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To quote Wikipedia, Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life: the primal Mother Earth goddess.
This is also the title sometimes given to the survival instinct of the ecosphere as a whole in the belief that any imbalance in that ecosphere will eventually be eliminated by Gaia and harmony restored.
Perhaps another name for Gaia should be "the balance of nature".
We know that when a prey species enjoys a population explosion, the resulting predator species will follow suit and this quickly results in a reduction of the former.
Likewise, even without a suitable predator species to keep populations in check, any species that creates an imbalance due to its numbers will also eventually be brought back into balance by an exhaustion of its food source.
These are the forces that have kept the planet ticking along quite nicely for many millions of years.
And then man came along...
We've posed a bit of a challenge to Gaia because we've sidestepped some of the simpler rules which have maintained the balance of nature.
We have no natural predators -- having developed strategies and weapons to protect ourselves from the wild animals that may have hunted our early ancestors. One of those strategies has been to all but eradicate some predatory species such that they no longer exist or are on the endangered list.
That's not supposed to happen.
We've also exempted ourselves (for the time-being) from the effects of a limited food supply. This has been done by terraforming the planet through extensive agriculture in such a way that we now feed many times more people than would otherwise have been even remotely possible.
By doing all this, mankind has become the single biggest threat to the ecosphere and I suspect that Gaia is not best pleased.
One thing about the balance of nature is that it adapts. It may take a long time, but it does adapt.
Right now, mankind has (according to some) become a blight on the planet. We pollute its landscape and air, we consume inordinate amounts of resource, we waste energy and our activities are causing near-irreversible climate change.
How will Gaia fight back?
How will the balance be restored?
Perhaps by way of things like this.
We, as a species, thought ourselves pretty damned smart when we discovered antibiotics. One of the biggest killers, bacterial infections and diseases, was at last conquered... or so we thought.
It wasn't long before Gaia responded by coming up with anti-biotic-resistant strains of infectious bacteria and it's starting to look as if we're heading back to square one in many cases with new generations of "superbugs" being immune to our technologies. Balance restored!
The appearance of drug-resistant fungal pathogens such as C.auris are another clear indicator that the planet is fighting back against mankind's attempts to upset the balance and this time we don't seem to have any immediate response in hand.
As a species we need not fear eradication however. Balance requires control, not elimination.
As with any Darwinian-driven change, some of the species will have a natural resistance to these pathogens so although it's possible we could see some pretty horrific pandemics which wipe out significant percentages of the world's population, some will survive and become stronger due to their inherent immunity.
The only real worry is that Gaia acts too late and the balance is not restored in time to avert the massive pan-global climate crisis that some say will be the end of mankind.
What do you say? Is this all just airy-fairy hogwash?
Or is the concept of Gaia very real and absolutely essential to the preservation of life on planet Earth?
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