Insights on the Gaia Theory

The Gaia Theory and our impact on the globe as a whole

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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of educational opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

The Gaia hypothesis, named after the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth, proposes that the Earth and its biological systems behave as a huge single entity. This entity has closely controlled self-balancing feedback loops that keep the conditions on the planet within boundaries that are favorable to life.
Essentially, it suggests that organisms co-evolve with their environment. That they influence their non-biological environment, and that environment in turn influences changes in living things by evolutionary processes first observed by Charles Darwin in the Galapagos islands.
James Lovelock first formulated the ‘Gaia Theory’ and was a world recognized British scientist and inventor who said Earth is a self-regulating system and he died in 2022 on his 103rd birthday. He was intellectually connected to Newburyport in a way. His ideas and inventions led us to understand chemical pollution as influencing biological systems. And Rachel Carson, whose early writings included a monograph pamphlet about sparrows in the Great Marsh gave credit to his insights for her work and thinking. One of his inventions measured tiny amounts of chlorine-based chemicals in the air, leading to the discovery of toxic chemicals in food, water, and soil. His invention provided evidence used in Rachel Carson’s influential 1962 book, Silent Spring, according to the New York Times.
While initially referred to as the Gaia hypothesis, the term established nowadays is Gaia theory. His idea at first was based on observation, but still lacked a scientific explanation. The Gaia Hypothesis has since been supported by several scientific experiments and provided several useful predictions, and hence is properly referred to as the Gaia theory. In fact, wider research proved the original hypothesis wrong, in the sense that it is not life alone but the whole Earth system that does the regulating. 
So what? How are busy families supposed to think about these ideas? Should they? For one thing its a cause for hope, because it means that the whole earth its living and its non-living elements are pulling together to rebalance our global eco-systems. 

Too much heat in the atmosphere means more heavy rain events. And one such event distributed the excess moisture in the atmosphere over the Arizona and Nevada deserts. Do all those muddy pictures from the Burning Man arts festival reflect some Gaia-like behavior? Does that new vast lake, called Tulare, that was formed in California in the spring of this year mean something about global interconnectedness? 

Early in the public dialog about the Gaia hypothesis, some sensationalist media headlined it as a pagan nature worship type of thing. It's not. But references in Genesis giving man dominion over the creatures of the earth are well balanced by the Noah story in Genesis with the Ark helping preserve biodiversity.
In our time, the Catholic Church has focused on our interdependence and need to cooperate with God’s gifts. For example, in his 2015 encyclical, LAUDATO SI’, Pope Francis echoes the words Saint Francis of Assisi reminding us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. Our Sister, Mother Earth. 
In Newburyport the FRSUU Church, as well as Immaculate Conception parish and others, have active and thoughtful environmental missions that many of our friends and neighbors work with. And according to World Jewish Relief organization the story of Creation with which the Torah opens describes “that humans are placed into the Garden to work and protect it”. 
It’s clear that whether one sees oneself as spiritual or scientific, or both we can all work to help recover and restore the Earth. All ACES team members ask you to consider helping the environment in a faith community, a school community, or with an ACES Ally - Please share any other observations with us about ways to help restore the earth and send us a note at . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit

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