End of the road for Gaia?

Discussion in 'Science and the Universe' started by Thomas, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis took the world by storm in the 70s, it's had it ups and downs since, but in a recent study utilising advances in understandings and data evidence collected since that time, it looks set for a fall.

    The Gaia hypothesis was substantially three points:
    1: That the earth is a favourable habitat for life;
    2: That life has altered the planetary environment and ecosystems;
    3: That the earth has remained fairly stable over geological time.

    For Lovelock, this indicated a self-correcting system, as it were. For those of a more romantic nature, the hypothesis was near enough proof of the fashionable 'earth goddess' model.

    Studies over the past 40 years have led scientists to suggest that point 1 is not really the case, point 2 is a discussion point, but the evidence supporting the Gaia hypothesis is weak compared to other hypotheticals, and that point 3 is, sadly, not the case at all. Sadly because the research tends to say that the planet is less stable than Gaia supposes.

    Perhaps more troubling is that Lovelock has predicted that our continued avoidance of the environmental question will lead to depopulation up to perhaps as much as 80% ... and if it turns out that Gaia is optimistic, then might it be worse than that?

    It's a sobering thought that perhaps the most powerful country in the world was prepared to risk all in a game of brinksmanship over healthcare. What chance do we have of our present political systems being able to effectively address the far more reaching problems that loom ahead?
     
  2. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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    None, would we put our cars in garage permanently or cut down on industry? Heading towards what may be inevitable.
     
  3. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    So do we become extinct due to climate change or nuclear war or just terrorism and violence. In terms of the victim, it does not matter much (death is death is death). In terms of the species, the third is preferable to the other two. Which is worse, death by climate change or death by grand global thermonuclear war. I'd opt for the first; less damage to the environment.
     
  4. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    My thinking is that it will end up being death by a thousand cuts more than a big bang. A number of events will combine together and cause an unstoppable geometric progression towards disaster.

    Worse yet, we probably will not even know when the balance has tipped irrevocably against us. If it hasn't already!

    I do take some solace in the thought that no matter how we humans destroy ourselves, Earth shall abide. Even with the worst we could do, which I believe would be thermonuclear war, the Earth will rebound. It will take a long time, but not so much really in geological terms.

    Eventually life will arise on Earth again, likely very different from most anything that is here now. But life will go on. And if the throw of the dice brings forth another "intelligent" species, we can hope that they have more sense than our species does.

    What a fun discussion for a friday night!!!!!
     
  5. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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    There is always a Saturday and Sunday after the Friday night till Sun turns into a red dwarf and engulfs the Earth (5 billion years). Does somebody seriously think that we would last that long? :)
     
  6. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    The earth is obviously a favorable habitat for life. When you look at the other planets we know of.

    It is apparent life alters the envroonment and ecosystem...without life, there isn't much of an ecosystem.

    Compared to Io or Jupiter and its great red spot we are quite stable.

    Man cannot destroy the planet, all man can do is make it unihabitable for man, the earth will survive....my fav Limbaugh quote.

    We really aren't having a discussion on healthcare...ObamaCare is here...it is simply a convenient football. What we have is the silent majority losing (Christian right) and becoming a vocal minority.
     
  7. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    Optimistically here is one path things could take:

    1. New textiles will be invented that make 'Homeless' people at home anywhere.
    2. Robots will replace most workers.
    3. Food will be a simple matter of demand, not supply.
    4. No jobs = much less transportation & consumers no longer impact fuel choices as much.
    5. Robots = cheap recycling workers to sort through garbage, clean the oceans.
    6. Everyone switches to solar power.
    7. Fossil fuels are no longer burned and instead are used to produce materials like graphene and plastics.
    8. Environmental threats such as nukes are eradicated.
     
  8. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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  9. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    The second video was awesome, but I just couldn't bring myself to endure the preacher.
    TITE INVERSION© : Fast Robot Hand - YouTube

    I think better textiles are the most important thing.

    Yes, the robots have a looong way to go before they are implemented for general labor, but I believe much of the necessary potential exists now.

    • Right now a focused effort could produce a robot capable of sorting garbage into recycling groups.
    • We could also make robots, using modern tech, that would clean plastics out of the sea and separate it out of the sand and do all kinds of work that for humans would be too tedious, such as removing oil from individual grains of soil.
    • Another use would be a robot that harvests fields plant by plant, so that two or three crops could grow in the same soil simultaneously.
     
  10. Dream

    Dream New Member

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  11. Dream

    Dream New Member

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  12. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    And the world economy just what. Goes away? No need for money for anything? Your avatar name, Dream, is very apt indeed! :)
     
  13. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    Wil is talking about in the long run. He's talking about a time when pollution could completely upset the balance and destroy us all. I wasn't talking about this happening in the coming century (although it could).

