Everything you need to know about the Gaia Hypothesis!

By 2154, the human race will have used up all the world’s resources, and find itself in need to look for sustenance beyond this planet. It’s not a prediction for what’s to come - it’s the plot of the movie Avatar, created by director James Cameron.

In the movie, the human race ends up wanting to harvest the resources of Pandora, specifically unobtanium, a very valuable mineral that in short could allow the human race to continue to exist. But it’s not the plot of the movie that’s interesting to us now, it’s the new world that Cameron created, Pandora.

This new world has an ecology formed by a neuro-network that virtually everything on the moon can connect to and gain strength to a collective consciousness. But the root of this idea wasn’t born out of Cameron’s imagination. It’s actually, in a way, the Gaia Hypothesis.

What’s the Gaia Theory?

The Gaia principle or theory states that all life and non-life on Earth are interconnected and forms a unitary, complex system that is for the most part self-regulating. Through this complex system, life itself was able to continue to exist despite many episodes in our planet’s history that should have wiped it out. Yet it wasn’t wiped out - it adapted, evolved, and continued.

This theory was developed by James Lovelock, a chemist, with the help of microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s. The theory was mostly ignored, then criticized when it was first made public, but is now studied in many fields, such as geophysiology.

The World Regulates Itself

The Gaia theory states that the Earth, and all its components, is a self-regulating system. This means that the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and pedosphere are all tightly connected in a unitary system that is constantly evolving. When a major change is noticed in one component of Earth, the others co-evolve with it.

This evolution, in Lovelock’s view, is possible through a cybernetic feedback system that is operated by the organic matter on Earth, thus leading to stabilization of the planet to accommodate life on it. A lot of the processes on the planet’s surface are depending on interactions between organic matter and inorganic matter, and overall these processes help establish a type of control system that can regulate just about anything:

  • The planet's temperature;
  • Ocean salinity;
  • Atmosphere composition.

The Gaia theory seems to offer the answer to some of the most pressing questions scientists could never answer: how is life possible on Earth? Because there are many things that should have wiped us off the face of the planet a long time ago.

One example is a severe drought in Ancient Africa that should have ended human existence altogether. Instead, it worked in our favor, as it pushed our ancestors to look for habitable land elsewhere, kickstarting human evolution.

Gaia makes it all seem like we weren’t just plain lucky. For scientists and regular people alike, this answer is far from satisfying. The fact that we’re all here right now can’t just be attributed to luck. There has to be something deeper than that, right?

The Criticism of Gaia

Though it could provide an answer to a pressing question, it doesn’t mean the Gaia theory was openly accepted by the scientific community. Biologist John Maynard Smith called it "an evil religion" that went completely against evolutionary logic, while president of the Royal Society Robert May called Lovelock a "holy fool." Most of the criticism at first stemmed from the fact that the theory seemed to resemble more a neo-pagan religion than a scientific theory itself. Lovelock’s initial book "Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth" helped fuel this sentiment.

But perhaps the most widespread theory that seems to contradict the Gaia hypothesis is that, if anything, life on this planet seems to hurt the Earth more than it helps it.

Gaia stipulated that the Earth itself is like a human body. Everything is connected, and if anything goes south then the planet has natural ways of fixing its problems, similar to how we have antibodies that help us fight diseases. But at the same time, we have countless evidence of how human activity directly interferes with the planet’s wellbeing:

  • Massive deforestation;
  • Pollution;
  • Irresponsible waste disposal;
  • Greenhouse gas emissions, etc.

It seems that the Gaia theory is more popular with consumers than with the scientific community.

Still, the Theory Might Not Be Completely Wrong

Though it’s unclear if the Earth really is like a living organism that can self-regulate, it does not mean there isn’t at least some truth in the Gaia hypothesis.

We are interconnected on this planet, whether it’s at the level Lovelock initially imagined or not. Our activity on this planet is directly responsible for climate change and the repercussions we are witnessing all over the world, with the temperatures rising, biodiversity changing, and sea levels rising. Lovelock believes that, in a sense, the consequences of global warming are the Earth’s way of fighting back because we’ve ruined its balance, but the undisputed fact is that the human race is much to blame for the climate crisis.

And as many studies show, we also have the power to reverse the damage and restore balance to the planet once again.

Plant a Tree Now!

Trees bring a lot of balance to the Earth by acting as natural filtration systems that suck out the CO2 from the atmosphere. But due to massive deforestation, we are losing the collective power of these natural filters.

At ReplantAmazon, we are dedicating all efforts to re-plant around 1 billion trees in the Amazon rainforest, and this way bring more balance to the Earth. Find out more about us and how you can support our cause right now.