January tends to be physically the worst. At my house, it's been in the double-digits minus category in the early morning, off and on for about 3 weeks. I just don't go out much, except for the occasional trip to town. The rest of the time, I'm sitting by the fire, working on Volume Two of Secret Voices, while trying to figure out ways to market Volume One. At least it effectively employs both sides of my brain.
But other than that—all species are self-interested. Altruism in nature is in short supply. Even those who engage in charitable works are, underneath it all, doing it to feel better about themselves. Whatever works, I guess.
Not that altruism never happens. A friend and I had a discussion the other day: he said that if you had collapsed in your home and desperately needed assistance, you wouldn't immediately concern yourself with the care of your pets. I disagreed. I said that, after a call to 911, my FIRST concern would be to reach someone who could take care of them in my absence. Of course I have pets and he doesn't, so we have different experience and relationship to animals. But most mothers would agree—your FIRST thought is for those to whom you feel responsible, whether it be spouse, children, or pets, or for some, even plants.
But none of these attachments are altruistic. Humans are tribal animals, and most of us will feel concern for anything or anybody, which, in our minds, constitutes tribe. Further, if we consider ourselves to be the tribal leader or primary caregiver, we will sacrifice ourselves for our charges. Most of us don't listen to the flight attendant in the front of the cabin anymore, but there's a reason why they tell people traveling with small children to put their own oxygen masks on first.
We see examples of this in other animals as well—parents of all species will defend their babies to the death against predators. (Well, I haven't looked into the behavior of insects, but there are probably some that do, just not so many. After all, they're the dominant species of life on Earth, so they don't have as much worry about surviving—that raises the question: do viruses, bacteria, or other microscopic forms of life sacrifice for their young, or is this behavior that has evolved with creatures who were, in their early development as a species, in danger of becoming extinct, so every life counted? I vote the latter. Makes more sense.
So does altruism exist? Perhaps so—I have heard Joseph Campbell's discussion about it—but personally, I think that, as a quality, it's been largely unnecessary in the development of life on this planet, as we have genetically built-in mechanisms that can do the trick, at least as far as each species taking care of its own. The real place where altruism can be seen is for the human species to concern itself for other species, of both animal and plant, and even then, that concern only happens when an individual sees himself as responsible for others—in other words, that other animal or plant is a member of said individual's tribe.