The Gaia Hypothesis

The Gaia Hypothesis regards the Earth as a living planet, an evolving organism in itself. This system as a whole is called Gaia, in homage of the mythical Gaia (γαῖα), the primal Greek goddess personifying the Earth, the Greek version of “Mother Nature”.

This hypothesis, formulated by the scientist James Lovelock and co-developed by the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, postulates what the indigenous peoples have known for centuries, that our planet is a self-regulating intelligence – a fully conscious, living being.

The Gaia Hypothesis describes Earth as a system capable of self-regulation and of mantaining, through interactions between all of its physical, chemical and biological components, the characteristics (composition, temperature, pH, etc.) adequate for the presence of life. It asserts that living organisms and their inorganic surroundings have evolved together, through a cybernetic feedback system operated unconsciously by the biota, as a single living system.

In this respect, the living system of Earth can be thought of analogous to the workings of any individual organism that regulates body temperature, blood salinity, etc. As above, so below. The macrocosmos reflected in the microcosmos, all manifestations of the One.

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 between them, are questions of obvious importance… The Gaia hypothesis 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. It is an alternative to that pessimistic view which sees nature as a primitive force to be subdued and conquered. It is also 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.
—  Gaia: A New Look At Life On Earth - James Lovelock
The entire range of living matter on Earth from whales to viruses and from oaks to algae could be regarded as constituting a single living entity capable of maintaining the Earth’s atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts…[Gaia can be defined] as a complex entity involving the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback of cybernetic systems which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.
—  James Lovelock
The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened.

– Scientist James Lovelock

James Lovelock, the maverick scientist who became a guru to the environmental movement with his “Gaia” theory of the Earth as a single organism, has admitted to being “alarmist” about climate change and says other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too.

Lovelock, 92, is writing a new book in which he will say climate change is still happening, but not as quickly as he once feared. Read more.


So having worked on a bazillion issues of Dazed, which legendary moment did our editor Rod Stanley pick to talk about?

“Vivienne was passionate and knowledgeable, and James [Lovelock] showed no signs of being surprised to be grilled by one of the country’s leading fashion designers." 

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