The Gaia hypothesis is an ecological hypothesis proposing that the biosphere and the physical components of the Earth (atmosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere) are coupled to form a complex interacting system. This coordinated system of living organisms maintains the climatic and biogeochemical conditions on Earth in a preferred homeostasis. Originally proposed by James Lovelock as the earth feedback hypothesis, it was named at the suggestion of his neighbour William Golding to the Gaia Hypothesis after the Greek supreme goddess of Earth. The hypothesis is frequently described as viewing the Earth as a single organism. Lovelock and other supporters of the idea now regard it as a scientific theory, not merely an hypothesis, since it has passed predictive tests.
The theory was initially, according to Lovelock, a way to explain the fact that combinations of chemicals including oxygen and methane persist in stable concentrations in the atmosphere of the Earth. Lovelock suggested using such combinations detected in other planets' atmospheres would be a relatively reliable and cheap way to detect life, which many biologists opposed at the time and since. Later other relationships such as the fact that sea creatures produce sulfur and iodine in approximately the quantities required by land creatures emerged and helped bolster the theory. Rather than invent many different theories to describe each such equilibrium, Lovelock dealt with them holistically, naming this self-regulating living system after the Greek goddess Gaia, using a suggestion from the novelist William Golding, who was living in the same village as Lovelock at the time (Bowerchalke, Wiltshire, UK). The Gaia Hypothesis has since been supported by a number of scientific experiments and provided a number of useful predictions, and hence is properly referred to as the Gaia Theory.
Until 1975 the hypothesis was almost totally ignored. An article in the New Scientist of February 15, 1975, and a popular book length version of the theory, published as The Quest for Gaia, began to attract scientific and critical attention to the hypothesis. The theory was then attacked by many mainstream biologists. Championed by certain environmentalists and climate scientists, it was vociferously rejected by many others, both within scientific circles and outside them.
James Lovelock defined Gaia as:
His initial hypothesis was that the biomass modifies the conditions on the planet to make conditions on the planet more hospitable – the Gaia Hypothesis properly defined this "hospitality" as a full homeostasis. Lovelock's initial hypothesis, accused of being teleological by his critics, was that the atmosphere is kept in homeostasis by and for the biosphere.
Lovelock suggested that life on Earth provides a cybernetic, homeostatic feedback system operated automatically and unconsciously by the biota, leading to broad stabilization of global temperature and chemical composition.
Since life started on Earth, the energy provided by the Sun has increased by 25% to 30%; however the surface temperature of the planet has remained remarkably constant when measured on a global scale. Furthermore, he argued, the atmospheric composition of the Earth is constant. The Earth's atmosphere currently consists of 79% nitrogen, 20.7% oxygen and 0.03% carbon dioxide. Oxygen is the second most reactive element after fluorine, and should combine with gases and minerals of the Earth's atmosphere and crust. Traces of methane (at an amount of 100,000 tonnes produced per annum) should not exist, as methane is combustible in an oxygen atmosphere. This composition should be unstable, and its stability can only have been maintained with removal or production by living organisms.
Ocean salinity has been constant at about 3.4% for a very long time. Salinity stability is important as most cells require a rather constant salinity and do not generally tolerate values above 5%. Ocean salinity constancy was a long-standing mystery, because river salts should have raised the ocean salinity much higher than observed. Recently it was suggested that salinity may also be strongly influenced by seawater circulation through hot basaltic rocks, and emerging as hot water vents on ocean spreading ridges. However, the composition of sea water is far from equilibrium, and it is difficult to explain this fact without the influence of organic processes.
The only significant natural source of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is volcanic activity, while the only significant removal is through the precipitation of carbonate rocks. In water, CO2 is dissolved as a "carbonic acid," which may be combined with dissolved calcium to form solid calcium carbonate (limestone). Both precipitation and solution are influenced by the bacteria and plant roots in soils, where they improve gaseous circulation, or in coral reefs, where calcium carbonate is deposited as a solid on the sea floor. Calcium carbonate can also be washed from continents to the sea where it is used by living organisms to manufacture carbonaceous tests and shells. Once dead, the living organisms' shells fall to the bottom of the oceans where they generate deposits of chalk and limestone. Part of the organisms with carboneous shells are the coccolithophores (algae), which also happen to participate in the formation of clouds. When they die, they release a sulfurous gas (DMS), (CH3)2S, which act as particles on which water vapor condenses to make clouds.
