Day 142/365 - On Gaia theory

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5/22/17

Not sure if I’ve written on this topic before, but even if I did, I will repeat myself anyway. The subject of Gaia came up again at our herbal camping weekend, with my Arbor Vitae teacher, Richard Mandelbaum. It was a beautiful afternoon at Gather Wild Ranch, and we sat around a circle surrounded by plants, trees, and fresh air. Richard started the talk by putting our significance into context based on our size and location in relation to the other planets in our galaxy. Like the old “what came first, the chicken or the egg” adage, he urged us to consider whether our atmosphere has made suitable conditions for life, or whether life is what makes the atmosphere suitable.

Consider the atomosphere of Earth, which is composed of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen atoms (the latter can be expressed as carbon dioxide and water). Has that always been the case? Did our planet just happen to win the jackpot of the lottery that made it favorable for life, like the ‘Goldylock’ theory proposes? It took billions of years for Earth to become the life-rich environment it is today. The mineral, microbial, plant, fungal, and animal populations came in succession and have co-evolved with their surroundings and with each other. Humans, the youngest of the creatures, have anaerobic bacteria living in their guts, and aerobic ones living on skin surfaces. We are also in symbiosis with plants, giving them carbon dioxide with our exhales, and inhaling their byproduct of oxygen. We get glucose and other nutrients from plant vegetation, and complex immune-boosting lipopolysaccharides from fungi (mushrooms). Along with food sources, trace elements from minerals supply us with necessary cofactors for our energy cycle (Kreb’s cycle) so that we can synthesize ATP (adenosine triphosphate) - the functional unit for energy and life. Nitrogen, necessary for our neural and muscle function (neurotransmitters, amino acids), is synthesized by one of two ways: lighting or nitrogen-fixating bacteria usually found in the root systems of legumes (plants of the Fabaeceae family).

As you can see, this paints the picture of total interconnection and mostly symbiotic relationships. Of late, humans have been seeing themselves as the top of the food chain, and have been obsessed with consumerism. Humans have adapted the least and have instead tried to change certain patterns of nature to better suit their needs. But seeing ourselves as part of a greater whole, as little organelles functioning within a larger system of the Earth, and larger still - of the universe...that may change our perspective. And I hope that it will. Rather than focus on the “I,” it’s time to consider the collective. Our Earth has been so giving to us, because it is us. Like someone great once said, “each of us is the Universe trying to manifest itself.” We are stardust, and all that jazz. We are interconnected among time and space, with everything that was, is, and will be. If we are as kind to one another and our co-inhabitants, as well as our planet, life can only expand and blossom. By supporting our environment, we are supporting future life for our collective, our Gaia. All for one and one for all, because there is no chicken or egg. We are all one, and only together can we live.