Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth

By James Lovelock | Go to book overview

7 Gaia and Man: the problem of pollution

Nearly all of us have been told more than once by our tribal elders that things were better in the good old days. So ingrained is this habit of thought--which we pass on in our turn as we grow old--that it is almost automatic to assume that early man was in total harmony with the rest of Gaia. Perhaps we were indeed expelled from the Garden of Eden and perhaps the ritual is symbolically repeated in the mind of each generation.

Biblical teaching that the Fall was from a state of blissful innocence into the sorrowful world of the flesh and the devil, through the sin of disobedience, is hard to accept in our contemporary culture. Nowadays it is more fashionable to attribute our fall from grace to man's insatiable curiosity and his irresistible urge to experiment and interfere with the natural order of things. Significantly, both the biblical story and, to a lesser extent, its modern interpretation seem aimed at inculcating and sustaining a sense of guilt--a powerful but arbitrary negative feedback in human society.

Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind about modern man which might justify the belief that he is still hell-bent is the increasing pollution of the atmosphere and the natural waters of our planet since the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the late eighteenth century and spread like a stain through most of the Northern Hemisphere. It is now generally accepted that man's industrial activities are fouling the nest and pose a threat to the total life of the planet which grows more ominous every year. Here, however, I part company with conventional thought. It may be that the white-hot rash of our technology will in the end prove destructive and painful for our own species, but the evidence for accepting that industrial activities either at their present level or in the immedi-

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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Gaia - A New Look at Life on Earth i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Introductory 1
  • 2 - In the Beginning 12
  • 3 - The Recognition of Gaia 30
  • 4 - Cybernetics 44
  • 5 - The Contemporary Atmosphere 59
  • 6 - The Sea 78
  • 7 - Gaia and Man: The Problem of Pollution 100
  • 8 - Living Within Gaia 115
  • 9 - Epilogue 133
  • Definitions and Explanations of Terms 143
  • Further Reading 147
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