Lovelock sees this as one of the complex processes that maintain conditions suitable for life. The volcanoes produce CO2 in the atmosphere, CO2 participates in rock weathering as carbonic acid, itself accelerated by temperature and soil life, the dissolved CO2 is then used by the algae and released on the ocean floor. CO2 excess can be compensated by an increase of coccolithophoride life, increasing the amount of CO2 locked in the ocean floor. Coccolithophorides increase the cloud cover, hence control the surface temperature, help cool the whole planet and favor precipitations which are necessary for terrestrial plants. For Lovelock and other Gaia scientists like Stephan Harding, coccolithophorides are one stage in a regulatory feedback loop. Lately the atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased and there is some evidence that concentrations of ocean algal blooms are also increasing.
Lovelock, especially in his older texts, indulged in language that has later caused fiery debates. For instance many of his biological critics such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins attacked his statement in the first paragraph of his first Gaia book (1979), that "the quest for Gaia is an attempt to find the largest living creature on Earth."
Lynn Margulis, the coauthor of Gaia hypotheses, is more careful to avoid controversial figures of speech than is Lovelock. In 1979 she wrote, in particular, that only homeorhetic and not homeostatic balances are involved: that is, the composition of Earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere are regulated around "set points" as in homeostasis, but those set points change with time. Also she wrote that there is no special tendency of biospheres to preserve their current inhabitants, and certainly not to make them comfortable. Accordingly, the Earth is a kind of community of trust which can exist at many discrete levels of integration. This is true for all multicellular organisms which do not live or die all at once: not all cells in the body die instantaneously, nor are homeostatic "set points" constant through the life of an organism.
This theory is based on the idea that the biomass self-regulates the conditions on the planet to make its physical environment (in particular temperature and chemistry of the atmosphere) on the planet more hospitable to the species which constitute its "life". The Gaia Hypothesis properly defined this "hospitality" as a full homeostasis. A model that is often used to illustrate the original Gaia Hypothesis is the so-called Daisyworld simulation.
Whether this sort of system is present on Earth is still open to debate. Some relatively simple homeostatic mechanisms are generally accepted. For example, when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, the biomass of photosynthetic organisms increases and thus removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but the extent to which these mechanisms stabilize and modify the Earth's overall climate are not yet known. Less clear is the reason why such traits evolve in a system in order to produce such effects. Lovelock accepts a process of systemic Darwinian evolution for such mechanisms, creatures that evolve that improve their environment for their survival will do better than those which damage their environment. But many Darwinists have difficulty accepting such mechanisms can exist.
After initially being largely ignored by most scientists, (from 1969 until 1977), thereafter for a period, the initial Gaia hypothesis was ridiculed by a number of scientists, like Ford Doolittle, Dawkins and Gould. On the basis of its name alone , the Gaia hypothesis was derided as some kind of neo-Pagan New Age religion. Many scientists in particular also criticised the approach taken in his popular book "Gaia, a New look at Life on Earth" for being teleological; a belief that all things have a predetermined purpose. Lovelock seems to have accepted this criticism of some of his statements, and has worked hard to remove the taint of teleological purpose from his theories, stating "Nowhere in our writings do we express the idea that planetary self-regulation is purposeful, or involves foresight or planning by the biota." – (Lovelock, J. E. 1990).
In 1981, W. Ford Doolittle, in the CoEvolution Quarterly article "Is Nature Motherly" argued that there was nothing in the genome of individual organisms which could provide the feedback mechanisms Gaia theory proposed, and that therefore the Gaia hypothesis was an unscientific theory of a maternal type without any explanatory mechanism. In 1982 Richard Dawkins in his book The Extended Phenotype argued that organisms could not act in concert as this would require foresight and planning from them. Like Doolittle he rejected the possibility that feedback loops could stabilize the system. Dawkins claimed "there was no way for evolution by natural selection to lead to altruism on a Global scale".
