Gaianism is an religion that sees the world as a living, interconnected, self-regulating and supporting organism. Rather than looking out to a distant deity in the sky, Gainists see the world itself as the target of human devotion, reverence and caretaking. Similar to Naturalism and Hippieism, Gaianism is unique in that it tends to focus on Scientific solutions and explanations. Its foremost ethical principle is that humans should strive to lessen their impact upon the earth and its systems, that much of human activity is responsible for wiping out a lot of biological diversity, and so greatly damaging Gaia’s overall health and ability to thrive as a system.
The name Gaia derives from the Greek goddess of the Earth, and was repurposed by British chemist James Lovelock as a name for his scientific theory that the earth is essentially one big living organism. Gaianism was expanded upon and promoted by Carl Sagan‘s first wife, American biologist Lynn Margulis. Four high profile conferences were arranged between 1985 and 2006 which aimed to define the Gaia hypothesis and make sense of its objectives and framework. Currently, the majority of the scientific community is skeptical about its claims, however, the concept continues to inspire environmentalists and various ethical philosophies.
We are the intelligent elite among animal life on earth and whatever our mistakes, [Earth] needs us. This may seem an odd statement after all that I have said about the way 20th century humans became almost a planetary disease organism. But it has taken [Earth] 2.5 billion years to evolve an animal that can think and communicate its thoughts. If we become extinct she has little chance of evolving another.
― James Lovelock, The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning
Those of us who consider ourselves to be somehow involved in the birthing of a new age, should discover Gaia as well. The idea of Gaia may facilitate the task of converting destructive human activities to constructive and cooperative behavior. It is an idea which deeply startles us, and in the process, may help us as a species to make the necessary jump to planetary awareness.
— James Lovelock
Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
— Albert Einstein
The basic pattern of life is a network. Whenever you see life, you see networks. The whole planet, what we can term ‘Gaia’ is a network of processes involving feedback tubes. Humans are part of the larger whole, Gaia.
— Fritjof Capra
Gaia’s main problems are not industrialization, ozone depletion, overpopulation, or resource depletion. Gaia’s main problem is the lack of mutual understanding and mutual agreement in the noosphere about how to proceed with those problems. We cannot rein in industry if we cannot reach mutual understanding and mutual agreement based on a worldcentric moral perspective concerning the global commons. And we reach the worldcentric moral perspective through a difficult and laborious process of interior growth and transcendence.
— Ken Wilber
I know that to personalize the Earth System as Gaia, as I have often done and continue to do in this book, irritates the scientifically correct, but I am unrepentant because metaphors are more than ever needed for a widespread comprehension of the true nature of the Earth and an understanding of the lethal dangers that lie ahead.
— James Lovelock