James Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis


James Lovelock's Gaia Theory. 

Eco-holism - emphasises not the rights of humans but the interdependence of all ecosystems and sees the environment as a whole entity, valuable in itself. The Gaia Theory by James Lovelock is the most popular form of eco-holism. 

Holistic - the approach to the environment that considers a range of factors, including the importance of balance within the ecosystem. 

The Gaia Hypothesis challenges the view that humans are the most imporant species and sees humans as part of the living whole - Gaia 

  • The word Gaia was first used by William Golding and originates from the name of the Greek Goddess of the Earth. 

All forms of life on the planet are part of Gaia - looking at the Earth from space, Lovelock saw not so much a planet of diverse life forms as a planet transformed by a self-regulating living system, instead he saw it almost as a living thing. 

Lovelock and Gaia

  • In his early work, Lovelock argued that Gaia is regulated by the living organisms within it to remain suitable conditions for growth and development. However, he lated rejected this and saw the regulation conduected by the whole of Gaia, not just living organisms. 
    • He examined the fossil evidence which showed that climate change had taken place within a very narrow range so that life was never destroyed. 
  • Conditions seemed to have favoured life - they are not random but intelligently organised - this he calimed was not carried out by God but by Gaia herself. 
    • Christians at this point would argue that God could be behind the Gaia effect. 
  • This theory opposes the Darwinian idea of the survival of the fittest (evolution to reproduce to survive) and says that conditions on earth are actually managed by Gaia herself. The world is not a result of self engineering. 
  • According to Lovelock, live cannot be destroyed:
    • There are many types of algae that are resistant to ultraviolet radiation, so even if the ozone layer were to be destroyed, life would continue and new life


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