The Literary Influence 2: Gaia Hypothesis

Pagans are more known for their ‘live in a field’ aspect than that of ‘live in a library’, but camping out amongst the shelves may just find you a gem or two which has influenced pagan critical thinking about how we see the world around us, and how we view the past.

Atmospheric chemist James Lovelock, microbiologist Lynn Margulis, and others have developed a theory termed the Gaia hypothesis, (also known as the Gaia Theory or Gaia Principle) in honor of the Greek Goddess of the Earth. This concept describes all of Planet Earth as a living system that organizes itself and keeps all its parts in balance.

The Gaia hypothesis links Earth’s inanimate objects (rocks, oceans, gases, and so on) with living parts (plants and animals) and brings together all the planet’s cycles and rhythms into one unified whole. The hypothesis links the evolution and survival of a species to the evolution and conditions of its environment.

Lovelock and Margulis never suggested that Earth is a sentient being (a conscious, creative being), but others have expanded the theory to arrive at this idea.  Lovelock first exposed his idea in his 1979 book, Gaia, a New Look at Life on Earth ( several reprints since). The science behind the hypothesis was still sketchy, and it provoked a storm of criticism. It also provoked a lot of research, and the resulting body of information has encouraged Lovelock to publish this second book, a more confident and complete exposition of the Gaia hypothesis The Ages of Gaia

Although Lovelocks theory is not accepted wholesale by the scientific community, it has sparked discussions and research which reverberates down to the modern day.  In 2001, the International Humanist and Ethical Union signed the Amsterdam Declaration, starting with the statement “The Earth System behaves as a single, self-regulating system with physical, chemical, biological, and human components”

You can find out more about the Gaia Hypothesis HERE

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