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Is the earth a living organism? angeladreams/Flickr

by, Ian Enting

Professorial Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematics and Statistics of Complex Systems at University of Melbourne

James Lovelock’s “Gaia hypothesis” has challenged conventional thinking about the nature of the earth as an integrated system. Gaia proposes that the earth acts like a living organism — that life is part of a self-regulating system, manipulating the physical and chemical environment to maintain the planet as a suitable home for life itself. Lovelock has developed this idea in a series of books, from “Gaia: A new look at life on earth” (1979) through to “Revenge of Gaia” (2006) and “The Vanishing Face of Gaia” (2009). He argues that as changes in the physical earth system occur, living systems respond so as to mitigate such changes. Read the full article

This article is based on a lecture delivered in April 2009 as part of The University of Melbourne series of public lectures on Key Thinkers.