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This is the warning issued by James Lovelock in an article he just published Guardian. Lovelock is an independent British scientist and ecologist, the originator of the biogeochemical hypothesis (or “Gaia hypothesis”). This controversial hypothesis, established in the 1970s, claims that our planet would be a living entity, a kind of superorganism responsible for self-regulating its components to support life. According to Lovelock, Gaia – named after the Greek deity personifying the Earth – could thus “rebell” against the actions of humanity, which brought the Earth to the brink of climate catastrophe.
James Lovelock has written several books on the Gaia hypothesis. According to him, our planet is itself a living organism, modulating its components, especially the surface temperature, over billions of years to allow life to flourish. In support of his theory, he cites the example of our atmosphere, which, according to him, would regulate itself over time in order for life to appear on Earth. But as COP26 unfolds in Glasgow, it has to be admitted that humanity hasn’t really cared much for the planet it’s been offered.
” We are entering an age of heat in which temperatures and sea levels will rise for decades until the world is changed beyond recognition. “, warns the scientist. Two main reasons: deforestation and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. But the fundamental mistake of governments, according to Lovelock, is that they treat global warming and the destruction of nature as two separate problems, when they are closely related.
Living organisms and the environment are interconnected
For this ecologist, this division is as much a mistake as the fact that chemistry, biology, and physics are systematically taught separately: these disciplines are indeed deeply interconnected, like living organisms and the global environment. ” The composition of Earth’s atmosphere and surface temperature are actively maintained and regulated by the biosphere, life, what the ancient Greeks called Gaia. ” explains the scientist.
When he put forward this theory in the 1970s with the support of the American microbiologist Lynn Margulis, both were strongly criticized by the scientific community, which was more supportive of neo-Darwinism – the theory that only genetic mutations and natural selection contribute to appearance. new animal or plant species and their expansion; in other words, most believe that life adapts to the environment, not the other way around. A belief based on the fact that few people are aware of the natural forces that can affect the temperature of the Earth’s surface, Lovelock thinks.
Although the heat coming from the Sun increases as it ages, Earth’s temperatures have remained relatively stable thanks to Gaia, he points out. Forests, oceans, and other elements of Earth’s regulatory system kept the surface temperature constant and optimal for life. Since the industrial era, however, the use of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane) into the atmosphere, which trap part of the thermal radiation and thus contribute to global warming.
The intensity of this global warming depends enormously on the properties of the water, adds the expert: layers of ice, very white, reflect solar radiation into space and contribute to lowering the temperature; water vapor, on the other hand, creates a greenhouse effect that raises the temperature. But few people know that it takes a huge amount of heat to change the state of water – and that the record melting of the ice caps seen this summer is actually a result of global warming.
The COVID-19 pandemic as a warning?
Lovelock discovers that we are simply living scenarios that once belonged in the realm of science fiction. In addition to the extreme events observed in recent months (heat waves, fires, floods, etc.), according to him, Gaïa could also reserve other “surprises”: ” Nature is non-linear and unpredictable, never more so than in times of transition “, he underlines. On this principle, for him, the COVID-19 pandemic is only a warning, a sign reflecting the discontent of the spirit of our planet. ” Gaia will try harder next time, with something even meaner “, he warns.
Can humanity hope to recover from this? Yes, provided measures are put in place now to reduce risks and adapt to what is now inevitable (such as rising water levels). Lovelock recommends “urgently” stopping the destruction of rainforests and finding a way to deal with the problem of overpopulation. ” We have to look at the world holistically “, he adds.
It is clear that he supports the idea of reducing our consumption of fossil fuels, but against all odds, renewable energies would not be the best alternative; According to him, too much dependence on green energies would lead to an energy deficit. On the other hand, he believes that nuclear power appears to be a more efficient solution, adding that environmentalists tend to exaggerate the dangers of this energy source.
” Learning to live in partnership with the Earth there is a condition in the cube sine qua non for humanity to have a chance to survive; otherwise Gaia could do ” to evolve Earth into a new state in which humans may no longer be welcome warns the scientist.