I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.

Agent Smith – Matrix

We are in a distant and post-apocalyptic future in which machines equipped with artificial intelligence have unsettled the balance of the planet. The human race has been subdued without even knowing it. All individuals live in a dream from birth to death, in a simulation software called the Matrix where everyone leads their own life made of contradictions, sometimes with an indecipherable distorted flavor and some déjà vu. From the cocoons in which they sleep, machines suck the bioelectricity from humans that keeps them active. When Neo (Keanu Reeves) wakes up, he discovers this truth and knows the resistance made by groups of people living underground. Agent Smith is himself a Matrix defense program to prevent the resistance from altering the plans of the machines.

But I don’t want to talk about a distant future, I want to talk about the here and now.

The world population continues to grow, and forests are cleared to create agricultural fields. We have filled the planet with wells, refineries, chemical plants, and plastic in the sea. We have caused climate change, we have practiced irresponsible fishing, tolerated poachers in the forests, we have poisoned everything with pesticides and everyone wants to live like Westerners, leading to unbridled consumerism on a planetary level.

According to the statistics, we will reach 8 billion people in 2023. We were 2 billion less than 100 years ago (1928), 3 generations, nothing.

Three hundred species of mammals are in danger of extinction because we eat too many.

We use more energy, land, and water than we can afford.

In the last 50 years, we have depleted the seas of billions of fish, thanks to industrial fishing, and, if that wasn’t enough, we have replaced them with plastic, which is slowly entering the food chain with not yet fully known consequences to human health.

90% of the world’s corals are at risk of extinction. We have cleared the forests for soya or palm oil plantations. In the tropical savannah, an area the size of London disappears every two months. Half of the killer whales will die of chemical pollution in the sea.

The result of our actions is completely consequential: the number of animals living in the wild is in decline, with the disappearance of 60% of animal species over the past 40 years.

These are impressive figures, released by the world WWF Living Planet Report 2018.

The study involved 59 scientists from all over the planet and concluded that we humans are destroying the balances that in millions of years have allowed us to develop our civilization, based on clean water and breathable air.

The impacts of human activity on populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles were studied from 1970 to 2014, and the analysis involved 4,005 distinct animal species, with 16,704 specimens in total. Indeed, 60% of wild species have gone extinct.

Rhino populations dropped 63% between 1980 and 2006 due to the illegal trade in their antlers. Polar bear populations, already in decline, will drop by 30% by 2050 due to melting snow. Shark populations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans have dropped 63% over the past 75 years. Populations of African gray parrots in Ghana dropped 98% between 1992 and 2014 due to habitat loss. Populations of puffins, and water birds, in Europe will decline by 79% between 2000 and 2065.

The most endangered species are in the Caribbean and Central and South America, with the decline of 83% of wild animal species and fish from 1970 to 2014. Orangutans, tangos, rhinos, elephants, and other species of the tropical forest.

A recent UK study revealed that the number of flying insects is declining by an average of 34% per decade. “This is terrifying,” said Matt Shardlow at Buglife, which ran the survey along with Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT). “We cannot put off action any longer, for the health and wellbeing of future generations. This demands a political and societal response. It is essential that we halt biodiversity decline now.” Insects are critical in maintaining a healthy environment, by recycling organic matter, pollination, and controlling pests.

And forests. The important thing to remember is that forests are not wasted land, of anyone, or something nice, but all in all non-basic. Nature allows us to live, it is our habitat. Forests maintain a lot of climatic balance, with trees and CO2 absorption. Trees are also the home of many animal species that live in symbiosis with them. Animals fertilize the earth, and help spread the seeds; extinct animals, the forest suffers, and vice versa, without forest, wild animals have no home.

Why don’t we talk too much about the biodiversity that continues to decline? Because it is an incremental process, which often happens far away from us. We don’t notice it. Sharks and bears are out of sight, out of the heart.

Instead, it would be of paramount importance to rethink the status quo and stop the overexploitation of the planet in everything we do. Natural resources, it is estimated, if they were to be quantified in an economic figure would be $ 125 trillion dollars worth.

Everything we have tried to do so far has not been enough and more needs to be done.

We could start eating less meat for example. Why is it the best thing to eat less meat? Because deforestation is due to the production of soya often exported to feed pigs and chickens. Even bodies of water, rivers, and lakes suffer because the water is used for irrigation purposes for these huge plantations.

And things get worst, year after year, as we outlined in the article World Biodiversity Day. How the decline in species threatens the functioning of the atmosphere, oceans, and forests.

If only we all understood that the earth is the living organism that welcomes and protects us all.

The Earth as a living organism

The Gaia hypothesis is a hypothesis first formulated by the British scientist James Lovelock in 1979 in “Gaia. A New Look at Life on Earth” and co-developed by microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s. According to this hypothesis, living organisms on Earth interact with the surrounding inorganic components to form a complex synergistic and self-regulating system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.

Lovelock named this hypothesis in honor of Gaia, the primeval goddess who personified the Earth in Greek mythology. Among the arguments on which the hypothesis is based there are also those according to which the biosphere and the evolution of organisms influence the stability of global temperature, the salinity of seawater, atmospheric oxygen levels, the maintenance of a liquid water hydrosphere, and other environmental variables that affect the habitability of the Earth.

