who are caught up in our busy world of keeping our businesses afloat in these rapidly changing times, our circumstances may be suppressing our Landscape Ontario gene. I believe that your LO gene is there in your natural makeup awaiting activation at any time.

Answer the call of your natural inherent need to give, and let your Landscape Ontario gene be expressed. You will grow personally and professionally, and our association will be better for it.
Tom Intven may be reached at 519-631-1008, or