In the 1970s, scientist and inventor, James Lovelock presented Gaia Theory, a hypotheses that took the idea of ecosystem interdependence to a global level. In Gaia, Lovelock explained the idea that all ecosystems are interlinked and interdependent on their physical environment. The important consequence of Lovelock’s theory being that if one thing is affected, others follow. Whether it was because some Gaia enthusiasts took this to mean that Gaia was, in fact, a single organism (an idea that was seen as being too mystical to be taken seriously by the scientific community) or due to the name Gaia (the name of the Greek goddess of the earth, suggested by William Golding) being chosen, Gaia theory was not, initially, taken all that seriously.
It’s hard to believe, now, that the idea was received with such reluctance. In schools, children are taught the simple lesson of the food chain; one species may boom, followed by a boom of its predators due to surplus of food, etc. At this simple level, interdependence between species is evident. Yet, even at a more complex and scientific level, the common sensical nature of the Gaia claim is obvious. We have known for a long time already, that for life to be viable on earth, a long process of chemical changes took place. It stands to reason that we have been, and still are, reliant on these gradual and most minute of changes. Lovelock’s theory makes a lot of sense, so why do we seem to pay it so little heed?
The Ecologist posted some good news today as it announced that, thanks to work done by Greenpeace and a change in consumer demand in the UK, Western Pacific tuna could become the world’s first sustainable industrial fishery. To be honest, I felt this article was a little ahead of itself, but it does hopefully mean that, in terms of tuna at least, we are heading in a better direction. But on a less positive note, CNN published a story about ocean acidification killing off the world’s coral and shellfish. This is happening as a direct result of global warming as the oceans soak up extra carbon from our atmosphere. It’s not really new news, but as CNN points out, for island communities who rely on shellfish as their major protein source, loss of shellfish will cause ‘food insecurities’. Another post I stumbled upon today, via the NRDC*, says that, for the first time, a tree species has been found to be in danger of extinction due to the affects of climate change. The tree species is Whitebark Pine and it provides habitat and food for red squirrels, Clark’s Nutcracker and Grizzly Bears, as well as stabilising soil and helping prevent erosion. Both of these examples show how interlinked our natural world is. Play with one thing, like altering the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and other things will also have to change. In this case, carbon and climate change is being shown to be the narrow end of a very large wedge.
Finally then, sad news today as the government announce there will be a cull of tens of thousands of badgers to help prevent the spread of bovine TB. This is concerning, not only because, from my sentimental point of view, farmers marching around the countryside shooting badgers sounds barbaric, but also because the Medical Research Council has presented scientific evidence showing that a cull might make the spread of bovine TB worse. But I am also concerned about what the implications might be on a wider scale. Approaching the subject from a purely Gaian perspective: won’t we ever learn to stop interfering with things that have wider ecological implications?
*NRDC: Natural Resources Defence Council