Stephen Jay Gould criticised Gaia as merely a metaphorical description of Earth processes. He wanted to know the actual mechanisms by which self-regulating homeostasis was regulated. Lovelock scoffs at this criticism and argues that no one mechanism is responsible, that the connections between the various known mechanisms may never be known, that this is accepted in other fields of biology and ecology as a matter of course, and that specific hostility is reserved for his own theory for political reasons.
Aside from clarifying his language and understanding of what is meant by a life form, Lovelock himself ascribes most of the criticism to a lack of understanding of non-linear mathematics by his critics, and a linearizing form of greedy reductionism in which all events have to be immediately ascribed to specific causes before the fact. He notes also that his theory suggests experiments in many different fields, but few of them in biology which most of his critics are trained in. "I'm a general practitioner in a world where there's nothing but specialists... science in the last two centuries has tended to be ever-dividing" and often rivalrous, especially for funding which Lovelock describes as overly abundant and overly focused on institutions rather than original thought. He also flatly states that many of the critics above admitted not having actually read his work, but instead reacted to the name. He points out that Richard Feynman not only shared this opinion (coining the term cargo cult science) but also accepted a lack of general cause and effect theory as an inevitable phase as theories evolve, or indeed that some self-regulating phenomena may not be explainable at all mathematically.
Lovelock, however, defines life as a self-preserving, self-similar system of feedback loops like Humberto Maturana's autopoiesis; as a self-similar system, life could be a cell as well as an organ embedded into a larger organism as well as an individual in a larger inter-dependent social context. The biggest context of interacting inter-dependent living entities is the Earth. The problematic empirical definition is getting "fuzzy on the edges": Why are highly specialized bacteria like E. coli that are unable to thrive outside their habitat considered "life", while mitochondria, which have evolved independently from the rest of the cell, not?
Maturana and Lovelock changed this with the autopoiesis deductive definition which to them explains the phenomenon of life better; some aspects of the empirical definition, however, no longer apply. Reproduction becomes optional: bee swarms reproduce, while the biosphere has no need to. Lovelock himself states in the original Gaia book that even that is not true; given the possibilities, the biosphere may multiply in the future by colonizing other planets, as humankind may be the primer by which Gaia will reproduce. Humanity's exploration of space, its interest in colonizing and even terraforming other planets, lends some plausibility to the idea that Gaia might in effect be able to reproduce.
The astronomer Carl Sagan also remarked that from a cosmic viewpoint, the space probes since 1959 have the character of a planet preparing to go to seed. This might warrant interpretation as a rhetorical point, however, as it equivocates two differing meanings of "reproduction" otherwise.
Lovelock responded to criticisms by developing the mathematical model Daisyworld with Andrew Watson to demonstrate that feedback mechanisms could evolve from the actions or activities of self-interested organisms, rather than through classic group selection mechanisms.
Daisyworld examines the energy budget of a planet populated by two different types of plants, black daisies and white daisies. The colour of the daisies influences the albedo of the planet such that black daisies absorb light and warm the planet, while white daisies reflect light and cool the planet. Competition between the daisies (based on temperature-effects on growth rates) leads to a balance of populations that tends to favour a planetary temperature close to that which is optimum for the daisy growth. Lovelock and Watson demonstrated the stability of Daisyworld by forcing the sun that it orbits to evolve along the main sequence, taking it from low to high solar constant. This perturbation of Daisyworld's receipt of solar radiation caused the balance of daisies to gradually shift from black to white but the planetary temperature was always regulated back to this optimum (except at the extreme ends of solar evolution). This situation is very different from the corresponding abiotic world, where temperature is unregulated and rises linearly with solar output. Later versions of Daisyworld introduced a range of grey daisies and populations of grazers and predators, and found that these further increased the stability of the homeostasis. More recently other research, modelling the real biochemical cycles of Earth, and using various "guilds" of life (eg. photosynthesisers, decomposers, herbivores and primary and secondary carnivores) has also been shown to produce Daisyworld-like regulation and stability, which helps to explain planetary biological diversity.
This enables nutrient recycling within a regulatory framework derived by natural selection amongst species, where one being's harmful waste becomes low energy food for members of another guild. This research on the Redfield ratio of Nitrogen to Phosphorus shows that local biotic processes can regulate global systems (See Keith Downing & Peter Zvirinsky, The Stimulated Evolution of Biochemical Guilds: Reconciling Gaia Theory with Natural Selection).
