Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth

By James Lovelock | Go to book overview

8 Living within Gaia

Some of you may have wondered how it has been possible to travel so far in a book about relationships amongst living things with only a brief mention of ecology. In the Concise Oxford Dictionary ecology is defined as: 'Branch of biology dealing with organisms' relations to one another and to their surroundings; (human) ecology, study of interaction of persons with their environment.' One purpose of this chapter is to consider Gaia in the light of human ecology, but first a brief word about recent developments in this subject.

Among the many distinguished contemporary human ecologists, there are two who represent most clearly the alternative policies which might guide mankind in its dealings with Gaia. René Dubos has powerfully expressed the concept of man as the steward to life on Earth, in symbiosis with it like some grand gardener for all the world. It is a hopeful, optimistic view and a liberal one. In contrast to Dubos, Garrett Hardin apparently sees man as acting out a great tragedy which may lead not only to his own destruction but to that of the whole world. He suggests that our only means of escape is to renounce most of our technology, especially nuclear energy, but he seems to doubt whether we have free choice.

These two viewpoints encompass most of the current debating ground among human ecologists about the condition of mankind. To be sure, there are the many small fringe groups, mostly anarchist in flavour, who would hasten our doom by dismantling and destroying all technology. It is not clear whether their motivation is primarily misanthropic or Luddite, but either way they seem more concerned with destructive action than with constructive thought.

It can perhaps now be seen why we have not previously discussed Gaia within the context of any branch of ecology. Whatever this

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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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