Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gaia’s Revenge

Since the middle of the 19th century when Charles Darwin published his theories of evolution, science has believed that life evolved through the, “survival of the fittest”. That is to say; with different life-forms competing against each other and most successful surviving and thriving, while the unsuccessful becoming extinct. This concept has been taken to the extreme through; “The Selfish Gene” theories of Richard Dawkins. He claims that the whole of life is basically selfish, and implies that the only purpose to life is to pass on your genes to the next generation. Which is a depressing thought.

The biggest flaw in this theory, that scientists don’t address, is that a truly successful species of animal, or any other life form, that overcome all it’s competitors will become extinct itself. This is because, if through evolutionary selection, say, a very successful carnivorous animal was created, that was so much faster, manoeuvrable and more powerful than any of its prey, then it would be doomed. Simply because it would soon kill and eat all the animals it preyed on, making them extinct and then because it has nothing to eat, it in turn will also become extinct.

One of the most successful life-forms in the ‘survival of the fittest’ is bacteria. This is because it can change and evolve far quicker than any other life-form, which doctors and research scientists have found to their cost. They might successfully produce a drug that can wipe out a dangerous bacteria, but always a few survive and they mutate to create a strain of bacteria, that is immune to the anti-bacteria drugs created. Now it has been calculated that if a single bacteria divides and repeats that division every twenty minutes, providing it has unlimited food and no other constraints on growth, within two days, the total offspring of the original bacteria, would weigh a much as the planet. Which begs the question; why hasn’t something like this happened? If bacteria can mutate faster than any other life form, why hasn’t a strain of bacteria been produced that was so successful, it overcome all other life-forms and became the only life-form on the planet?

This has very much been the human experience. Human being are very good at destroying it’s competitors in the ‘survival of the species’ game and making other animals, fish, plants and insects extinct. For instance; hunters with rifles in the 19th century quickly made animals like Tasmania Tiger in Australia, and the Passenger Pigeon in USA extinct. Since then, in the 20th century large numbers of wildlife has become extinct or is in danger of extinction because of over hunting or destruction of the animals habitat. At the present time there are about 5,000 species of animals and more than 25,000 species of plants facing extinction. It has only been the efforts of environmentalists that has saved many of these species, but we don’t know for how long. Some of these are already poised on the brink of completely disappearing and may well be beyond all hope of salvation now, whatever attempts might be made to save them.

We can say human beings are very, very successful playing the ‘survival of the fittest” game. Human beings are now the dominant species on the planet, and are increasing at such a high rate, that there is great fear of overpopulation. So that if human beings continue to breed, the planet in time will not be able to produce enough food to feed the growing human population. Not only that, human beings through their success, are in danger of destroying the Planet they live on. It means human beings might become extinct through being too successful.

If we accept the “selfish gene” theory then this is what will happen. Human beings are driven to compete with each other to pass on their genes. So it would be ‘natural’ for us to wipe out all competitors, that is to say all other animals and plants. (Which is what we are doing now). Then when we have successfully become the only species of life on the planet, we ourselves will become extinct because we will have nothing to feed on. Though perhaps we can save ourselves by resorting to cannibalism, the stronger feeding on the weaker. Is this nightmarish world, all we have to look forward to?

Well, no, because not only are we successfully destroying other animals and plants, we are also destroying the biosphere of the planet through pollution, and creating global warming. As the earth warms up, the population explosion will be successfully solved as large areas of the planet will become uninhabitable, through famine or floods. The whole of civilization might be destroyed, so the survivors will find themselves living again, a Stone-age existence.

So is that our destiny? For us to destroy ourselves or our civilization? This is clearly what will happen if we continue the way we are going. Yet things may not be so grim as we might think they are. We might be doing a vast amounts of damage to our planet but it seems that the planet is more than capable of looking after itself. We might be able to survive if we, change our attitudes and work with the planet and not against it.

The evolutionary theory of Darwin has been interpreted in a very competitive and masculine way. So the whole theory was seen by male scientists in terms of, “survival of the fittest”, “nature red in tooth and claw”, and more recently, “the selfish gene”. This all suggests that evolution is only about competition, but is it? What is totally forgotten is that survival also depends on co-operation as well. This is well- known by those whom create aquariums. If you pick species of fish to put into a aquarium that are very fierce and competitive, what will happen is that you will end up with just one large fish. This fish will be the winner, as it has eaten up all the other fish. On the other hand, if you are careful in how you pick your species of fish, in a way that each species will be able to feed of the waste of other species, this will result in a self-sustaining environment. And this is what we find on our planet, before humans interfered with the wild-life, we find in nature, self-sustaining environments where all the forms of life feed off each other. This means, that nature is not only about brutal competition, it is also about co-operation, stability and self-regulation.

Male scientists have unfortunately interpreted Darwin’s theory of evolution in very masculine terms, believing it to be only about competition. Yet there is another way to look at evolution and that is through feminine eyes. This has been done successfully by a male scientist called James Lovelock.

Mystics have for centuries claimed we are all one mind, one spirit. This concept has never caught on as it seems to go against all our personal experiences of competition and conflict with others. So is seen by ordinary people as to be a unrealistic fantasy. Then a scientist called James Lovelock developed a scientific theory that claimed the whole of life on this Earth is simply one organism! Which at first sight seem incredible, but his theory answers many mysteries about the nature of life.

