A candid Gaia head shot
Not in the sexual sense. Sexually I think we can assume Gaia is AC/DC. I mean it in the older definition, as in happy, carefree. Wouldn’t that be great? Instead, according to anyone who’s breathing, She’s depressed and moody, and we’re in trouble.
I’m working on a book about the rainforest and healing herbs (yay!) and one part is about the Gaia Theory. It used to was the Gaia Hypothesis but it has enough validity now to be called a theory. James Lovelock who originated the hypothesis that our planet is alive, was not a hippie, New Ager, or a stoner.
Actually while I’m sure of the first two, I have no proof of the third. But I really don’t think so since he was a NASA researcher at the time, hired to develop experiments for detecting life on Mars. He pissed off his employer pretty seriously because they NASA was really looking for a reason to land a rover on Mars. But Lovelock was convinced there was no life on Mars because it was in a state of ‘dead equilibrium.’ What a cool term. We’re forever trying to get our lives in balance, and what does he say. Too much balance and you’re dead. Maybe we should relax a little. Anyway…
Being inquisitive, he delved into the opposite — Earth, home, imbalance. He was intrigued by the fact that unlike the other planets in our solar system, the atmosphere of our tiny blue marble was in a state ‘far from equilibrium.’ So maybe it’s okay that we get freaked out since that’s how our atmosphere lives. It was not easily explained. Especially because the atmosphere not only remained constant and supported life, but was in an ‘unlikely’ imbalance. One quick example. Since life started on Earth, the energy provided by the Sun has increased by 25% to 30%. That’s quite a bit, and in spite of it, our surface temperature has remained remarkably constant.
Lovelock posited that a complex process was keeping our planet in this unlikely state of life-supporting imbalance. He called it by the really boring name of ‘Earth Feedback Hypothesis’ until his friend and fellow villager William Golding (Lord of the Flies) suggested Gaia, from the Greek Earth Goddess.
As to the Theory, while it gathered scientific dust for a while, in the past few decades the scientific community sat us and took notice. Since then there have been global meetings on it and lots of tests and research. It has fared well. The ‘weak’ Theory is supported by virtually the entire scientific community and is directly related to human impacts on our biosphere. The conclusion is that we are putting a severe strain on Gaia’s ability to counter our (thoughtless, shortsighted, stupid and prideful) behavior.
Lovelock turns 90 this year and has lived long enough to witness some of his worst fears begin to materialize. In 2006 he published a book called “The Revenge of Gaia: Why the earth is fighting back – and how we can still save humanity.” He has made dire predictions of late. Not for the planet, which would do very well without us thank you very much, but for us and the many plant and animal species we would take down with us.
Seems like he’s still pissing off some people, which is no big deal. But we are pissing off Gaia, and that is a Very Big Deal indeed.