In 1988, to draw attention to the Gaia hypothesis, the climatologist Stephen Schneider organised a conference of the American Geophysical Union's first Chapman Conference on Gaia, held at San Diego in 1989, solely to discuss Gaia.
At the conference James Kirchner criticised the Gaia hypothesis for its imprecision. He claimed that Lovelock and Margulis had not presented one Gaia hypothesis, but four -
Of Homeostatic Gaia, Kirchner recognised two alternatives. "Weak Gaia" asserted that life tends to make the environment stable for the flourishing of all life. "Strong Gaia" according to Kirchner, asserted that life tends to make the environment stable, in order to enable the flourishing of all life. Strong Gaia, Kirchner claimed, was untestable and therefore not scientific.
Referring to the Daisyworld Simulations, Kirchner responded that these results were predictable because of the intention of the programmers - Lovelock and Watson, who selected examples which would produce the responses they desired.
Lawrence Joseph in his book "Gaia: the birth of an idea" argued that Kirchner's attack was principally against Lovelock's integrity as a scientist. As Jon Tuney demonstrates, it is not Lovelock's style to respond to such personal attacks and Lovelock did not attack Kirchner's views for ten years, until his autobiography "Homage to Gaia", where he spoke of Kirchner's sophistry. Lovelock and other Gaia-supporting scientists, however, did attempt to disprove the claim that the theory is not scientific because it is impossible to test it by controlled experiment. For example, against the charge that Gaia was teleological Lovelock and Andrew Watson offered the Daisyworld model (and its modifications, above) as evidence against most of these criticisms.
Lovelock was careful to present a version of the Gaia Hypothesis which had no claim that Gaia intentionally or consciously maintained the complex balance in her environment that life needed to survive. It would appear that the claim that Gaia acts "intentionally" was a metaphoric statement in his popular initial book and was not meant to be taken literally. This new statement of the Gaia hypothesis was more acceptable to the scientific community.
The accusations of teleologism were largely dropped after this conference.
Some have found James Kirchner's suggested spectrum, proposed at the First Gaia Chapman Conference, useful in suggesting that the original Gaia hypothesis could be split into a spectrum of hypotheses, ranging from the undeniable (Weak Gaia) to the radical (Strong Gaia).
At one end of this spectrum is the undeniable statement that the organisms on the Earth have altered its composition. A stronger position is that the Earth's biosphere effectively acts as if it is a self-organizing system, which works in such a way as to keep its systems in some kind of "meta-equilibrium" that is broadly conducive to life. The history of evolution, ecology and climate show that the exact characteristics of this equilibrium intermittently have undergone rapid changes, which are believed to have caused extinctions and felled civilizations (see climate change).
Weak Gaian hypotheses suggest that Gaia is co-evolutive. Co-evolution in this context has been thus defined: "Biota influence their abiotic environment, and that environment in turn influences the biota by Darwinian process." Lovelock (1995) gave evidence of this in his second book, showing the evolution from the world of the early thermo-acido-phyllic and methanogenic bacteria towards the oxygen enriched atmosphere today that supports more complex life.
The weak versions are more acceptable from an orthodox science perspective, as they assume non-homeostasis. They state the evolution of life and its environment may affect each other. An example is how the activity of photosynthetic bacteria during Precambrian times have completely modified the Earth atmosphere to turn it aerobic, and as such supporting evolution of life (in particular eukaryotic life). However, these theories do not claim the atmosphere modification has been done in coordination and through homeostasis. Also such critical theories have yet to explain how conditions on Earth have not been changed by the kinds of run-away positive feedbacks that have affected Mars and Venus.
Biologists and earth scientists usually view the factors that stabilize the characteristics of a period as an undirected emergent property or entelechy of the system; as each individual species pursues its own self-interest, for example, their combined actions tend to have counterbalancing effects on environmental change. Opponents of this view sometimes reference examples of lifes' actions that have resulted in dramatic change rather than stable equilibrium, such as the conversion of the Earth's atmosphere from a reducing environment to an oxygen-rich one. However, proponents argue these atmospheric changes improved the environment's suitability for life.
