episode #117 Gaia theory

James Lovelock was one of the most influential scientists of our time, he worked for the British government during the second world war and later for NASA on the Mars Viking mission. It was then that he was inspired to develop the Gaia Hypothesis, the idea that the Earth is a massively interconnected, self-regulating system. Lovelock first suggested that Earth was akin to a living organism, regulating its temperature and chemistry to keep conditions suitable for life back in the 70’s and its safe to say that throughout the scientific world there is a love/hate relationship towards this theory. the idea that our planet was somehow alive found favour with philosophers, poets, writers, environmentalists and many others alike. The theory has evolved into the foundations of what is known as Earth System Science (ESS), a rapidly emerging transdisciplinary endeavour aimed at understanding the structure and functioning of the Earth as a complex, adaptive system.

The idea of the Earth as an integrated whole, a living being, has a long tradition. The mythical Gaia was the primal Greek goddess personifying the Earth, the Greek version of “Mother Nature” (from Ge = Earth, and Aia = PIE grandmother), or the Earth Mother. James Lovelock gave this name to his hypothesis after a suggestion from the novelist William Golding, who was living in the same village as Lovelock at the time (Bowerchalke, Wiltshire, UK). Golding’s advice was based on Gea, an alternative spelling for the name of the Greek goddess, which is used as prefix in geology, geophysics and geochemistry. Golding later made reference to Gaia in his Nobel prize acceptance speech.

In the eighteenth century, as geology consolidated as a modern science, James Hutton maintained that geological and biological processes are interlinked. Later, the naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt recognised the coevolution of living organisms, climate, and Earth’s crust. In the twentieth century, Vladimir Vernadsky formulated a theory of Earth’s development that is now one of the foundations of ecology. Vernadsky was a Ukrainian geochemist and was one of the first scientists to recognise that the oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere result from biological processes. During the 1920s he published works arguing that living organisms could reshape the planet as surely as any physical force. Vernadsky was a pioneer of the scientific bases for the environmental sciences. His visionary pronouncements were not widely accepted in the West, and some decades later the Gaia hypothesis received the same type of initial resistance from the scientific community.

Also in the turn to the 20th century Aldo Leopold, pioneer in the development of modern environmental ethics and in the movement for wilderness conservation, suggested a living Earth in his biocentric or holistic ethics regarding land. 

Spoken word

Sun Ra: Everything is Space


Jamiroquai: Emergency On Planet Earth

Arrested Development: Children Play With earth

Florence + the Machine: Landscape

Agnes Obel: Red Virgin Soil

Gorillaz: We Are Happy Landfill

Patrice Rushen: Music of the Earth

Rockets: Back to Your Planet

SBTRK: Wonder Where We Land

Boards of Canada: Cold Earth

The Herbaliser Band: Stranded On Earth

Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm: A2

Daft Punk: Nightvision

A community radio midnight show Through the Bohemian Looking Glass is aired Sunday, Tuesday and Friday night at midnight (GMT), that means you stay late on Saturday, Monday and Thursday. A new episode is aired every Sunday midnight (the night between Saturday and Sunday) on Wirral Wave radio or AirTime. Later on SoundCloud for some time.