Symbiosis or Evolution, or maybe a little of both? It doesn’t really matter. If you don’t know what I’m on about in the first sentence then you need not read any further and it won’t ruin your day.
Gaia – lots of misconceptions here – Gaia is NOT an organism, Gaia is a system. A system that includes both living, and what we call non-living objects. You don’t believe me? Well the living objects certainly have a massive impact on our Planet’s atmospheric composition. You don’t believe me again? Then why do you think those looking for life on other planets propose using spectroscopy to look at the atmospheric components – and thus the clue as to whether life exists there or not?
Or our seas, rich in algae and plankton not only do they have a huge atmospheric impact, these life forms also have a necessity for the sea’s PH to be within certain bounds for their very existence. So what?
I have written published papers on Biomimetics where I state that if Nature has produced a solution, whether aerodynamic, optical or hydrodynamic to some survival problem, then that solution is likely to be highly optimised and we are unlikely to be able to improve upon it – apart from using materials (like metals) that Nature doesn’t seem to incorporate into her living systems to any great extent. Note that the living systems are not “heading” towards some sort of “perfection”, there are random changes occurring that may, or may not aid survival. Those changes that do aid survival will allow the continuation of the life form, and vice-versa. There is no “intelligence” involved here, but there are enormous timescales involved, timescales beyond human comprehension – and this is what makes evolution such a difficult concept to grasp. But just take two things from this paragraph – very long timescales, and changes to living organisms that bring them more into “balance” with their surroundings in order to increase their probability of survival.
It is believed that the Earth is around 4.54 billion years old, and that life on Earth began around 3.8 billion years ago, unless you’re one of those that believe life began around 4,004 B.C. So life has had 3.8 billion years to thrive, multiply, evolve and undergo symbiosis, creating billions upon billions of different bacteria, viruses, plants, animals, insects and birds – and during these geological timescales all these life forms have been undergoing change to increase their probability of survival in an environment that was also undergoing change.
In 2014 A.D. we are over 3.8 billion years down the life road, and the “system” that has evolved over all this time, Gaia, is now taking a very severe bashing from just one species – Homo Sapiens. The system is actually having bloody great holes cut out of it, and what happens if you have a highly complex system in a quasi-equilibrium state and you take bloody great holes out of it? It changes of course in an attempt to regain some sort of quasi-equilibrium. And how does it do that? How the hell do we know? This is a multi-billion, probably multi-trillion component system we’re talking about here – who can possibly know how such a complex system reacts to the wiping out of whole animal species, and the felling of obscene areas of rain forest? This is not Gaia “fighting back” as some sort of conscious organism that feels pain (I hope) – this is a complex life/non-life system in quasi-equilibrium that is having severe external constraints put upon the system – by our complete disrespect for our planet basically.
Is there global warming, climate change, melting of the polar ice caps, massive increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, life-form extinctions and a myriad other worrying things going on right now? Some will argue that some of these things are not happening, and that some may be happening but they are “natural” occurrences and not the work of Homo Sapiens. Then again, the average Homo Sapiens, like the Ostrich, is a master at sticking his head in a bucket of sand.