Some go a step further and hypothesize that all lifeforms are part of one single living planetary being called Gaia. In this view, the atmosphere, the seas and the terrestrial crust would be results of interventions carried out by Gaia through the coevolving diversity of living organisms. While it is arguable that the Earth as a unit does not match the generally accepted biological criteria for life itself (Gaia has not yet reproduced, for instance; it still might spread to other planets through human space colonization and terraforming), many scientists would be comfortable characterizing the earth as a single "system".
A version called "Optimizing Gaia" asserts that biota manipulate their physical environment for the purpose of creating biologically favorable, or even optimal, conditions for themselves. "The Earth's atmosphere is more than merely anomalous; it appears to be a contrivance specifically constituted for a set of purposes". Further, "... it is unlikely that chance alone accounts for the fact that temperature, pH and the presence of compounds of nutrient elements have been, for immense periods, just those optimal for surface life. Rather, ... energy is expended by the biota to actively maintain these optima".
Another strong hypothesis is the one called "Omega Gaia. Teilhard de Chardin claimed that the Earth is evolving through stages of cosmogenesis, affecting the geosphere, biogenesis of the biosphere, and noogenesis of the noosphere, culminating in the Omega Point. Another form of the strong Gaia hypothesis is proposed by Guy Murchie who extends the quality of a holistic lifeform to galaxies. "After all, we are made of star dust. Life is inherent in nature." Murchie describes geologic phenomena such as sand dunes, glaciers, fires, etc. as living organisms, as well as the life of metals and crystals. "The question is not whether there is life outside our planet, but whether it is possible to have "nonlife".
There are speculative versions of the Gaia hypothesis, including versions in which it is held that the Earth is conscious or part of some universe-wide evolution such as expressed in the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis strain of a larger speculative Gaia philosophy. These extreme forms of the Gaia hypothesis, that the entire Earth is a single unified organism that is consciously manipulating the climate in order to make conditions more conducive to life, are metaphysical or mystical views for which no evidence exists, and which cannot be tested scientifically. Another strain which also goes further than science presently justifies, is the Gaia Movement, a collection of different organisations operating in different countries, but all sharing a concern for how humans might live more sustainably within the "living system".
Gaia Theory has developed considerably and in recent years both Lovelock's and Margulis's understanding of Gaia have gained some increased support as a potentially viable, testable scientific hypothesis or theory.. Margulis dedicated the last eight chapters of her book, The Symbiotic Planet, to Gaia. She resented the widespread personification of Gaia and stressed that Gaia is "not an organism", but "an emergent property of interaction among organisms". She defined Gaia "the series of interacting ecosystems that compose a single huge ecosystem at the Earth's surface. Period." Yet still she argues, "the surface of the planet behaves as a physiological system in certain limited ways". Margulis seems to agree with Lovelock in that, in what comes to these physiological processes, the earth's surface is "best regarded as alive". The book's most memorable "slogan" was actually quipped by a student of Margulis': "Gaia is just symbiosis as seen from space". This neatly connects Gaia theory to Margulis' own theory of endosymbiosis.
By the time of the 2nd Chapman Conference on the Gaia Hypothesis, held at Valencia, Spain, on 23 June 2000, the situation had developed significantly in accordance with the developing science of Bio-geophysiology. Rather than a discussion of the Gaian teleological views, or "types" of Gaia Theory, the focus was upon the specific mechanisms by which basic short term homeostasis was maintained within a framework of significant evolutionary long term structural change.
The major questions were:
Tyler Volk (1997) has suggested that once life evolves, a Gaian system is almost inevitably produced as a result of an evolution towards far-from-equilibrium homeostatic states that maximise entropy production (MEP). Kleidon (2004) agrees with Volk's hypothesis, stating: "...homeostatic behavior can emerge from a state of MEP associated with the planetary albedo"; "...the resulting behavior of a biotic Earth at a state of MEP may well lead to near-homeostatic behavior of the Earth system on long time scales, as stated by the Gaia hypothesis." Staley (2002) has similarly proposed "...an alternative form of Gaia theory based on more traditional Darwinian principles... In [this] new approach, environmental regulation is a consequence of population dynamics, not Darwinian selection. The role of selection is to favor organisms that are best adapted to prevailing environmental conditions. However, the environment is not a static backdrop for evolution, but is heavily influenced by the presence of living organisms. The resulting co-evolving dynamical process eventually leads to the convergence of equilibrium and optimal conditions."
