Two months from today, James Lovelock, a maverick British scientist and a controversial icon in the environmental movement, will turn 101-years-old. He is most famous for co-developing the Gaia Hypothesis, the belief that our planet is a massive self-regulating organism affecting various interconnected systems — like the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere — that maintain life on Earth.
With COVID-19, some argue that Gaia is sending us a strong signal to re-evaluate our fundamental values, including to what extent we respect and care for the planet. Is the current pandemic a profound warning that our recklessness and consumption patterns are having profound impacts of Earth’s life-giving systems?
Most understand COVID-19 to be a temporary crisis. Unfortunately, climate change, the meta crisis of our time, is unabating. It is not a momentary concern and certainly won’t be “solved” by human actions alone. We need to collaborate with nature and harness its abilities to counteract the deleterious effects of excessive carbon in our atmosphere.
Buying an electric car won’t do it. Recycling will have a negligible effect, at best. And moving away from fossil fuels as our primary energy source is only the start of what needs to be done. If we are to stand any chance of reversing the concerning trends of rising sea levels and atmospheric C02 concentrations, we need to give Mother Nature a helping hand if we are to make amends for how we have wronged Her.
Sounds a bit like penance, doesn’t it?
We know we are responsible for the increasing levels of greenhouse gases undermining our environment, but are doing relatively little to right our recklessness and desist our destructive ways. And yet, Gaia continues to give so much that we might live.
Wondering this — and adopting Lovelock’s unconventional and challenging ways — the prayer below is one of gratitude to Gaia.
The Earth Prayer
Our Mother, who envelopes us,
Gaia is your name;
Daughter of the sun;
A planet unlike any one;
Earth, our solitary haven.
You sustain life, embrace death;
Provide breathe that then passes
Recovering, reclaiming, rebalancing all.
Defender from solar radiation,
With armour of invisible air.
For water is the lifeblood.
Powerful and protective.
For every creature
You may notice the structure is similar to the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer taught by Jesus to his disciples who requested guidance on how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer, premised on human guilt and a theocentric view of the world, extols God the Father and provides a simple way to repent of one’s evilness. The Earth Prayer, on the other hand, offers a more reverential stance toward the visible and tangible nature of life in the form of Mother Nature, or Gaia.
Our planet depends upon many mysteries, and a subtle balance between calm and chaos. We enjoy a very precise position from the sun that allows for so much to exist on Earth, with a confluence of chemicals and invisible forces that together, achieve something extraordinary called life. I am grateful every day for the wonder around me and the way everything is in flux, unceasingly oscillating between order and disorder.
And as we try to figure out the current global challenge before us (caused by the coronavirus), consider that we are on a planet — part of a solar system among hundreds of billions of galaxies — that orbits a middle-aged celestial body whose own corona — or crown — is mysteriously hotter than its surface.
Hard as we try, we can’t explain this anomaly. But we certainly appreciate its heat and energy.
All praise to the Earth, our queen, and our royal sun!
Let us be thankful for the world we live in, including the many mysteries that allow for us to exist.