The Gaia hypothesis was initially criticized for being teleological and against the principles of natural selection. Although subsequent refinements have aligned the Gaia hypothesis with ideas from fields such as Earth system science, biogeochemistry, and systems ecology.

The biologist Lynn Margulis has agreed with the Gaia hypothesis, but distanced herself from Lovelock, in her opinion too influenced by vitalism.

In 2006 the Geological Society of London awarded Lovelock the Wollaston Medal also for his work on the Gaia hypothesis.

What is Gaia?

In its first formulation, the Gaia hypothesis is based on the assumption that the oceans, seas, the atmosphere, the earth’s crust, and all the other geophysical components of the planet Earth are maintained in conditions suitable for the presence of life thanks to the behavior and the action of living organisms, plants and animals. For example, temperature, oxidation state, acidity, salinity, and other chemical-physical parameters fundamental for the presence of life on Earth have constant values.

This homeostasis is the effect of the active feedback processes carried out independently by the biota, in ecology the animal and plant life of a particular region, habitat, or geological period. Furthermore, all these variables do not maintain a constant equilibrium over time but evolve in sync with the biota. So evolutionary phenomena do not only concern organisms or the natural environment, but the whole of Gaia.

The Gaia system, which is identifiable neither with the term “biosphere” nor with “biota”, which are only two elements that compose it, includes instead:

  • living organisms that grow and reproduce by exploiting every possibility that the environment allows;
  • organisms subject to the laws of Darwinian natural selection;
  • organisms that constantly modify their chemical-physical environment, which happens constantly as a simple effect of all those fundamental processes for life, such as respiration, photosynthesis, etc .;
  • limiting factors that establish the upper and lower limits of the conditions for life. The environment may have excessively high or low temperatures for life to take hold in a given environment. The same goes for the concentrations of salts, minerals, chemical compounds, etc.

A polluting factor of the entire Gaia is the activities and the environment built by man, which although not part of the system, strongly interacts with it by modifying the limiting factors (temperature, chemical compounds, etc.).



The idea of the Earth as an integrated whole or a living being had already been formulated before Lovelock, and he was certainly inspired by this idea. James Lovelock gave his hypothesis the name Gaia at the suggestion of novelist William Golding, who at the time lived in the same village as Lovelock (Bowerchalke, Wiltshire, UK). Golding actually suggested the name “Gaea”, an alternate spelling for the name of the Greek goddess, which is used as a prefix in “geology”, “geophysics” and “geochemistry”.

In the 18th century, as geology consolidated as modern science, James Hutton argued that there is an intercorrelation between geological and biological processes. Subsequently, the naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt discovered the mechanism of coevolution of living organisms, the climate, and the earth’s crust.

In the 20th century, the Russian and Ukrainian geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky formulated a theory of the development of the Earth which is one of the foundations of ecology, according to which oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere arise from biological processes. In his 1920s publications, he argued that living organisms could reshape the planet in the same way as any physical force. Vernadsky was a pioneer of the scientific basis for environmental sciences. His visionary claims were not widely accepted in the West, and decades later the Gaia hypothesis received the same kind of initial resistance from the scientific community.

Also in the 20th century, Aldo Leopold, a pioneer in the development of modern environmental ethics and the movement for the conservation of wild nature, suggested a “living Earth” in his biocentric (or “holistic”) ethics about the Earth.

Formulation of the hypothesis

Lovelock began defining the idea of a self-regulating Earth controlled by all living organisms in September 1965, while working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California on methods for detecting life on Mars. The first article to mention it was “Planetary Atmospheres: Compositional and other Changes Associated with the Presence of Life“, written in collaboration with C.E. Giffin.

Lovelock formulated the Gaia hypothesis in newspaper articles in 1972 and 1974, which were followed by the 1979 book “Gaia: A new look at life on Earth” and an article in the New Scientist on February 6, 1975, stimulating the scientific attention and criticism of the hypothesis.

Lovelock initially called the “Earth feedback hypothesis” to explain why combinations of chemicals including oxygen and methane persist in stable concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere. Lovelock suggested detecting such combinations in the atmosphere of other planets as a relatively reliable and inexpensive method of detecting the presence of life.

The hypothesis was reinforced by other reports that emerged later, most notably by the fact that marine creatures produce sulfur and iodine in quantities approximately equal to those required by terrestrial creatures.

In 1971, microbiologist Lynn Margulis joined Lovelock in an effort to find scientific evidence to support the hypothesis, helping to explain the mechanism for how microorganisms affect the planet’s atmosphere and surface, sparking criticism from the scientific community for her defense of the theory on the origin of eukaryotic organelles and her contribution to the endosymbiotic theory, accepted today. Margulis dedicated the last of the eight chapters of her book “The Symbiotic Planet” to the Gaia hypothesis, but objected to the personification of Gaia and stressed that Gaia “is not an organism”, but “an emergent property of the interaction between organisms”. She also defined Gaia as “the series of interacting ecosystems that make up a single huge ecosystem on the earth’s surface. Point”.

Since its formulation, the Gaia hypothesis has been supported by several scientific experiments and has provided useful predictions.

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