A third international conference on the Gaia Theory, sponsored by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and others, was held in October 2006 at the Arlington, VA campus of George Mason University. Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and long-time advocate of the Gaia Theory, was a keynote speaker. Among many other speakers: Tyler Volk, Co-director of the Program in Earth and Environmental Science at New York University; Dr. Donald Aitken, Principal of Donald Aitken Associates; Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, President of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment; Robert Correll, Senior Fellow, Atmospheric Policy Program, American Meteorological Society and noted environmental ethicist, J. Baird Callicott. James Lovelock, the theory’s progenitor, prepared a video specifically for the event.
This conference approached Gaia Theory as both science and metaphor as a means of understanding how we might begin addressing 21st century issues such as climate change and ongoing environmental destruction.
After much criticism, a modified Gaia hypothesis is now considered within ecological science basically consistent with the planet Earth being the ultimate object of ecological study. Ecologists generally consider the biosphere as an ecosystem and the Gaia hypothesis, though a simplification of that original proposed, to be consistent with a modern vision of global ecology, relaying the concepts of biosphere and biodiversity. The Gaia hypothesis has been called geophysiology or Earth System Science, which takes into account the interactions between biota, the oceans, the geosphere, and the atmosphere. To promote research and discussion in these fields an organisation, "Gaia Society for Research and Education in Earth System Science" was started.
An example of the change in acceptability of Gaia theories is the Amsterdam declaration of the scientific communities of four international global change research programmes - the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the international biodiversity programme DIVERSITAS - recognise that, in addition to the threat of significant climate change, there is growing concern over the ever-increasing human modification of other aspects of the global environment and the consequent implications for human well-being.
"Research carried out over the past decade under the auspices of the four programmes to address these concerns has shown that:
Sir Crispin Tickell in the 46th Annual Bennett Lecture for the 50th Anniversary of Geology at the University of Leicester in his recent talk "Earth Systems Science: Are We Pushing Gaia Too Hard?" stated "as a theory, Gaia is now winning."
He continued "The same goes for the earth systems science which is now the concern of the Geological Society of London (with which the Gaia Society recently merged). Whatever the label, earth systems science, or Gaia, has now become a major subject of inquiry and research, and no longer has to justify itself."
These findings would seem to be fully in accord with the Gaia theory. Despite this endorsement, the late Bill Hamilton, one of the founders of modern Darwinism, whilst conceding the empirical basis of the planetary homeostatic processes on which Gaia is based, states that it is a theory still awaiting its Copernicus.
The notion of Gaia has been applied to the networked society and the globalized Internet by cultural theorist Dr. Michael Strangelove, "Confronted with the inaccessibility of our physical frontiers, my generation has turned inward and discovered two new immanent and infinite frontiers. These new frontiers of the next millennium are the uncensored, distributed self, and cyberspace--the location of the virtual self/community--Electric Gaia."
In James Lovelock's latest book, The Revenge of Gaia, he argues that the lack of respect humans have had for Gaia, through the damage done to rainforests and the reduction in planetary biodiversity, is testing Gaia's capacity to minimize the effects of the addition of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This eliminates the planet's homeostatic negative feedback potential and increases the likelihood of positive feedbacks associated with runaway global warming. Similarly the warming of the oceans is extending the oceanic thermocline layer of tropical oceans into the Arctic and Antarctic waters, preventing the rise of oceanic nutrients into the surface waters and eliminating the algal blooms of phytoplankton on which oceanic foodchains depend. As phytoplankton and forests are the main ways in which Gaia draws down greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, taking it out of the atmosphere, the elimination of this environmental buffering will see, according to Lovelock, most of the earth becoming uninhabitable for humans and other life-forms by the middle of next century, with a massive extension of tropical deserts.
