Saturday, November 27, 2010

Medea

There is a rather stunning column by Johan Hari which I highly recommend in its entirety, about a theory of extinction called Medea:


..."Many of us know, in outline, the warm, fuzzy Gaia hypothesis, first outlined by James Lovelock. It claims that the Planet Earth functions, in effect, as a single living organism called Gaia. It regulates its own temperature and chemistry to create a comfortable steady state that can sustain life. So coral reefs produced cloud-seeding chemicals which then protect them from ultraviolet radiation. Rainforests transpire water vapour so generate their own rainfall. This process expands outwards. Life protects life.
Now there is a radically different theory that is gaining adherents, ominously named the Medea hypothesis. The paleontologist Professor Peter Ward is an expert in the great extinctions that have happened in the earth's past, and he believes there is a common thread between them. With the exception of the meteor strike that happened 65 million years ago, every extinction was caused by living creatures becoming incredibly successful -- and then destroying their own habitats. So, for example, 2.3 billion years ago, plant life spread incredibly rapidly, and as it went it inhaled huge amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This then caused a rapid plunge in temperature that froze the planet and triggered a mass extinction.
Ward believes nature isn't a nurturing mother like Gaia. No: it is Medea, the figure from Greek mythology who murdered her own children. In this theory, life doesn't preserve itself. It serially destroys itself. It is a looping doomsday machine. This theory adds a postscript to Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest. There is survival of the fittest, until the fittest trash their own habitat, and do not survive at all.
But the plants 2.3 billion years ago weren't smart enough to figure out what they were doing. We are. We can see that if we release enough warming gases we will trigger an irreversible change in the climate and make our own survival much harder. Ward argues that it is not inevitable we will destroy ourselves - because human beings are the first and only species that can consciously develop a Gaian approach. Just as Richard Dawkins famously said we are the first species to be able to rebel against our selfish genes and choose to be kind, we are the first species that can rebel against the Medean rhythm of life. We can choose to preserve the habitat on which we depend. We can choose life."

This link was left in comments at HuffPo.  The audio is grating - better to turn off the sound and read the accompanying poem instead.  My favorite line - you bulldoze trees, then name your streets after them. So true!
I AM THE EARTH. YOU ARE THE EARTH. THE EARTH IS DYING. YOU ARE MURDERERS.

YOU KILL GOOD TREES TO PUT OUT BAD NEWSPAPERS.

IF SOLAR POWER WERE WEAPONS OF WAR, YOU WOULD HAVE HAD SOLAR POWER CENTURIES AGO TO POWER YOUR LIVES.

YOU ABUSE YOUR WORLD BECAUSE YOU REGARD IT AS A COMMODITY BELONGING TO YOU.

YOU BULLDOZE TREES, THEN NAME YOUR STREETS AFTER THEM.

THE INSUFFERABLE ARROGANCE OF HUMANS TO THINK THAT NATURE WAS MADE SOLELY FOR THEIR BENEFIT.

WHEN YOU DEFILE YOUR WORLD YOU MASSACRE A MILLION DREAMS. YOURS ARE NOT THE ONLY DREAMS.

TAKE NOTHING BUT PICTURES, LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS, KILL NOTHING BUT TIME.

TUG AT A SINGLE THING IN NATURE AND YOU WILL FIND IT ATTACHED TO THE REST OF YOUR WORLD.

EVERYTHING HUMANS TOUCH BECOMES A SORE. IT NEED NOT BE SO.

THE UNIVERSE IS NOT REQUIRED TO BE IN PERFECT HARMONY WITH HUMANS.

HUMANS SHALL REQUIRE A SUBSTANTIALLY NEW MANNER OF THINKING IF YOU ARE TO SURVIVE.

HUMANS HAVE NEVER UNDERSTOOD THAT THEY ARE SIMPLY AN EQUAL PART OF THE WHOLE.

IF ALL MANKIND WERE TO DISAPPEAR, THE WORLD WOULD BE A PARADISE.

WHATEVER BEFALLS THE EARTH BEFALLS ALL ON THE EARTH. IF YOU SPIT ON THE GROUND, YOU SPIT ON YOURSELF.

YOU HAVE BECOME YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY. IT NEED NOT BE SO.

THE HUMAN RACE IS BECOME A CANCER ON THE PLANET. THE TIME FOR SURGERY IS AT HAND.

THERE IS LITTLE TIME LEFT TO STOP HARMING YOUR MOTHER, AND ONLY HOME.

1 comment:

  1. The text of the Georgia Guidestones, erected in 1980, of granite, inscribed in 8 languages. Your post reminded me. Another sort of earth fail warning, but in stone, for our descendants.

    Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.

    Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.

    Unite humanity with a living new language.

    Rule passion - faith - tradition - and all things with tempered reason.

    Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.

    Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.

    Avoid petty laws and useless officials.

    Balance personal rights with social duties.

    Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.

    Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature.

    Pictures at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_Guidestones

    ReplyDelete

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