Wednesday, October 24, 2007


In the November 1st, 2007 Rolling Stone Magazine, Jeff Goodell interviews and features the ideas of James Lovecock, the scientist who came up with the idea that our Planet Earth is a living being. Still controversial among some, many other scientists are now accepting of Lovecock’s ideas about the planet. Frankly, I like the idea that, in my interaction with the atmosphere, I’m just like a fish swimming in its environment. It just opens my imagination to so many creative ways to think about life’s existence on the planet.

The interesting thing about Goodell’s writing is that it’s so logical that I’ve excerpted pieces of it, and they make sense even though they are small fragments of a much longer piece. Best, though, is buy a Rolling Stone and read the whole article.

[A]s a scientist, he [James Lovelock] introduced the revolutionary theory known as Gaia—the idea that our entire planet is a kind of superorganism that is, in a sense, "alive."

Our air "is not merely a biological product," Lovelock wrote, "but more probably a biological construction: not living, but like a cat's fur, a bird's feathers or the paper of a wasp's nest, an extension of a living system designed to maintain a chosen environment."

"You could quite seriously look at climate change as a response of the system intended to get rid of an irritating species: us humans," Lovelock tells me in the small office he has created in his cottage. "Or at least cut them back to size."

Lovelock put out a book called Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. "The Gaia hypothesis," he wrote, "is for those who like to walk or simply stand and stare, to wonder about the Earth and the life it bears and to speculate about the consequences of our own presence here." Gaia, he added, offers an alternative to the "depressing picture of our planet as a demented spaceship, forever traveling driverless and purposeless around an inner circle of the sun."

Of course, scientists like Broecker rarely used the word "Gaia." They prefer the phrase "Earth system science," which views the world, according to one treatise, as "a single, self-regulating system comprised of physical, chemical, biological and human components." In other words, Gaia in a lab coat.

"The whole system," he decided, "is in failure mode."

One of the questions that fascinates Lovelock: Life has been evolving on Earth for more than 3 billion years—and to what purpose? "Like it or not, we are the brains and nervous system of Gaia," he says. "We have now assumed responsibility for the welfare of the planet. How will we manage it?"

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