Thursday, October 25, 2001

Chapters 2-4 of Redeeming the Time

When reading this chapter, I found it interesting that the discussion of Gaia moved gradually from that of a theory, especially for Lovelock, to an all encompassing being. Maybe like Stephen Sharper points out, he has become so wrapped up in his own theory that he is unable to objectively view it. It is almost as if he accepts his theory as fact, and refuses to look at anything that might discredit it, including his own research. For instance, his opinion that the thinning of the ozone layer is not a problem to Gaia, which his own studies contradicted. As I understand it, he believes that since Gaia will look after itself, that there is no need to worry about things like pollution, contamination of the groundwater and erosion of farmland soils. It's almost as if he blindly views Gaia as a very large bandaid that is going to heal the gaping wounds that have scarred this planet. I disagree with this point of view. I am unable to appreciate that the planet can shift chemical, social, geological and biological balances within itself to a degree in response to forces, almost like le Chatelier's principle dictates that chemical equilibrium's shift in response to some sort of added pressure or species in a chemical equation. I don't believe, however, that the planet is capable of handling huge amounts of change without some adverse effects. In other words, I believe that the plasticity of the environment is finite. Another point that I don't agree with regarding Lovelock's Gaia is the role of humans on earth. Maybe I am being over anthropocentric but I feel that we have affected the landscape of earth much more profoundly than any other species in time. Because of us, global warming has accelerated, species have gone extinct, cities have sprawled over acres of woodlands and the polar icecaps have started to melt. I find it difficult to believe that the shaping of the earth has less to human activities than those of Gaia itself. That is almost justification to pollute and ravage the planet in our quest for survival because Gaia will regulate these activities. I agree with Pedler who argues that humans will not have a sustainable future unless we are concerned first and foremost, with Gaia concerns. Although Gaia provides a way to view the earth not as a beast to be tamed but as a sphere of interrelated, dependent and cooperating links, I feel that it has not examined or will not permit the role of humans in the earth's stewardship to degree that is useful as a basis for a Christian social justice perspective. Christianity itself is largely centred around the role of humans in this world. A theory that minimizes our existence would seem to contravene the essence of Chrisitanity itself. I do believe that nature is intelligent and capable of self-recitification if given the chance to exercise these abilities. However, I also believe that humans have a large role in determining whether or not the earth can do so.