Gaia hypothesis is one of the most interesting and revealing theory about our relation with our big home – this planet earth. Propounded by James Lovelock – a great scientific thinker of our time, this theory, if analyze in right perspective, has the potential to completely change the way we look at world around us.
‘Gaia’, named on the Greek goddess for earth, principle is based on a simple truth : Organisms alter their environment.
Let us understand it in some more detail :
We will start with two questions:
The first one is: Why there is life on earth ?
The answer is simple:
Because there are suitable conditions for life to survive. Simple !
Now the second question:
Why there are suitable conditions for life on earth ?
The answer, again, is simple:
Because there is life on earth.
This is all what Gaia theory is about. Both the above two answers are dependent on each other. It implies that Life on earth itself creates vast feedback that ensure its own survival.
Now when I say ‘life’, what does it mean ?
It means the collective life on earth. The collective activities of all living creatures on earth.
All the living creatures on earth, from the tiniest of the bacteria to the largest of the mammals, are contributing in maintaining an optimum environment for life. In other words, activities of life on earth are ensuring its own survival.
This is the Gaia hypothesis which stipulates that the earth as a whole acts like a super organism and ensures the survival of all forms of life on it.
Now you must be wondering what this is all about?
Gaia hypothesis is an reinforcement of the fact that we all are interconnected with each other. So survival of other species is as important as our own survival. The extinction of even a single species may create havoc for our planet.
Let us understand Gaia from an example
We all know that clouds bring rain which is extremely essential for our ecosystem. Do you know how clouds are formed over ocean ?. One of the most obvious reason is that the heating effects of sun causes the ocean water to vaporize and results in clouds. However, besides this there is one more important cause for formation of clouds.
Tiny green plants (known as Microscopic Planktons) keep floating on the surface of ocean. As a part of their life cycle, they release sulphur compounds in air. These sulphur molecules drift up and encourage water molecule to condense. The water drops come close and results in clouds. Clouds not only give water to our lands, but (owing to their highly reflective nature) also acts as a mirror and reflect the radiation of sun, thus, helps in cooling the earth.
Such an interesting phenomena is caused by tiny green plants on ocean surface. The interesting thing is that these plants are not the only beneficiary of clouds formation. Rather the whole system benefits from it. this is a typical example of a Gaian cycle where life affects the nature.
So What is the lesson of Gaia ?
First of all, it is soothing and startling to know that all forms of life are interconnected with each other and are contributing in maintaining congenial life conditions for everybody.
Secondly, it also indicates that all living activities in their collective forms, help the earth to maintain its wonderful qualities of a living planet.
Often in the vanity of our urban psyche and in our isolated cities far from any kind of natural contact, we tend to think ourselves as something special, the only real intelligent species of this planet.
However, the Gaia hypothesis open our eyes to this revealing truth that we all human beings (along with other living species) are part of this super organism earth. This fact makes us humble and reveal the truth that whatever wonder we can do with our science and technology, we are destined to remain engulfed by a huge quasi-organism – our planet earth. It also restore the truth of religions that we are, whether we like it or not, a part of something much larger than ourselves.
Gaia : A primitive and modern fact :
An interesting experiment for you.
If there is anyone really living on this earth, it is our living planet earth itself. All other life forms just come and go. Here I request you to consider this imaginary and very interesting hypothesis.
Imagine that you are sitting on a chair placed in outer space. You are watching the earth as it revolves around the sun. Imagine that as if by some magic you are able to see all the activities of life happening on every corner of earth. From that chair you are watching all facets of human and other lives – birth, death, war, triumph, failure etc.
As you are watching these phenomena of life from outer space, imagine that the time frame of that place ( where you are sitting in outer space) changes in such a way that 1 minute of that place becomes equal to 1000 years of earth. Imagine it clearly.
Now tell me what you will see in 1 hour ?
In 60 minutes of sitting on that imaginary chair in outer space , you will see a period of 60,000 years on earth.
Can you guess what you’ll see ? You will not be able to see any human life in its consistency. In such a vast period of time (condensed to a duration of 1 hour in a different time scale) you will only be able to see the movements of life in its collective form. When 1 minute equals 1000 years, people will just come and go like a flash of light. You will see life coming from nowhere and again merging into unknown. The only constant thing will be the earth itself with its varied form. You will feel the presence of only one living organism – Earth ! maintaining its life supporting activity with the help of all other living organisms it contains.
James lovelock writes in the concluding part of his book ‘Homage to Gaia: The life of an independent scientist’ :-
” The scientific evidence, is now strong enough for me to take a chance and put my trust on Gaia. It is comforting to think that I am a part of her and to know that my destiny is to merge with the chemistry of our living planet. “
Yes the destiny of all of us is to merge in the chemistry of our living planet. Gaia consoles us by telling our true place in nature. Whenever you find yourself in a natural surrounding, observe the nature around you from the perspective of Gaia. The sky, lake, ocean, mountains, flowers, plants, tiny birds, big mammals, you, your friends and the whole human race – we all are part of our living planet earth !
All of us are contributing collectively in making life sustainable. All things in this world are interdependent on each other. Discard the notions of supremacy. We all are equal for our mother earth. We all are her parts. .
You can learn more about Gaia at
here : Gaia Theory ,
here : http://erg.ucd.ie/arupa/references/gaia.html and
here : http://www.scienceclarified.com/Ex-Ga/Gaia-Hypothesis.html – a link send by a reader Mr. Nathan Savicki from US. Thanks to him !
Let us continue our journey of exploring wonderful ideas for contemplation.