There is a school of thought that the Earth, rather than being several physical and biological structures, is one big functional organism. It is called the Gaia Hypothesis, pivoting on much the same idea as homeostasis, except that in this case one rather calls it homeorhesis, meaning the return to a specific trajectory and not a specific state of equilibrium.
I first heard of the Gaia Hypothesis during my years of high school debating, but thought of it again while in discussion with The Boy this weekend. He flew me up to Johannesburg as a birthday gift and on the way to a movie we saw a large Nedbank billboard in Sandton, advertising their new initiative of solar powered traffic lights. Thus started the green conversation.
While there have been floods in Australia and Brazil, South African provinces have also experienced severe rains, with flood warnings being issued for at least three of the nine provinces. Other parts of the country are suffering record-breaking droughts, some for over two years.
The earth is trying to cool herself down. The people are cooking the Earth and she is trying to correct it. The question is, where do we fit in?
The Boy, ad lib
In medicine, homeostasis is the tendency for the body to maintain balance, to return to a state of equilibrium. Therefore, when there is too much or too little of a specific ion in a compartment, the body will apply adaptive measures in order to rid itself of the excess or to conserve that which is scarce. The same with one’s hydration status: too much water, and the kidneys go into overdrive. Too little water and the kidneys will try their best to conserve water, to such an extent that the body may start shutting down the perfusion of certain less-essential body parts.
I struggle to quite grasp the concept of homeorhesis, but I am quite happy to accept that if the earth functions as one organism, then a tendency to homeostasis will suffice.
What we need to consider is that we may indeed be the toxic insult to this organism, which merits being flushed out.
So either all the rain is just a way of cooling down and lessening droughts, OR they are the currents to get rid of our toxic habits. Just like the body, when suffering a urinary tract infection, produces more urine than normal.
Another example: If the concentration of Sodium in the Intracellular Fluid of the body is too high compared to the concentration in the Exracellular Fluid Volume, the body tries to fix this ratio by allowing more fluids in the ICF, therefore decreasing that compartment’s Sodium concentration. But in spaces like the skull, with the very-valuable-brain, too much fluid in cells that increase the volume of said cells can have life-threatening complications for the organ. Brain swelling = bad idea! And so the attempt to fix the problem actually causes more harm than good.
And that is what we are seeing on Earth today.
What is infuriating is that by now, the proof for the damage done by pollution is undeniable. Oh, I have looked for proof of the contrary, but none has been satisfactory. For years now the layman has attempted to offset his carbon footprint. We plant trees to make up for our travels, we go organic, we go solar-hydro-wind power. But because many of the largest polluters in the world (China, USA, EU and India) have not managed to make any significant cuts – nay, any cuts AT ALL – in their Greenhouse Emissions, the efforts of the layman, to put aside all diplomacy, has been of no use.
Interestingly, South Africa comes in as number 13 on the bad boy list – not such an angel either.
I would like to have children. I would like to live long enough to save lives. There are bends in the road that I must still encounter. But now, whether or not I – we – live long enough to encounter these life experiences is no longer up to making good life choices. Now, they are up to old balding men in plush offices who continue allowing the world to be roasted. If the earth can tolerate us for a while longer, perhaps my generation can come into office and “make it better”. But then, isn’t that what every generation has always dreamed of doing?
Some problems are rather unforeseen, like H1N1 and the Beijing Massacre. But other problems, like World War II, the AIDS pandemic and the state of our planet, were predicted by the general populace and thus those in power have no excuse for the final turnout.