Perspectives on Gaia

TREVIZE WAS surrounded by the tameness of Gaia. The temperature, as always, was comfortable, and the air moved pleasantly, refreshing but not chilling. Clouds drifted across the sky, interrupting the sunlight now and then, and, no doubt, if the water vapor level per meter of open land surface dropped sufficiently in this place or that, there would be enough rain to restore it.

The trees grew in regular spacings, like an orchard, and did so, no doubt, all over the world. The land and sea were stocked with plant and animal life in proper numbers and in the proper variety to provide an appropriate ecological balance, and all of them, no doubt, increased and decreased in numbers in a slow sway about the recognized optimum. -As did the number of human beings, too.


On Gaia, houses tended to be simple. With the all-but-complete absence of violent weather of any kind, with the temperature mild at all times in this particular latitude, with even the tectonic plates slipping smoothly when they had to slip, there was no point in building houses designed for elaborate protection, or for maintaining a comfortable environment within an uncomfortable one. The whole planet was a house, so to speak, designed to shelter its inhabitants.


[Bliss speaking:] I/we/Gaia hide nothing, and we tell no lies. An Isolate - an individual in isolation-might tell lies. He is limited, and is fearful because he is limited. Gaia, however, is a planetary organism of great mental ability and has no fear. For Gaia to tell lies, to create descriptions that are at variance with reality, is totally unnecessary.


"The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, in other words."

"Exactly. You have grasped the basic justification of Gaia's existence. You, as a human individual, are composed of perhaps fifty trillion cells, but you, as a multicellular individual, are far more important than those fifty trillion as the sum of their individual importance."


"Don't sneer," said Bliss. "You value every mineral crystal in your bones and teeth and would not have one of them damaged, though they have no more consciousness than the average rock crystal of the same size."


"Suppose we imagine single-celled organisms with a human level of consciousness and with the power of thought and imagine them faced with the possibility of becoming a multicellular organism. Would not the single-celled organisms mourn their loss of individuality, and bitterly resent their forthcoming enforced regimentation into the personality of an overall organism? And would they not be wrong? Could an individual cell even imagine the power of the human brain?"


Bliss sighed. "Actually, there's a saying of ours that goes: `When Gaia eats Gaia, there is neither loss nor gain.' It is no more than a transfer of consciousness up and down the scale. Whatever I eat on Gaia is Gaia and when much of it is metabolized and becomes me, it is still Gaia. In fact, by the fact that I eat, some of what I eat has a chance to participate in a higher intensity of consciousness, while, of course, other portions of it are turned into waste of one sort or another and therefore sink in the scale of consciousness."

She took a firm bite of her food, chewed vigorously for a moment, swallowed, and said, "It represents a vast circulation. Plants grow and are eaten by animals. Animals eat and are eaten. Any organism that dies is incorporated into the cells of molds, decay bacteria, and so on-still Gaia. In this vast circulation of consciousness, even inorganic matter participates, and everything in the circulation has its chance of periodically participating in a high intensity of consciousness."

"All this," said Trevize, "can be said of any world. Every atom in me has a long history during which it may have been part of many living things, including human beings, and during which it may also have spent long periods as part of the sea, or in a lump of coal, or in a rock, or as a portion of the wind blowing upon us."

"On Gaia, however," said Bliss, "all atoms are also continually part of a higher planetary consciousness of which you know nothing."


Selections from "Foundation and Earth" on the fictional world Gaia, which is a more concrete example of Lovelock's almost metaphorical description of Earth as a living being.

Folksonomies: gaia gaia hypothesis

Gaia (0.910509 (positive:0.342115)), fictional world Gaia (0.717411 (positive:0.387758)), Gaia Selections (0.566640 (positive:0.378783)), open land surface (0.426023 (negative:-0.209316)), water vapor level (0.425144 (negative:-0.209316)), higher planetary consciousness (0.421570 (neutral:0.000000)), human beings (0.406730 (neutral:0.000000)), vast circulation (0.401770 (positive:0.520808)), single-celled organisms (0.392060 (neutral:0.000000)), appropriate ecological balance (0.391703 (positive:0.668734)), great mental ability (0.387524 (neutral:0.000000)), average rock crystal (0.373923 (negative:-0.399588)), inorganic matter participates (0.366576 (positive:0.202873)), multicellular organism (0.303599 (neutral:0.000000)), regular spacings (0.290660 (neutral:0.000000)), planetary organism (0.286406 (neutral:0.000000)), multicellular individual (0.285233 (neutral:0.000000)), concrete example (0.275796 (positive:0.607560)), overall organism (0.274218 (negative:-0.487064)), slow sway (0.270268 (negative:-0.487954)), animal life (0.268930 (positive:0.668734)), comfortable environment (0.268678 (positive:0.325478)), isolation-might tell (0.268560 (neutral:0.000000)), all-but-complete absence (0.267609 (negative:-0.505468)), human individual (0.267073 (neutral:0.000000)), elaborate protection (0.266918 (neutral:0.000000)), particular latitude (0.266236 (neutral:0.000000)), proper variety (0.265292 (positive:0.668734)), violent weather (0.264455 (negative:-0.505468)), proper numbers (0.262287 (positive:0.668734))

Bliss:Person (0.761099 (positive:0.464828)), TREVIZE:Organization (0.492066 (neutral:0.000000))

Cell (0.950084): dbpedia | freebase
Organism (0.918837): dbpedia | freebase
Bacteria (0.830996): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Microorganism (0.711257): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Life (0.702796): dbpedia | freebase
Metabolism (0.628313): dbpedia | freebase
Species (0.622510): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Eukaryote (0.566723): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Foundation and Earth
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Asimov, Isaac (2004-08-31), Foundation and Earth, Spectra, Retrieved on 2011-05-28
Folksonomies: science fiction gaia