Scientists have presented Gaia 2.0, which updates the Gaia hypothesis of the Earth and the reasons why life has been able to evolve on it for billions of years and suggests a creative solution to the changes humans have caused.
Prior to Gaia 2.0, the Gaia hypothesis has provided our understanding of the reasons why life exists on Earth. The Gaia hypothesis is based on the idea that living organisms and the inorganic surrounds evolved as a single, self-regulating system. The hypothesis uses this as the explanation for how the Earth has managed to preserve life despite the brightening sun, meteorite strikes, and volcanoes.
Why have scientists added to the Gaia hypothesis?
Professor Tim Lenton from the University of Exeter, UK, and Professor Bruno Latour, known for his work on science and technology studies, argue that humans have the potential to impact the self-regulating planetary system, calling the new theory Gaia 2.0.
The theory is based on Lenton’s recent research that has argued that the stability of the Earth comes from ‘sequential selection’. This is when life destabilises the environment, but the effect is short-lived, resulting in a further change in the Earth’s properties to stabilise the situation on a long-term basis. They have expanded on this research to posit Gaia 2.0 as a solution to the changes humans are causing to the Earth.
What is Gaia 2.0 in practice?
Gaia 2.0 is the suggestion that humans and the development of the technology we use can develop the Earth’s self-regulatory system. Lenton and Latour suggest that our increased knowledge of climate change and the consequences of human actions could lead to a deliberate self-regulation which they believe could achieve a “a fundamental new state of Gaia” and help to achieve a globally sustainable future.
In practice, Gaia 2.0 is about creating a circular economy with the deliberate self-regulation of the Earth in mind. Lenton said: “If we are to create a better world for the growing human population this century then we need to regulate our impacts on our life support-system, and deliberately create a more circular economy that relies – like the biosphere – the recycling of materials powered by sustainable energy.”
The University of Exeter has a new Global Systems Institute which is continuing work of creative solutions to global climate change.