James Lovelock, the creator of the Gaia hypothesis, passed away on his 103rd birthday, due to the complications of a bad fall that took place last January. At his age he was still used to strolling through the Dorset countryside, one of the most beautiful parts of the south of the UK, not far from Exeter.
Lovelock was a scientist figure who has rarely been seen in history since Galileo Galilei. Prepared, very intelligent, observer, the champion of independent thought, which he carried forward with decision and great competence, even when he was almost mocked by many for his theories: that of Gaia in particular, who sees the Earth as a complex and reactive organism. , and not like a billiard ball made for our use and consumption that revolves around the sun.
The Theory of Gaia
Gaia in particular, which today is not only accepted as a theory but is practiced in all laboratories dealing with the environment, represented a fundamental turning point in the conception of man’s place in nature, less and less lord and master and more and more guest who must to show great consideration to the house that was given to him. But it doesn’t seem to do so given the results.
The Earth, for Lovelock, is not here for us, but we are just one of the many organisms that interact with each other and with the environment, forming a community that must self-regulate. He was a chemist by training and this allowed him to work, still in the 70s of the last century, with Nasa, which began the exploration of the planets of the solar system. It was his studies on the Martian atmosphere, static, practically immobile in the composition, which convinced him that there could be no life on the Red Planet, but above all they made him reason on the fact that the atmosphere of our Earth, with its incessant becoming and changing , could be considered as a gigantic chemical reactor in which different organisms continuously participate in the equilibrium of the planet.
Gaia was born, the hypothesis that at that time was even looked upon with disdain and almost with a mockery. Lovelock worked on this until the end, with alternating peaks of optimism and, especially in the last period, of pessimism. The Gaia Theory, developed together with Pentagon scientist Dian Hitchcock and US biologist Lynn Margulis, has allowed us to understand in a new and more meaningful way the interaction between our life, our activity and the atmosphere.