Monday, 1 November 2010

Gaia- Taking Ethics Higher

James Lovelock, a chemist who believes to understand the planet fully we must combine philosophy with science, has put a remarkable and revolutionary environmental ethical theory forward.
At the age of fourteen Lovelock had become obsessed with astronomical science. This passion, enthusiasm and hunger to learn landed him as a consultant for NASA space centre. Not only did he analyse finding from the Apollo mission, he invented scientific instruments to help gather more data about space. He developed the Gaia hypothesis in the 1960s and this has had many ethical implication for us as human beings.
His argument starts off similar to that of the Fine Tuning argument. Lovelock begins by appreciating how perfect and flawless our world is. He said that when he examines the atmosphere of any planet, they are barren. However, when anyone just sees how complex the Earth’s atmosphere is – it has the right amount of elements like nitrogen which react with one another at the right levels – he says it shouts out that life exists here.
From here he looked into why this was. Lovelock concludes that this is the effect of life itself. Without life this spectacular organisation of the Earth wouldn’t exists.
 For Lovelock, we all play a role of equal importance whether we are a bacterium or a human. He says that any damage or destruction of a species can have massive effects. It is usually suggested that the effects are butterfly effects and some suggest the proof for this can be seen in today’s world. For example, we are destroying wildlife and greenery in Western countries and polluting our planet but the people who suffer are those in developing countries where droughts, flooding etc. has become a norm. Gaia theory supports would say that this is happening because we are not fulfilling our role and recognising that even the smallest species plays a fundamental role in the organisation of our world.
So what is our role as humans? Well if we imagine the planet to be like an organism then our role can be described as the central nervous system. To sense things and to react quickly. So with the recent phenomena of climate change it is our moral responsibility to identify it and react on it.
The ethical implication of this theory is that we must care for Gaia (our planet) not because we are stewards but rather because we are fundamental part of an organism and if we don’t care for the planet and then the world will cease to exists as we know it. It also specifies that taking care of the planet does not just refer to looking after lions or deciduous trees but rather every single living thing on earth even the smallest of the smallest organisms.
I really love this theory because I find it explains everything accurately and simply. It is our moral responsibility to care for the environment not just ourselves!

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