Earth is certainly a perfect place for life, but did this develop by chance or is there something else, deeper, behind this marvelous fact? Enter the Gaia Theory which proposes that our planet is, in essence, a self-regulating system akin to a live organism which has acted to promote and encourage life on Earth.
The Gaia Theory was first presented by scientist James Lovelock in the mid 1960s. He first developed the idea while studying the possibility of life on Mars for NASA. Considering why Earth's atmosphere is suitable for life brought Dr. Lovelock to the first considerations
of Gaia - named in honor of the Greek goddess of life.
To Dr. Lovelock it became more and more clear that "life support conditions suitable for its own survival" - it seeks a sort of perfect harmony and that comparisons of Earth with all its different systems balancing out to protect life are very much akin to how a human body's systems regulate themselves.
He presented this theory in great detail in his first book on the subject - "Gaia: A new look at
life on Earth" first released in 1978. This book greatly spread the ideas of the Gaia Theory and inspired not a few other intellectual heavy weights to raise the flag of Gaia. Names like famous microbiologist Lynn Margulis (who went on to write her own books on the theory), philosopher / author / mythology specialist Joseph Campbell and former Vice-President Al Gore, just to name a few.
As would be expected there has been some opposition to the Gaia Theory from the scientific community, dismissing Gaia as "pseudo-science" including the hardly ever silent Richard Dawkins. In recent years these critics have been less vocal as more evidence supporting Gaia becomes available all the time.
Some of this evidence includes explanations why things like the atmosphere support the proper level of carbon dioxide without turning poisonous and why the oceans on Earth maintain such a low salt content - also conducive for vibrant life.
Gaia theory offers sound answers to these questions from a scientific standpoint which are very difficult to refute.
The Gaia Theory and Dr. Lovelock offer some chilling warnings that shouldn't be ignored.
Things like global warming, the devastation of the Amazon rainforests and fracking all go a long way towards harming Gaia in the same fashion as a knife wound, being shot or poisoned would have on a human body. Eventually these injuries compound until the ability to naturally heal is lost and the body dies.
Many believe this is the course our modern world seems to be taking in our destructive interactions with Gaia and while all is not yet lost, we are quickly approaching the point of no-return.
There are many signs the Earth is trying to correct our mistakes. Take a look at the recent rise in algae levels in certain oceans which are part of a complicated process which eventually leads to lower temperatures as an end result. She does need all of our help. Wider acceptance of the Gaia Theory may inspire that help. It certainly can't hurt.