Given these conditions, Lovelock expects human civilization will be hard pressed to survive. He expects the change to be similar to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum when atmospheric concentration of CO2 was 450 ppm. At that point the Arctic Ocean was 23 degrees Celsius and had crocodiles in it, with the rest of the world mostly scrub and desert. He says of sustainable development and renewable energy that it came "200 years too late" and that more effort should go into adaptation, including more use of fission. He likens the Kyoto Protocol to the Munich conferences that failed to prevent World War II, including the likelihood that the disaster will cause people to come together in common cause. "We have been through no less than seven of these events as humans...comparable in extent to the change" likely to be wrought by global warming.
He claims that Gaia's self-regulation will likely prevent any extraordinary runaway effects that wipe out life itself, but that humans will survive and be "culled and, I hope, refined."
According to James Lovelock, by 2040, the world population of more than six billion will have been culled by floods, drought and famine. The people of Southern Europe, as well as South-East Asia, will be fighting their way into countries such as Canada, Australia and Britain. He says that "By 2040, parts of the Sahara desert will have moved into middle Europe. We are talking about Paris - as far north as Berlin. In Britain we will escape because of our oceanic position." Lovelock believes it is too late to repair the damage. "If you take the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predictions, then by 2040 every summer in Europe will be as hot as it was in 2003 - between 110F and 120F. It is not the death of people that is the main problem, it is the fact that the plants can't grow - there will be almost no food grown in Europe. We are about to take an evolutionary step and my hope is that the species will emerge stronger. It would be hubris to think humans as they now are God's chosen race."
In Lovelock (1994), a novel by Orson Scott Card & Kathryn H. Kidd, Gaiaology is a fully fledged interdisciplinary science which will soon be put to use by the Earth's first interstellar colony ship. Assuming the target planet will need terraforming, the job of the ship's Gaiaologist will be to integrate the terrestrial species needed for the colonists' survival with the planet's existing ecology. The Gaiaologist's "Witness," a form of assistance animal whose job it is to record every waking moment in the life of such a prominent member of society, is the central character of the book, an enhanced Capuchin monkey named after Sir James Lovelock.
The Gaia hypothesis is used extensively by Brian Aldiss in his Helliconia Trilogy, where the planets of Helliconia and, to a lesser extent, Earth, are presented as the main characters in a story spanning the rise and fall of civilizations as influenced by Helliconia's 2,500-year-long cycle of seasons.
The Gaia hypothesis was also used as a central theme in the novel Portent, by James Herbert, in which Lovelock is mentioned by name.
The South Park episode Lice Capades addresses the Gaia hypothesis from an ironic standpoint- when one louse suggests that the planet (a child's head) is alive, another louse responds with "If the planet was alive, would it feel this?" and shoots the boy's head-- the impact being so minute the boy barely notices. The dialog refers to a scene from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, in which the same dialog is used.
Edge of Darkness a British television drama serial, produced by BBC Television in association with Lionheart Television International and originally broadcast in six fifty-five minute episodes in late 1985.
American poet, writer and Deep Ecology activist Gary Snyder has a chapter of poems called "Little Songs for Gaia" in his collection of poetry "Axe Handles" (1983).
In Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a sci-fi movie, Dr. Sid and his assistant Aki are fierce promoters of the Gaia Theory. Though, in the film, "Gaia" is in reference to the underlying life force within the planet, very similar to the lifestream found in Final Fantasy VII.
In Psalms of planets Eureka Seven, it shows a planet where coral structure engulfed the planet making it a super organism. that needs to stay asleep since it passed the limit of questions.it shows the planet is alive and wants to become one with another sentient life "humans"in oerder to exist alongside with humans.
The 1997 console role-playing game, Final Fantasy VII features a paradigm of so-called Lifestream, also appearing in the 2001 film, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within as the 'Dr. Sid's Gaia Theory' (these theories look almost identical due to the same scenario writers, Hironobu Sakaguchi and Kazushige Nojima). According to it, all living beings are given some 'spirital energy' by the spirit of the Planet (Gaia) prior to birth, live out their lives, and then die, with the energy then returning to the Planet. Entire Planet (or Gaia) is really a single living organism with its own consciousness and will.
The 1999 turn-based strategy PC game, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, features a living (and eventually sentient) planet in the Alpha Centauri star system. One of the games factions is named "Gaia's Stepdaughters", a group of environmentalists who believe in living with the planet rather than trying to tame or destroy it.
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