Back to Gaia
Environmentalists are beginning to view the ecology as one whole system in which we and all life are integral parts, cells in a living body, a “deep ecology.” Gregory Batson suggests that the environment is an extension of the body, that the perception of the skin-encapsulated being as separate from his environment is fast deteriorating as technology extends our senses and bodies past the old boundaries of the ‘world’.
From space we have seen for the first time, our planet and humanity as a whole, unmarked by national boundaries and racial distinctions, evoking a “deep sense” of what astronaut Edgar Mitchell called “instant global consciousness”. The vision of swirling, blue-green globe floating in the void of space, has inspired awe and identity with this great being in each of us, awakening, perhaps, an ancient knowledge buried in our genes and collective psyche.
The concept of a living earth is nearly universal throughout the world, a part of a consistent system of knowledge known as the Ancient Wisdom. It is found in the mythologies of ancient civilizations, in the mystical traditions of the world’s religions and is alive in native cultures today.
Scientific evidence is increasingly supporting the ancient belief that the earth is a living being, bringing about a paradigm shift that is challenging the old reductionist model of the world where spirit is separate from its creation. A new synthesized theory is emerging that relates humanity and the planet in one, unified reciprocal system…a sacred ecology. It is the foundation of a transformation in global consciousness with profound implications for the restructuring of our social, political and economic systems.
Taking the “noosphere” in light of Lovelock’s Gaia, psychologist Peter Russell proposes that humanity is “like some vast nervous system, a Global Brain in which each of us are individual nerve cells” linked together is a planet wide information network”. For Russell, humanity is the organ through which the planet becomes conscious of itself. Mankind is approaching and evolutionary leap. As numbers of individuals on the planet increase to a critical mass, comparable to the number of cells in the brain, the “global brain” will start to function in a planet-wide transformation.
If for a moment we embrace the notion that the earth is alive, perhaps conscious, what implications are there for mankind? What meaning is there for the structure of society? What changes are there for politics? economics? self-perception? spirituality? What is humanity’s role in the evolution of this planetary being? If the planet is a being, is it conscious? Does it have, as the Theosophists believe, a Plan?-some ancient contract, some special evolutionary destiny that will take us beyond the stars? In answer to these questions two themes are emerging.
The first is the idea of planetary stewardship, of accepting an awesome responsibility for the maintenance of Buckminster Fuller’s “spaceship earth”. Such views suggest a global systems approach to energy and resource management and are leading us to a more holistic ecological and land use practices based on human and environmental values rather that purely profit motives. Ideas of environmental protection and pollution control are growing, as is the use of appropriate technologies, particularly in the areas of our greatest interface with the planet: agriculture, energy extraction and the built environment (destruction of habitat).
More knowledge is being developed on the interrelationships of this planet’s body parts: its rivers and oceans, its atmosphere and forests, its magnetic field, its geology and chemical processes. The ecological devastation of the earth’s life support system, ozone depletion, CO2 building up to global warming, the death of rain forests and oceans is spawning a movement, green politics, to restructure our industrial-economic-social matrix according to bio-regionalism, to make ecologies consistent with national politics. New communities like Findhorn in Scotland and Auroville in India a springing up all over the globe to test new concepts of right human-planet relationships. These activities are all making progress but we need to set new priorities and commitments as a whole species and soon. In the view of many scientists it may already be too late to reverse the environmental deterioration that will certainly change the way we live, if indeed we survive, on this planet. The increased geological activity and meteorological changes suggest the planet is already waking up. Will she find Lilliputian man an evolutionary cul-de-sac or a liability to be shrugged off?
The second notion is that of global consciousness, of recognizing that not only the earth as whole but that humanity is one, whole being. In a world becoming a global village, shrinking from the effects of modern telecommunications, we are beginning to think and act globally. We must begin to understand that at the level that we connect to the planet’s being, there is no ‘we’ or ‘they’, only ‘us’. When one is starving we all are starving. What happens to any part of us will ultimately affect us all. Differences in race, culture or belief are destined to give humanity the diversity of life experiences necessary for the evolution of the whole. Implied here is an economics of sharing rather than competition based on abundance of energy rather than scarcity…a politics of common goals and caring rather than of security and protectionism, a society free of hunger, poverty and ignorance.
Robert Aaron Gulick