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This image was taken by the astronaut William Anders. An earth rise photograph on the first mission to the moon; the Apollo 8 mission. This moment on December 24 1968, was a moment for many of us to see how beautiful and tiny our earth is. It shows itself as a revealed treasure, that we should preserve.

Hereby the podcast of the William Anders where we can listen to his story.

Another fellow of the NASA team was James Lovelock. He was asked to join the team as scientist and try to find bounding to detect if the atmosphere around a planet would be suitable for life. The planetary explorations were set up to expand human territory beyond the atmosphere. Lovelock, now able to have a top-down view on the earth, first detected the substances of the earth, and defined the odds of the inorganic chemistry making life processes possible. Seeing the earth constantly changing, but still able to maintain organisms alive, Lovelock saw the whole earth itself as a living organism. He named her Gaia (a suggestion of the novelist William Golding). By naming the organism Gaia, he saw the earth as  a scientific topic related to the Darwinian evolution creating climatical changes.[1] But, why now, was this needed?

Naming the earth is actually much older. In old pagan ritten you can find lots of evidence they worshipped the earth (they even used the name Gaia for earth). In many ancient civilisation they brought offers to keep mother earth at peace (as she is not always a loving mother). We all know the little statues or talisman of women with big breast and hips; a sign of fertility. It seems as if a travel to the moon had to be undertaken to relate back to the earth again, but did it help?

In his studies, Lovelock made a little scheme where he did some prediction for Gaia (see paper). Until the 1970s he had to revise his theory constantly a little to be taken seriously. But, even then the several dialogues he had to discuss the Gaia theory seemed still very much rejected. Until, in 2001 more scientist came with the alarming news that the ‘ice was melting’. As he himself proposed: “Perhaps its greatest value lies in its metaphor of a living Earth, which reminds us that we are part of it and that human rights are constrained by the needs of our planetary partners.” (p. 770) [2]

The fact that the climatical problem were named, made it easier to talk about it. We do not have to use metaphors which only allude the known to the unknown. It illustrates the relation between the two. However, naming is still a tricky action. The question of interpretation, nuance and how to relate is left. 

Hand drawn diagram of Gaia: the Earth system and feedback loop.


[1] Lovelock, J. (2003). The living Earth. Nature, 769-770.

[2] Ibid.



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