    Lets suppose that the list of things does happen in 100 years. People have lived without an economy before. The purpose of the economy is to keep people working by storing wealth and facilitating trade, but if robots do all of the work and people no longer need housing (because their high-tech clothes become a substitute for housing) that economy loses its purpose -- and its political power. The economy then loses its power to pollute the earth.

    Yes I'm a dreamer.
     
  14. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    It's good you are a dreamer! I have an appalling lack of faith (there's that word again) in humanity. It is hard for me to believe that those with wealth, status and power would willingly let go of those things.

    What I see happening around the world today is exactly the opposite. More of the wealth, status and power on the planet being gathered up by a Super Elite at the expense of the majority of people on the planet.

    Our country is going broke trying to maintain the ultimate military power on the planet. And politicians talk about slashing benefits to the elderly as a way to cut expenses. We are spied on at every level. The U.S. of today reminds me all too much of a certain former super power we defeated 50 years ago.

    So maybe you can dream for both of us?
     
  15. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    our technology is expanding and improving exponentially, we are not standing on the former generations shoulders anymore, each college graduate has information that they just learned that is no longer relevant and no longer right, due to the advancements in understanding.

    It won't be long before the total is more than the product of its parts.

    In addition I work with youth...middle schoolers and high schoolers...I did near a decade with scouts...and 4-6 weekend retreats per year with kids....I am amazed at the maturity, ability, and creativity we got coming. When I was young I ranted and marched against the vietnam war, was part of the green movement, worked at cleaning the environment and reducing pollution....I am now part of the status quo and need to get out of the way of the new breed.
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh, definitely compared to other places, but when you ask the question unqualified, the answer is no, the first premise is a false one.

    Again, one of the arguments is that nitrogen, which is superabundant in the air and the sea, is locked away in inert molecules so that the planet suffers widespread nitrogen starvation, even though the element is there in vast quantities. Microbes manage the nitrogen cycle, and if Gaia were true, life would have engineered a way to unlock the source.

    So, simply saying there is an ecosystem, but to define it as Gaia-like is, in the face of the evidence, an over-statement.

    Lovelock, who proposed the theory, has long been saying that Gaia will wipe man out because of the interference we are to the ecosystem — he suggested the 80% mortality rate — but science is saying that the ecosystem is not as self-sufficient as Lovelock supposed, and actually much more fragile.
     
  17. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Not really - instead it's simply been observed that life is cruel, and Nature is a harsh mistress. The problem is the people making these arguments (I remember them coming up in NEw Scientist) started with the presumption that life is good and caring - and then set not to disprove the Gaia hypothesis itself, as much as their own presumptions.
     
  18. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I tend to side with you on this one.

    The super Elite are quietly buying up the resources of the Third World before anyone really notices what's happening. One of them is fresh water!

    In the UK, none of the big corporates pay anywhere near the tax they should be paying, and as you say, the Super Elite are syphoning money off from the top. Meanwhile the government is seeking to save money by taking it away from those at the bottom of the food chain.
     
  19. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    In the U.S. most of the Big Corporations pay no tax whatsoever! And politicians keep trying to say the blame is excessive government spending. I.E, outflow, instead of income. If Big Corp and the rich paid their equivalent share of taxes it would go a long ways towards solving the problem.

    If government spending was cut where spending is the most bloated, such as the military war machine (not the services to our veterans!), along with fixing the above I believe we could be debt free in a quite short period of time.

    As for Gaia, it was a lovely new age concept that was never based on any genuine science. There is little to suggest that the ecosystem is self-sufficient, but it is not as fragile as all that either. Look at the way humans have poisoned the biosphere over the last 200 years. Even with all that, the ecosystem is hanging on. Though how close to the tipping point we are has become a grave concern.

    The other thing about the biosphere that impresses me is its ability to regenerate over time. We're talking geological time here, not the short timeframes we humans are used to. I cannot think of any human causation that could kill the planet. It might take hundreds of thousands, or even millions of years, but the earth would rebound. Geologically speaking that is not such a long time.
     
  20. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I think technology is as much a contributor to the problem as a solution, we're only too happy to ignore the impact of our desires, be it for cheap tech or cheap trainers, on the rest of the world. And as 'cheap' increasingly vanishes from the equation, the gap between rich and poor widens.

    This is why no government will tackle global warming — because to do so requires that we make sacrifices, and we're not prepared to do that — we want them to come up with some magic fix so we can carry on just as we are, meanwhile we gamble (unwisely, in view of the evidence) on the hope that technology will provide the solution to all our problems.

    As for end of the world scenarios, I think nuclear armageddon is old hat. The emergence of treatment-resistant bacteria is already widespread, and a more likely proposition. Or a shift in the jet-stream, the loss of the gulf stream, the death of the oceans (perhaps already passed the tipping-point), something like that ...

    The most sobering prognosis from the investigation into the Gaia hypothesis is that the planet is actually far more fragile than it would be were Gaia a reality.
     

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