Our Name

earth muralThe name 'Gaia University' was chosen for our un-institution in order to acknowledge the importance of the Gaia Hypothesis generated by British scientist, James Lovelock, with Lynn Margulis, in the 1970's. The hypothesis (and the development of subsequent thinking) is significant both for its content – the Earth as a single, self-regulating system with physical, chemical, biological, and human components – and as a major contradiction to the dominant, reductive scientific way of thinking that is often unwilling to look at 'wholes'. They seem too complex and too unknowable in their entirety to fit with paradigms based on certainty and 'hard evidence'.

Gaia, the name suggested for the hypothesis by William Golding, the British novelist, is thought to be derived from an ancient concept of 'Mother Nature' used by the Mycenaean culture, which itself was derived in part from one of its antecedents, the Minoan culture, which arose as early as 7000 BC. This matters in the Gaia University context as we think of the Minoans as a cultured (indigenous) European society relatively free of the patrix who's history may hold vital clues as to how to reconfigure modern patrix-ridden, ecosocially destructive cultures. 

It is important to us that the Gaia Hypothesis and subsequently developed Gaia Theory are derived from scientific, evidence-based ways of thinking, notwithstanding that many of the mechanisms of planetary self-regulation are yet to be discovered and described. We do not subscribe to the ideology promoted by some new age/old age spiritual/religious thinkers that the Gaia Theory proves that Earth Systems are made purposeful by the directive forces of a supreme being.

A modern (2001) derivative of Gaia Theory developed by the Earth Systems Science Partnership is shown below. Additionally, you can read more here.

  1. beautiful stream sceneThe Earth System behaves as a single, self-regulating system with physical, chemical, biological, and human components. The interactions and feedbacks between the component parts are complex and exhibit multi-scale temporal and spatial variability. The understanding of the natural dynamics of the Earth System has advanced greatly in recent years and provides a sound basis for evaluating the effects and consequences of human-driven change.
  2. Human activities are significantly influencing Earth's environment in many ways in addition to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Anthropogenic changes to Earth's land surface, oceans, coasts and atmosphere and to biological diversity, the water cycle and biogeochemical cycles are clearly identifiable beyond natural variability. They are equal to some of the great forces of nature in their extent and impact. Many are accelerating. Global change is real and is happening now.
  3. Global change cannot be understood in terms of a simple cause-effect paradigm. Human-driven changes cause multiple effects that cascade through the Earth System in complex ways. These effects interact with each other and with local- and regional-scale changes in multidimensional patterns that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to predict.
  4. Earth System dynamics are characterized by critical thresholds and abrupt changes. Human activities could inadvertently trigger such changes with severe consequences for Earth's environment and inhabitants. The Earth System has operated in different states over the last half million years, with abrupt transitions (a decade or less) sometimes occurring between them. Human activities have the potential to switch the Earth System to alternative modes of operation that may prove irreversible and less hospitable to humans and other life. The probability of a human-driven abrupt change in Earth's environment has yet to be quantified but is not negligible.
  5. In terms of some key environmental parameters, the Earth System has moved well outside the range of the natural variability exhibited over the last half million years at least. The nature of changes now occurring simultaneously in the Earth System, their magnitudes and rates of change are unprecedented. The Earth is currently operating in a no-analogue state.