Gaia Hypothesis

Edexcel A2 Government and Politics Unit 4D - Environment

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Gaia Hypothesis

  • Developed by James Lovelock.
  • Advances the idea that the Earth is best understood as a living entity that acts to maintain its own existence.
  • Named the planet Gaia - after the Greek goddess of the Earth.
  • The Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans and soil exhibit the same kind of self-regulating behaviour that characterises other forms of life.
  • Gaia has maintained 'homeostasis' - a state of dynamic balance - despite major changes that have taken place in the Solar system.
  • The most dramatic evidence of this - although the Sun has warmed up by more than 25% since life began, the temperature on Earth and the composition of its atmosphere have remained virtually unchanged.
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  • The idea of Gaia developed into ecological ideology. It conveys the powerful message that humans must respect the health of the planet and act to conserve its beauty and resources.
  • Also contains a revolutionary vision of the relationship between the animate and inanimate world.
  • However - it has been condemned as a form of 'misanthropic ecology' - because Gaia is non-human, and Gaia theory suggests health of the planet matters more than that of any individual living on it.
  • Lovelock has suggested - those species that have prospered have been ones that have helped gear to regulate its own existence, while any species that poses a threat to the delicate balance of Gaia, as humans currently do, is likely to be extinguished.
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