James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, via Wikipedia, is that “living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.”
That life “interacts” with its environment is impossible-not-to-be true. Even dead things “interact” with the environment. Simply to exist is to interact. A rock sitting alone on a far hillside interacts with the hill. Self-regulation is another thing entirely. That implies a goal for all life, which might be true, but is an idea disconcerting to rabid evolutionists who are frightened by teleology. To others, the Gaia hypothesis says the earth itself is alive, which is scientific paganism. Given the many major extinction events, before man, the earth is a sickly creature if it’s alive, and unsure of its goal.
Gaia 1.0 came, had a heyday, and slowly petered out, as these things do. Yet there are those who would resurrect it. Like Vatican favorite Hans Schellnhuber, who not only suggests the earth is alive, but that it is rational—and pissed off.
Then there is Timothy M. Lenton and Bruno Latour who are responsible for Gaia 2.0—an article they managed to foist on the inaptly named Science magazine (that publication mainly does social justice with scientific asides, these days).
The earth, they say, “has now entered a new epoch called the Anthropocene”, which is a propaganda term meaning man is the dominant species, which everybody already knew. When buffalo were the dominant species 1,000 years ago, or whatever beastie ruled in number, it was not called the Bisonopocene. Yet we are asked to be surprised that man interacts with his environment. Which he cannot but do. It’s well to insist that every creature remakes his environment to suit him: ants, aardvarks, and acacia, as well as man.
“By emphasizing the agency of life-forms and their ability to set goals, Gaia 2.0 may be an effective framework for fostering global sustainability.”
This is an example of the sort of gibberish that now passes for science. The goals of most life forms are humble. A blade of grass wants sun, water, and carbon dioxide to eat. The grass doesn’t set this goal, though: whatever agency was responsible for creating the universal form of grass did. (And that couldn’t have been “evolution”.) What exactly precisely is “sustainability”? I have an answer, but if Lenton and Latour have one, they never give it. It functions as yet another propaganda word. Anything can be proclaimed as “unsustainable”.
“Gaia was built by adaptive networks of microbial actors that exchanged materials, electrons, and information, the latter through ubiquitous horizontal gene transfer. These microbial networks form the basis of the recycling loops that make up global biogeochemical cycles.”
Apparently these fellows believe that only man can use up resources. Have they never heard of locusts? Forrest fires? That other beasties spoil or soil their environments is no excuse for rapacity, of course. Nor does eschewing SJW science mean embracing “consumerism”, man’s form of a locust plague. Man is not unique except for his rationality, and the question must be “how much” instead of “if.”
Some of Earth’s climate self-regulation mechanisms are purely physical and chemical, but many involve biology. On time scales of hundreds of thousands of years, changes in global temperature are counteracted by biologically amplified changes in the removal of CO2 by silicate weathering. On intermediate time scales of millennia…[blah blah blah]
In all this they have forgotten the sun. Odd, that. They recall high CO2 levels from long ago, but forget the direction of cause and effect (as many do: usually increasing in temperature presaged increases in CO2: golly).
What is Gaia 2.0 really about? Here’s a hint.
Implementation of alternative forms of climate control to reduce production of CO2 or augment existing feedbacks depends on who is in charge of such voluntary activity. The results would clearly be different if the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, President Putin, the California legislature, or President Trump had their finger on the proverbial thermostat. In reality, all these agents and many others have some grip on the thermostat, and their combined effect is not simple to predict.
Look who their hero is. Gaia 2.0 is nothing more than standard progressive politics. How boring.
They say “Human flourishing is not possible without a biodiverse, life-sustaining Earth system. This is recognized in the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.” Just what is a the best state of “biodiversity”? Are more species always better than fewer? Why? Exactly why. And what precisely exactly does “life-sustaining Earth system” mean? I’ll tell you: more propaganda.
“Yet, maintaining a self-regulating, human life—supporting planet is not the primary goal of some dominant modes of collective human activity today.”
That because some humans recognize these ploys for that they are: power grabs and attempts to foist an unwanted ideology on us.
“Given the many major extinction events, before man, the earth is a sickly creature if it’s alive, and unsure of its goal.”
Never did understand how humans could be so destructive versus GIANT dinosaurs, glaciers, etc. I think this to be a bunch of bunk.
Biodiversity or biological diversity is equivalent to species richness which is the number of species (plant and animal) per unit area.
The most biodiverse regions are tropical; the least are boreal. Species richness is greatest at the Equator and diminishes with latitude. There are many (thousands of) species per square mile where it is warm, such as in the Amazon, and few (2 or 3) species per square mile where it is cold, such as the tundra.
Warmer is better for biodiversity. Warmer is also better for biological productivity (biomass growth per acre).
The alarmos have it bass ackwards. Their dream of a colder planet will harm biodiversity — making them idiots on top of their many other failings.
“living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.”
A rock sits on a hill. It ‘wants’ to roll down the hill, but it can’t, since every direction is up. I.e., it’s sitting in a little divot. The rock and it’s immediate surroundings form an analog computer solving a simple optimization problem, and the rock is currently in an optimal location. Clearly there are solutions (locations) with a lower cost function for the rock, but it is stuck in a local minima.
On this same hill is a tree. And a squirrel. The tree interacts with it’s surroundings to solve a more complex optimization problem. Ditto for the squirrel, except that the interactions are so complex that we call them “behaviors”.
As part of it’s optimal behavior, the squirrel buries a nut from the tree, dislodging the rock, which rolls down the hill and stops again a little distance away. At some point lightning strikes the tree and kills it, and the squirrel’s behavior changes over time.
So this Gaia is a collection of analog computers solving optimization problems of varying complexities. There is no one overall optimal solution, but rather an infinite number of local minima where the combined solution gets temporarily stuck for some period of time. Energy from the sun drives the system, and energy storage reservoirs provide the impulses of energy that nudge the system out of one local minima and into another.
The one thing I don’t see is any evidence of a “delicate balance”.
Briggs misleads. Per the Lovelock definition of Gaia provided, there is no claim that Gaia is alive.
There is a significant claim if one takes the trouble to actually read Lovelock that a planet can only harbor life over long periods if the life spreads itself over all the planetary surface. Based upon this, Lovelock predicted, before the NASA exploration of Martian surface, that no life would be found in Mars. This prediction was successful and hence Gaia counts as a successful scientific theory.