Spotlight: James Lovelock


“The Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival was without doubt the most significant gathering I have attended in a lifetime. It changed my life irreversibly, as it must have done the lives of many of the other delegates and participants.” -James Lovelock, foreword for Earth Conference-One, a book written by Anuradha Vittachi, founder of OneClimate.net and a friend of Akio Matsumura’s.

To my generation, the generation of university students, Dr. James Lovelock represents a hopeful new perspective for science and for humanity. Adept as an environmentalist, advocating for real, immediate solutions against fossil-fuel use that propels climate change, he also is famous for the Gaia Theory, claiming the earth as a superorganism, with microorganisms composing organisms composing ecosystems composing the regional spheres and the earth.

“The Earth system behaves as a single, self-regulating system, comprised of physical, chemical, biological and human components. The interactions and feedbacks between the component parts are complex and exhibit multi-scale temporal and spatial variability” (2006, Revenge of the Gaia Foreword)

In this system there are limits to growth and feedback cycles and interactions have repercussions, whether positive or negative.

“..If we fail to take care of the Earth, it surely will take care of itself by making us no longer welcome” (2006, The Revenge of the Gaia).

Along with Carl Sagan, Fritjof Capra, and many others, Lovelock purports that the Earth shifts between states of homeostasis and although accommodates the human species right now, does not need to in order to survive. From this group of scientists scientific knowledge escapes from the mechanistic metaphors of Descartes, an eminence that has dominated Western thought for nearly 400 years. This metaphor reached its limits long ago when exploited beyond its capacity into the Industrial revolution, limits that have now been realized by scientists of our current era, subscribing to systems thinking, and realizing that there is more to their views than a Reductionist philosophy. I encourage you to reread one of my earliest posts, from July 30, 2008, “Pale Blue Dot.” Carl Sagan, the renowned astronomer among all else, showed the power of an image of the Earth from space, letting us finally conceptualize our complete habitat, and then conceptualize that it is not just a habitat, but a living organism that relies on its interactions between beings.


(The Gaia Theory explained)

Lovelock’s Gaia theory is not a prescription for an ailing system, but a prognosis of its unhealthy state (for supporting human life), begging for action in the form of sustainable retreat. We are long past the point where we can hope to continue developing, Lovelock says in his 2006 novel, The Revenge of the Gaia. Instead, we must cut back on production and instead move back within our limits. The views of Capra and Sagan combine with Lovelock’s to provide a meaningful, new perspective at the human race’s place in the existence of the Universe, and it is one we must heed in order to remain here.

These scientists were united at the Oxford Global Forum for Human Survival, for which Akio Matsumura was the Secretary-General. Meetings went beyond the niceties and formalities of many conferences, and the real “meat” was found in many conversations, Lovelock noted in his foreword for Earth Conference-One.

“The Global Forum did not end with the departure of the coaches from Oxford on April 15, 1988. For many of us it still goes on as a new and thrilling way of life, a rewarding and purposeful communion that has sustained us and set our minds and heats on the true task ahead: to ensure not just human survival, but the survival of all life through living n harmony with the Earth itself.” -James Lovelock

We must take this same enthusiasm and hope as if we have just left the Oxford Conference and infuse our work and lives with it. We are alone in this Universe on this planet, Earth. We cannot inhabit another one and so we must work harmoniously to keep our living environments hospitable. This isn’t just a lesson for those in attendance of the Global Forums, but for each member of the human race, indebted to our planet for our vitality.

 

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