The world is now grip in fear of a crisis bigger than terrorism though many efforts has been made to resolve this crisis of global warming but many Malaysian is still oblivious to its effects on civilisation. Many wonder why do we really need to care, they think scientist will find new technologies to cope with the changing climate and most us seems to be only doing our part only when its Earth Day or Earth Hour, but mostly they just don’t really care. Some still think it’s just a scam for us to buy the not so famous green eco-friendly products. Most of us are too caught up chasing the concrete dream of modern world to a degree where forest and animals seem to be like an alien planet for us. We’ve been told in school how our actions are killing the environment but many fail to see that we are the environment ourselves. Our traditional teaching of religions seems to set us apart from the animals making us special and different them. This is wrong. The renowned writer of environmental crisis, James Lovelock has come up with a concept of a living earth which he called Gaia named after a Greek goddess. But who or what is Gaia?
The is the thin spherical shell of land and water between the incandescent interior of the Earth and the upper atmosphere surrounding it. The Who is the interacting tissue of living organisms which over four billion years has come to inhabit it, which is including us humans. The continuous affects of the combination of the Who and the What has been well named ‘Gaia’. Gaia is a metaphor for the living earth and the notions of the earth being alive has a long history. Gods and Goddess of the ancient world were seen to embody specific elements of the earth but ever since the dawn of one god religions this idea had been seen as a blasphemy and a work of the devil. Giordano Bruno was burnt at stake just over 400 years ago for mentioning and maintaining that the Earth was alive and that the other planets could be so too.
Leonardo da Vinci saw the human body as a microcosm of the earth and the earth as the macrocosm of the human body. Just like how we humans are the macrocosm of the tiny elements of life such as bacteria, parasites, viruses and many more which often at war with each other and together they made up more than our body cells. If these micro organisms continue fighting among each other and using our body as a battlefield without any limitations our body would be seriously ill, so will the Earth. James Lovelock brought together the idea of earth as a self-regulating system which the geologist James Hutton wrote in 1785 and the idea of Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky which states the functioning of the biosphere as a geological force which creates a dynamic disequilibrium which turn to promote the diversity of life. He combined the two ideas into one hypothesis which is known as Gaia in 1972. He states that the earth system behaves as a single, self-regulating system comprised of physical, chemical, biological, and human components. The interactions and feedbacks between the component parts are complex and exhibit multi-scale temporal and spatial variability. In simpler words, our actions will affect the planet and her reactions will affect our civilisation and our reaction will affect the planet and so on.
Human beings have long destroyed the natural food chains of the environment. In a balance ecosystem the populations of top predators are less than its prey in that way everyone is happy. This is not so in our world, we humans are the top predators but our number is larger and much more destructive than our preys. We have degraded lands, depleting resources, accumulating wastes, polluting of all kinds and abusing our technologies. If a micro organisms was behaving the same way we do in our body then we called it a disease, then it’s a well put to call our humanity is a disease to the earth.
There are only four possible outcomes of diseases to our body or the earth:
1.destruction of the invading disease organisms,
3.destruction of the host
4.symbiosis, a lasting relationship of mutual benefit to the host and the invader.
The question is how can we achieve that symbiosis with the Earth?
In January 2004, a scientific meeting at Cambridge University entitled ‘Macro Engineering Options For Climate Change’ brought together the originators and advocates of a series of inspired ideas for controlling and stopping climate change by direct interventions at a planetary level. The meeting concludes two main approaches to the climate interventions, the first was to reduce the amount of heat received by the earth from the sun and the second was to remove and control carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the air or from combustion sources to a more stable poise.
Two of the participants of the meeting, Lowell Wood and Ken Caldiera proposed a direct and courageous solution to reduce the heat received by earth from the sun, which was to build and place sunlight deflecting discs about seven miles in diameter at the Langrange point between the earth and the sun (the point where the gravitational pull of the sun and the earth is equal). He claimed the discs would deflect or disperse a few percentage of the incoming sunlight to control and cool our planet. He made this persuasive argument that this solution would be neither impossibly expensive nor impractical.
Another participant of the meeting, Klaus Lackner proposed an equipment to extract carbon dioxide directly from the air and then react it with a powder made from alkaline igneous rock called serpentine. The resulting product would be magnesium carbonate, a stable solid that could in part used as a building material and is easier to store compared to carbon dioxide itself. There were plenty more great intriguing ideas proposed at the meeting which could help to control our composition of the atmosphere and the climate changes. We could all just wait for this scientist to successfully build a machine to control our climates but as history shown nature will always have the final laugh. We should not only count on these scientist to come up with a solution to our problem because even though they did manage to control the climate, how long would it be before our destructive habits shall strip and tire our planet and our technologies? I personally believe the only way to live peacefully with our environment is not to change the planet our liking but to change our living lifestyle to our planet.
We have long depended on our environment to sustain our living lifestyle but it is tired and unable to cope up with our demands. We have evolved from nature capacity to sustain life and like a young adult or a bird, we need to leave the nest and be independent for ourselves. Of course the idea of living in outer space might still be out of reach for our technology but we could start living independent from nature by creating our own resources of energy. Let’s focus more of our energy to creating food without farming, let’s synthesize all the food needed by the eight billion mankind by using the chemicals extracted from the air or more conventionally from carbon compounds sequestered from power station effluent. These effluents could also provide nitrogen and sulphur needed and all we would need now is water and trace elements. We would act like plants but instead of using solar energy to create food we would probably use fusion. We could abandon agriculture altogether. We could return back those lands we used for farming to earth allowing once again for it to flourish. Forests would be filled again with lives and the regulation of the climate and chemistry of the earth would be once again balance.
I’m sure most of us prefer an urban existence even though it is quite harmful to the environment but with right planning of buildings we could create a more eco-friendly cities. We should create dense and compact cities with eco-friendly building and free of suburban sprawl. These cities would need less individual transportations and maybe to the extend where walking would be the most efficient way of travel. And for long distance travel, we could perhaps use solar powered or wind powered sailing ships or for flights we could replace the fuel burning jets with more pleasant steam of gas lift air transportation.
Captain Paul Watson of the Steve Irwin ship of the anti-whaling activist, which can be seen in Whale Wars on Discovery Channel once said, ‘I measure intelligence by the creature’s ability to live peacefully with other animals and its environments.’ In that case we humans are the dumbest creature in this world. Let us once again live in harmony with our planets and its inhabitants, for without if we die the earth will live but if earth die, we would seize to exist. Gaia gave us the knowledge to abuse fire to build our civilization let not make her feel as if it was an error and let us not combust ourselves to extinction.