In a recent post to Truthdig.com columnist Juan Cole suggests burning fossil fuels is to today’s pandemics as fleas were to the Black Death. An interesting analogy but, I think, he misses the more powerful/significant analogy: today’s pandemics among human populations are as healing to Mother Earth as antiviral medicines have been to human populations.
Difficult and painful as it is to think the Coved19 pandemic which is so rapidly overpowering humanity and its economies is behaving like powerful medicine for our beleaguered Earth. Iit is a hard analogy to refute, especially in terms of the Earth’s self regulating mechanisms we have come to call the Gaia hypothesis.
The Gaia hypothesis, first advanced by James Lovelock in 1979, proposes that organisms interacting with each other and with their nonliving environment come to self-regulate as a whole(Gaia)—a complex whole which very substantially resembles a living organism that, of itself, maintains the conditions for life on Earth.
For example, oxygen was a minor element of Earth’s atmosphere until 2.4 billion years ago when cyanobacteria began producing oxygen that accumulated in the atmosphere in quantity sufficient to enable the development of multicellar organisms but stopped short of oxygen concentrations that would have poisoned those early multicellular organisms.
It is not a big leap to see soil, mountains, rivers, atmosphere, living organisms etc,—as organs or parts of organs of a coordinated whole, each part with a vital function like metabolism, growth, breathing, temperature regulation, healing.
And what is humanity’s part? Well, at one time it was speculated that humanity was nature’s (Earth’s) consciousness designed and self developed to reflect on this magnificent/beautiful creature we call Gaia—Mother Earth.
But somewhere/somehow the message about who/what function humanity was to be got all mixed up and instead of behaving like Earth’s consciousness reflecting on the beauty that life brought to Planet Earth, we humans transmogrified into a pestilence that set about to destroy/defile/use up all that life had come to be. We gave up on becoming Earth’s consciousness and became its consumers. We disembowel whole ranges of mountains to get at small bits of “resources.” We are rapidly changing the composition of the atmosphere by poisoning it with more heat retaining CO2 than it can hold without tipping the temperature toward Earth cooking levels. We spread poison over the land that washes down and accumulates in the oceans which are already overheating, and succumbing to the waste we are filling them with. We were supposed to be intelligent creatures but—despite the advanced mathematics that put a man on the moon-we can’t seem to grasp the relatively simple implications of an exponential growth curve: infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible. It is suicidal for human populations and homicidal toward most of the current organisms on Earth.
I realize that many will considered it scurrilous at best to suggest that while we humans are locked in a life and death battle with the new corona virus, to Gaia (our living Earth) humanity is currently behaving like an extremely pernicious contagion—and this horrible-to-us virus may well be Earth’s newest restorative medicine. It occurs to me that we would do well to consider this a warning that Earth is not happy and the coming of this virus rather than a deadly threat may be, most clearly, Earth’s precaution to an arrogant species that has entirely misunderstood its relationship to mother Gaia.
Oh, and a little humor prove be healing: