Mother Nature and Her Discontents: Gaia as a Metaphor for Environmental Sustainability

By Spencer S. Stober.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

“Go forth and multiply” should not be justification to rape and pillage Gaia. To the ancient Greeks, Gaia was the goddess of Mother Earth and she came to life in modern times as the Gaia hypothesis proposed by James Lovelock with microbiologist Lynn Margulis. At first, the Gaia Hypothesis became a subject of ridicule in the scientific community because the evolution of global self-regulation was too teleological; and from a biological perspective, natural selection acts on organisms, not the biosphere. But by the late 1980s, supporting models and mechanisms accumulated and the hypothesis became theory. Time has demonstrated to us that the Gaia hypothesis may have been ahead of its time, but during that time a personified Gaia has caused us to reflect on our place on “living Earth.” This paper discusses the value of Gaia as a metaphor for a “living Earth.” Gaia’s discontents are revealed to us through the effects of global warming and thus we should consider her status as a moral object worthy of our consideration. Some of us seek to understand a nature that we believe was created strictly by natural processes, while others of us seek to understand Nature as it is revealed to us through Creation. It is essential that we all work together to consider how the “living Earth” should be treated and judge our actions carefully.

Keywords: Gaia, Gaia Hypothesis, Environmental Ethics, Nature, Sustainability

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.37-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.166MB).

Dr. Spencer S. Stober

Associate Professor and Ph.D. Program Director, Graduate Studies, Alvernia College, Reading, PA, USA

Dr. Spencer S. Stober is an Associate Professor and Director of the Ph.D. program at Alvernia College in Reading, Pennsylvania. He has taught Biology for 30 years including undergraduate course in Genetics, Botany and Environmental Science. Since earning his Ed.D. at Temple University, with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, he teaches graduate courses in education and leadership. In 2005 he received Alvernia’s Christian R. & Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Stober has also served in a number of key administrative positions at Alvernia College, including Department Chairperson, Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Dean of Graduate and Continuing Studies. His research interests include the intersection between religion and science, and environmental sustainability. He often travels internationally with students to places such as Costa Rica, Galapagos Islands, and the Dominican Republic. He regularly presents at the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (USA) and the International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability (2006 in Vietnam, 2007 in India, and 2008 in Malaysia). At a local level, Dr. Stober is engaged in development of an environmental education center and regional planning. He also serves as Vice President of the Adamstown Borough Council (PA, USA).

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