James Lovelock (the scientist who formulated the Gaia hypothesis) estimated in 1991 that 10 trees per person per lifetime would bind 1000 tons of C02, about enough to consume all the carbon dioxide one human produces through cars and technology in a lifespan.
The Gaia Movement launched a “Millions of Trees” Campaign in September 2013. The plan was to start the campaign by planting 14 million trees as a giant action in 2013 implemented by all local Gaia movements worldwide.
Local Gaia movements in the countries: Ecuador, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Guinea Bissau, South Africa, Botswana, Congo, Brazil and India were planting trees en mass during the action – supported by funds from the Gaia Movement USA plus many other International donors.
Tree planting is an important environmental protection activity and has been something that many organizations and city governments increasingly have on their agenda.
Independent British scientist James Lovelock is a planetary physician. His patient is the living organism called Earth and as a doctor he's very much the patient's advocate. It isn't every general practitioner who gets to name his client, but Lovelock is exceptional. About twenty years ago he formulated the outlines of his now famous Gaia Hypothesis which has been widely debated, repudiated, extolled, and metaphorically extended ever since.
Our Earth, postulated Lovelock on the basis of his worldwide atmospheric and climatological research, is a unified, self-regulating, living organism. The remarkable consistency of an unstable atmosphere at a constant composition over billions of years necessarily indicated some kind of automatic regulating agency and control system---"the presence of the invisible hand of life"--- in favor of life, Lovelock reasoned. For Lovelock the evolution of biological species and their material environment is so tightly coupled that together they comprise a single, indivisible living organism. Earth's minerals, plants, animals, oceans, atmosphere---all are components of one large self-sustaining organism.
Homeostasis of the oceans, climate, atmosphere, and planetary crust (the environment) is maintained by "active feedback processes operated automatically and unconsciously" by the resident biota (life). Lovelock christened this planetary regulator Gaia, after the ancient Greek concept of an Earth goddess.
Lovelock's geophysiology gives him both the tool for diagnosis and the means for prescription. Overall, the planetary outlook isn't that bleak, actually---that is, from Gaia's point of view. "Nothing we do will wipe out the system. I don't have to be optimistic for Gaia. She's looked after herself for so long, She won't be worried by us." But when Gaia recovers from her present interglacial warm period, her planetary fever, she may do so with an apocalyptic shudder.
Left to herself, Gaia would be relaxing into another normal, comfortable ice age, explains Lovelock. "She may be unable to relax because we've been busy removing her skin and using it as farmland and adding a vast blanket of greenhouse gases to the already feverish patient. In these circumstances Gaia is much more likely to shudder and move over to a new stable state fit for a different and more amenable biota."
How amenable a biota is humankind, anyway? "We are a responsive species and therefore one that will pull back from geocide in time," emphasizes Lovelock. Lovelock is optimistic, but he's really not a humanist. He doesn't categorically put the human interests first in this "very democratic planetary community," the super-organism called Gaia. This is no tenure for anyone, any species, on this planet. Humankind may represent Gaia learning to think consciously, but this is becomes a dangerous assumption if it promotes arrogance. If we seriously foul our nest and treat our planet badly, we can be voted out and destroy ourselves, warns Lovelock. Meanwhile, he's taken on the vacant position of "shop steward" and "speaker of the house" for the other Earth household "partners in Gaia, the bacteria and the less attractive forms of life."
More than steward, Lovelock sees himself as an Earth trustee, which entails accountability to future generations. "I see the world as a living organism of which we are a part---not the owner, nor the tenant, not even a passenger on that obsolete metaphor 'spaceship Earth.'"
When we think geophysiologically, when we understand our intimate place in the superorganic life of Gaia, we will profoundly reconsider our present habits of exploitation. We'll see with a shock that our contemporary frenzy of agriculture and forestry is global ecocide. "Would we mine our livers for nutrients? Would we raze our hair and plant our scalps with tomatoes?" Probably not, but we might plant some trees, adds Lovelock.
Gaian homeostasis begins with the local activity of individual organisms, says Lovelock---and that includes the responsive human. "It is always from the action of individuals that powerful local, regional, and global systems evolve. Living with Gaia is a personal responsibility and each of us will develop a personal solution to the problem," suggests Lovelock. Lovelock's response was arboreal. Since they moved to Coombe Mill, James and Helen Lovelock have planted 10,000 new trees on their 30 acre Devon estate. "I always advocate planting trees. It's surprising how few trees you need to plant to overcome the effects of carbon dioxide emissions from cars."
Lovelock estimates that 10 trees per person per lifetime would produce 1000 tons of C02, about enough to consume all the carbon dioxide one human produces through cars and technology in a lifespan. We could also drive less, cut down on meat and dairy products consumption, and generally be more ecologically conscientious as consumers. "It gives you a gloating feeling of righteousness, that you're on the side of the angels," concludes Lovelock with a twinkly grin. That's the kind of planetary medicine a lot of Westerners could start administering to a feverish Gaia today.
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