Gaia Hypothesis - Re-Member Life In Earth
I am a Vancouver resident, lived in BC forever, and am white and non-binary. I write this as a Person With Disability (PWD), among a crowd of peers who may or may not have the capacity to speak up or write their own story. What I know: We do need new relations between human and Earth systems, that work for all we know.
I would like to acknowledge that I live on the ancestral, unceded Coast Salish territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), stoːlo (Stolo), and sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) nations. As a part of reconciliation, acknowledgement helps lead to justice.
Some Context Around Gaia Theory
I remembered some nuances of readings I did when I was younger:
“Gaian Consciousness” or anything regarding “channelling” or “contact” is just weird religious fancy. I’m interested in discussing consciousness beyond human ignorance of ecological needs, but it’s irrelevant to play modern voodoo with the Earth and endangered species and teetering ecosystems.
That weird stuff is very distinct from a scientific set of ideas termed under “Gaia Hypothesis” – the shared use of the word Gaia is indeed based in a very deep linguistic foundation:
The ‘mother-earth-root’ thing – a fundamental principle beyond and before any science or religion we have known easily, even that of Ancient Greece where Gaia was a name for what English labels evolved somewhere in the ignorant, dark ages into “Earth Goddess.”
What About That "Scientific" Part?
The work on Gaia Hypothesis by Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock includes many big ideas in deep dive, though for this post at this moment, I mention two major principles I can summarize from my own study, that one might then relate to how they observe and understand life in Earth:
1) A ‘life form’ which is individual exhibits patterns of ‘autopoiesis‘ or self-making like reproduction and evolution, self carrying continuation, and
2) A ‘network of individual life forms’ also exhibits the patterns of autopoiesis in their collective evolution.
Looking at phenomena on Earth with these two paradigms starts to make a sense of a lot of stuff that old science and old religion get wrong every time they still get reapplied.
What Has Gone Wrong Here?
Foremost, it is the interconnected loss of cultural legacy, ecological stability, and peace. Such as, Indigenous land defenders being assassinated when trying to stop destruction of systems like the Amazonian Rainforest, for the benefit of all humans, opposed to the relentless pursuit of absolutely maligned economic thefts of land.
Primarily a clear example is how the forests and marine life together mix oxygen, water, carbon, and hydrogen, and so many other elements in a perfect ratio of timing that coordinates the temperature of the entire Earth.
Old science might get very confused when someone realized the literal force of the energy of sunlight has generally never stopped increasing while most of multi-cellular organisms evolved. They get confused because it is very, very clear that the temperature of Earth’s climate has always stayed “comfy.”
It’s really interesting to note that “comfy” means some areas were below zero, and some areas of Earth were desert. Over 100s of millions of years, increasing solar output and “feedback” might start to calculate out like using a nuclear power plant at full capacity to warm your coffee.
It’s also interesting to note that an old religious world for some time desperately denied the existence of an Earth or ecosystem beyond however many thousands of years old, and happening to belong to colonizing cultures who actively discredited indigenous land holders in order to squander resources.
Now we see that climate is attached to life form activity, not that the Earth was given by God, or that we have infinite resources to waste.
It’s actually been seen for longer than the destruction has taken place, just not understood by those destroying.
How Does "Western Tradition" Evolve to My Own View?
The debate between Darwinism and Lamarckism, for example, just gets exploded, again and again, surprising both sides of formalist Western binary logics.
We can see now from better observations that life forms and ecosystems can evolve seemingly far passed the rate of any hint of prediction and mathematical likelihood the past thought of. In general, almost all models of the 1700s through 1900s are still being revolutionized.
Don’t assume understanding is done for. A life form self-creates its activity, and networks of individuals interrelate and resonate.
Moments Of Choice With Consequence
Imagine “natural selection” which is “random.” Aristotle said traits came about for a goal directed “END”, as if Nature basically has logical endpoints.
So… on Earth, where we are, think of a sick or old prey animal. They can consciously make its path when their herd is running from a predator pack, in a way organizing time and opportunity for the young to escape.
Doing so, such a behaviour raises both the number and health of the population. This apparently coherent and cognizant, meaningful, and goal directed behaviour can directly influence selection.
So what is natural except an inclusive “random selection” along with the (clearly evident) possibility of a life form to have power to self-create some of its activities.
Traits and behaviours like these are so routinely observed in human, animal, even plant, fungal, and cellular systems, it’s like a ritual of life in a planet to coordinate strength together in ways that are more meaningful.
At least, more meaningful than the old science or old religion both allowed. Therefore, in the 21st Century, now on the Internet we make fun of “crabs being the ultimate form.“
It gently rouses with humour the daring contemplation that there is more to something than nothing.