It is a common belief that our beloved Earth is justthis big round planet whose sole function is to provide mankind and all of her inhabitants with the resources needed to thrive.Earth is more than this. Our planet is a living, breathing organism. Think of her holistically, and you can see her as a living entity. Our beautiful planet maintains conditions that are necessary for her very survival.
Throughout the ages, Mother Nature has always been a part of mankind’s history. James Lovelock, an atmospheric chemist, published a book in 1979 on the Gaia Hypothesis, suggestingthat organisms co-evolve with their surroundings.
- WHAT IS GAIA?
“Gaia…a complex entity involving the earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil, the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.”
The Earth is in an almostconstant state of homeostasis, where it maintains internal stability.
The one surprising component of this hypothesis is that the earth is a living thing. Lovelock is not the first one to suggest this idea. James Hutton, the father of geology in the 1700s, once described the Earth as a superorganism. Lewis Thomas, a doctor and a scientist in several fields of study, published a book in 1974 called The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher.
“Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, is that it is alive….If you could look long enough, you would see the swirling of the great drifts of white cloud, covering and uncovering the half-hidden masses of land. If you had been looking for a very long, geologic time, you could have seen the continents themselves in motion, drifting apart on their crustal plates, held afloat by the fire beneath. It has the organized, self-contained look of a live creature, full of information, marvelously skilled in handling the sun.”
John Nelson worked with NASA to illustrate Breathing Earth, two animated GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) that visualized what Earth’s transforming seasons look like from space. After putting a year’s worth of images together in sequence, the animations showed what Nelson described as “the annual pulse of vegetation and land ice.”
Acting as a single system, the Earth is coherent and self-regulated,accumulating physical, chemical, geological and biological forces, all maintaining a unified balance between the input of energy from the sun and thermal energy into space.
The Earth regulates flows of energy and the recycling of materials. She receives energy from the sun at a constant rate, captures this energy as heat or photosynthetic processes, and then returns the energy back into space as long-wave radiation. However, the mass of the Earth is limited. While energy flows through the Earth (from sun to Earth to space), matter cycles and recycles within the Earth.
The Gaia hypothesis has brought about a new way of thinking on how man treats his surroundings, how everything in the natural world is connected. We can no longer think of different parts of the Earth as distinct and unimportant to other parts of the Earth. No matter the difference in distances, it’s all relative. No matter what mankind does, forestation or deforestation, decrease or increase in emissions, adding or removing croplands, it all affects the planet we live on. The difficult thing to do now is to determine what’s good and what’s bad for our planet. If Earth is self regulating, then she will adjust to the things man has and will do. However, these adjustments may also exclude man, just as oxygen introduced into the atmosphere by photosynthetic bacteria acted to exclude anaerobic bacteria. This is the core of the Gaia hypothesis.
An early prediction of the Gaia hypothesis was that organisms in the oceans would create a sulfur compound that was stable enough against oxidation in water that it would allow its transfer into the air. Either the sulfur or its atmospheric oxidation product would have to return sulfur from the sea to land. Most likely, this would be dimethyl sulfide.
Organic geochemist Harry Oduro of the University of Maryland, along with geochemist James Farquar of UMD and marine biologist Kathryn Van Alstyne of Western Washington University, published their findings that provide a tool that traces and measures the movement of sulfur through ocean organisms, the atmosphere and in land. This may prove or disprove the Gaia hypothesis:
Sulfur Isotope Variability Of Oceanic DMSP Generation And Its Contributions To Marine Biogenic Sulfur Emissions Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol 109, no. 23, pp. 9012-9016.
Alick Bartholomew, a student of geology, published a unique book called The Story of Water. His book begins with the usual view of water based on Western science, but then moves on to howto embrace water as the source of life in terms of not only biological systems, but also in terms of etheric and quantum energy fields, spirals, vortices, and as a medium for memory and communication.Understanding these principles mayhelp us to treat our water in waysthat guarantee a better future for mankind.
- HOW DOES GAIA WORK?
It can be said that Earth and our own bodies work the same way. Both are living entities. Human bodies must maintain a constant temperature, electrochemical balance, blood pH, etc. Gaia’s inner workingscan be seen as a study of the physiology of the earth. Water is Earth’s blood, the atmosphere is Earth’s lungs, land is Earth’s bones, and the living organisms are Earth’s senses. Lovelock calls this geophysiology.
So how is Earth living? Physicists believe life is a system of locally reduced entropy, or chaos (life is the battle against entropy). Molecular biologists believe life is replicating strands of DNA that compete for survival, evolving to improve their survival with their changing surroundings. Physiologists believe life to be a biochemical system that uses external energy sources to grow and reproduce. Lovelock, the geophysicist, believes that life is open to the flux of matter and energy but still maintains internal stability.
“If Gaia exists, the relationship between her and man, a dominant animal species in the complex living system, and the possibly shifting balance of power them, are questions of obvious importance….the Gaia hypothesis…is an alternative to the pessimistic view which sees nature as a primitive force to be subdued and conquered…an alternative to that equally depressing picture of our planet as a demented spaceship, forever traveling, driverless and purposeless, around an inner circle of the sun.”
The solid Gaia hypothesis states that life creates it’s own conditions, therefore life created earth. As we explore our solar system and what lies beyond, perhaps one day scientists will design a test that will prove that either life manipulates planetary processes for it’s own survival, or that life is just an evolutionary process that occurs because of changes in the non-living world.
Source: The Mind Unlished
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