Life of Gaia

Institute of Science In Society: Science Society Sustainability

September 29, 2003

This miniseries is dedicated to our planet earth, so we may better
appreciate how she lives and sustains all creatures large and small,
that we may learn to dance to the complex rhythms of her life music
without stopping her in her tracks.

Space scientist and inventor Jim Lovelock first proposed in the 1970s
that the entire earth is a self-organizing, self-regulating entity,
rather like an organism. He named the earth Gaia, after the Greek earth

The idea that Gaia is alive and has a life of her own immediately caught
fire. It inspired many earth scientists to look for the dynamic
processes that organize and regulate the currents of the earth, to make
a congenial home for all her inhabitants. These scientists are richly

Records from ice and deep sea cores show detailed globally correlated
changes going back at least 800 000 years, leaving us in no doubt that
the earth behaves from moment to moment as one coherent whole, just like
an organism. Not only can we can read Gaia’s life-history from her deep
memory stores, we can also tune in to her life-force pulsing as she is
living today.

Gaia spinning in her perpetual dance around the sun, her mighty breath
tumbling from hot belly to the poles, swirling across the continents,
bringing welcome rain to forests, grasslands and crops, or torrential
downpours, floods and hurricanes. Vast slow vortices of water connect
her oceans from the furthest northern reaches to the southernmost
haunts, from the shimmering sea surfaces to the dark deep beds,
distributing warmth and nutrients, sustaining life with life.

Gaia’s breath is our breath, her water our water. Let Gaia live that we
may live.

This article can be found on the I-SIS website at


We are worried for our long-term future.