Can We Make Peace with Gaia this Earth Day?

The largest living system on Earth…is Earth. That is a simplified version of the Gaia hypothesis, first posited by scientists James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s. The idea is that both organic beings and inorganic matter have evolved to operate together as a single, living system that self-regulates, with the goal of allowing life to persist and thrive.

The Gaia hypothesis has gained credence with scientists in the intervening decades, and it has been “upgraded” from “hypothesis” to “theory,” i.e., other scientists have conducted research and experiments to verify or extend its tenets. Whether Theory or Hypothesis, it’s a beautiful idea with some hard-edged consequences. Lovelock’s theory challenges the world view, propagated by some faiths, that the Earth was put here for humans’ use.  
Lovelock writes, “The concept of Gaia, a living planet, is for me the essential basis of a coherent and practical environmentalism; it counters the persistent belief that the Earth is a property, an estate, there to be exploited for the benefit of humankind. This false belief that we own the Earth, or are its stewards, allows us to pay lip service to environmental policies and programs but then continue with business as usual.” (Revenge of Gaia, Chapter 8)

Can Technology Save Us and Gaia?
In 2006, Lovelock warned that we had passed the point of no return for global warming. He wrote in a famous article in The Independent that the Earth was ill and that human activity is the cause: “We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years.” Needless to say, the human species would have trouble lasting 1,000 centuries while the system rights itself.

Lovelock’s positions force us to look at how we define environmentalism, and whether the principal solutions to environmental crises lie with technology or human behavior change. A firm believer in human-caused climate change, Lovelock is also in favor of nuclear energy. He largely dismisses the possibility that renewable energy can be developed quickly and in such a way as to not make matters worse.

Unwavering Support of Nuclear
For years James Lovelock has been a strong proponent of nuclear energy as humanity’s best hope to curb global warming. When interviewed after the nuclear incident at Fukushima, Japan last month, Lovelock remained firmly pro-nuclear, touting it as “very safe” and stating that people were unreasonably prejudiced against nuclear power. 

Can we make peace with Gaia?
Lovelock concluded his widely quoted 2006 article: “We should be the heart and mind of the Earth, not its malady. So let us be brave and cease thinking of human needs and rights alone, and see that we have harmed the living Earth and need to make our peace with Gaia. We must do it while we are still strong enough to negotiate, and not a broken rabble led by brutal war lords. Most of all, we should remember that we are a part of it, and it is indeed our home.” 

Answers At Hand?
This striking video made for Greenpeace drives home the point that  while human needs can be overwhelming, we can also have a hand, with our actions every day, in creating a positive future for people and planet:

Happy Earth Day!

It is easier to imagine earth as a single living system when we contemplate it from space.
Photo: NASA


Steve Howard

Barring the chance of a melt down or bad people getting ahold of the waste, what do we think will happen with the waste? It'll be problem after we're gone but our kids and grandkids are still here, what do we tell them? Deal with it?

Ruth R.
Ruth R5 years ago

The history of nuclear weapons, nuclear energy plants, and uranium mines all proves the following:
There is no place for nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, and uranium mines in our present day 2011 year and continueing. All nuclear waste must be contained safely. All nuclear energy must be shut down -- safely. All nuclear weapons must be dismanted and the waste destroyed and contained -- safely. That is safely -- so the earth and all that lives on the earth are no longer hurt by nuclear.
Thank you for the article!

Rie Rie T.
Ria T6 years ago

Capitalism and government by, for, and about corporations uses, or I should say, mis-uses psychology and advertising to fuel a belief that if we just buy one more thing we'll be happy, healthy, and successful. The video uses "their" imagery to show the opposite--that things are not the answer. Bravo!

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

We can install wind turbines and solar panels quicker and cheaper than we can add new nuclear power plants. Improvement in energy efficiency are usually even more cost effective than wind turbines and solar panels.

Brigid C.
Brigid C6 years ago

what a great video I want to share it

Celestial E.
Celestial E.6 years ago

Great Post :D
thought you might like my machinima film the butterfly's tale~
Bright Blessings
elf ~

Carol Joan P.

Nuclear energy will never be safe! I know that some who deeply care for the environment have dreams that our problems can be solved through nuclear energy. But the risk far outweighs the gain. Instead, all of us should work to reduce our use of resources, governments should reward helpful actions, and energy sources should be decentralized. Population control is also urgently needed.

M.E. W.
Mary W6 years ago

"Ishmael" says it all...we'd be much better off if we'd follow the wisdom contained in that book.

Rosemary G.
Rosemary G6 years ago

Nuclear energy will never be safe, from the moment the ore is extracted from the womb of Mother Earth, to its use and fimaly disposal of Nuclear waste and those who still support this very dangerous form of energy are living in Lala land..not on this planet..and should be made to go to Japan right in the middle of the disaster area..

Loo Samantha
Loo sam6 years ago