Back in the 1960s James Lovelock was employed by NASA to find ways a space craft, could discover if there was life on Mars. So he started by examining the atmosphere of Mars to see it that would give a clue to signs of life. To understand this better he decided to examine the atmosphere of Earth and compared it with Mars. What he discovered was that the atmosphere on Mars was very stable and inert. Unlike Earth which has an unstable and dynamic atmosphere, because life itself was continually changing the gases within it. With life taking out of the atmosphere and again expelling, the gases Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide and Methane. He then realised that you don’t have to send a space craft to Mars to find out if it had life. You could do it by simply by examining it’s atmosphere, which is not what his bosses in NASA wanted to hear. They needed a reason to convince politicians to fund a space mission to Mars. This resulted in him and NASA parting company, but he continued to develop his ideas further, as his studies of the Earth’s atmosphere presented him with a number of scientific puzzles.

Every school child knows that there is a cycle where animals convert oxygen into carbon dioxide while plants convert carbon dioxide back into oxygen once again, to again be breathed in by animals. But Lovelock took this concept even further. He looked at a mystery that no one had addressed, and that was although life began 3 - 4 billion years ago, the sun 3 billion years ago was 30% colder, than today and has since been steadily heating up. Yet at the same time, the temperature of the Earth has changed very little in that time, it has always stayed a stable temperature to support life. So how has that happened?

The answer seems to be that 3 billion years ago the Earth’s atmosphere was mostly carbon dioxide so even though the sun was cooler, the CO2 created a greenhouse effect and so keeping the temperature the same as it is today. Since then the levels of carbon dioxide have slowly fallen, as the sun heated up, to keep the temperature of the Earth stable, but that wasn’t the whole story.

Then Lovelock went on to ask a further question. How was it possible for the carbon dioxide to decrease over a period of 3-4 billion years AT EXACTLY THE SAME RATE THE SUN WAS WARMING UP, to keep a constant temperature. This is a real a problem, when you realise that by just making the Earth a few degrees colder can bring on a ice-age. Also it only needs 10 degree increase or decrease in the earth’s temperature to make the vast majority of life on the planet extinct. So how has the Earth kept in the very narrow range of temperatures to make life on Earth possible? There was no answer to this, and to say it was just a lucky fluke was stretching credibility a bit too far. To add to this problem, the Earth has in it’s time been hit by large asteroids, as well as experiencing super-volcanoes. These events have been so terrible, that they have covered the atmosphere with so much dust, that it has blocked the heat of the sun and brought on new ice-ages. Yet in spite of these dramatic events, life on our planet has always recovered.

Then Lovelock came across other amazing coincidences. At present 21% of the atmosphere is oxygen. Now oxygen is a very dangerous and volatile gas. If it was to increase to 25% (only 4% higher) and a fire was to start, through a lightening strike, it would be impossible to put it out. Even green and wet vegetation will continue to burn, causing all vegetation on the earth to quickly burn up. Yet lower levels of oxygen would seriously effect the energy efficiency of animals. This means the oxygen levels on the Earth are about the most effective we need for life, without it increasing to a dangerous level. Yet life is continually taking oxygen out of the atmosphere and putting it back again. So how does life get it so right? In that it doesn’t take too much oxygen out of the atmosphere thereby reducing the efficiency of animal respiration, or get it too high and create a world wide disaster. What is more, life has been able to do this delicate balancing act for billions of years.

Though it is even more complex than this. Through the examination of ancient rocks it was discovered that in the Carboniferous age 300 million years ago, there was 35% oxygen in the atmosphere, which caused problems, because now did the vegetation of the time survive? Then it was discovered that there was probably far more nitrogen in the atmosphere then. This makes a big difference, as flammability depends on the proportion between oxygen and nitrogen. So it is possible to have more oxygen in the atmosphere if you also have more nitrogen as well. This means that since the Carboniferous age life has been taking nitrogen out of the atmosphere to use as fertiliser in the soil, but then it has to take oxygen out as well to keep the oxygen/nitrogen balance just right.

Lovelock realised that as it was life itself producing both carbon dioxide and oxygen and it was life that was regulating temperature and oxygen levels of the Earth. Within the parameters to make life on earth possible. He was to find many more coincidences like this. Life also needs a chemical balanced world that is neither too acid or too alkaline. Which is what we find on Earth, unlike both Venus and Mars which have environments that are too acid to support life. It seems that Earth has many forms of micro organisms that are working away to keep our world chemically neutral.

He presented all his ideas in a scientific meeting about the origins of life but his ideas went down like a lead balloon. Only two scientists took a interest in his ideas, one being Lynn Margulis who had a background in Life science and was able to later help him to present and develop his ideas even further.

It took about 20 years for the scientific community to take his ideas seriously. (After all only theories that nature is very savage, brutal and selfish make sense. The idea that all life works in harmony, is the stuff of fairy tales) Over time the evidence piled up in favour of Lovelock, so many scientists are now very reluctantly, accepting his hypothesis, though he still gets his detractors, and guess who is one of his biggest critic? It is not a surprise to learn it is Richard Dawkins. A man who tries to prove that life is basically selfish, is not going to be sympathetic to any idea that the whole of life is one organism.

Though Dawkins himself even admits that many species of animal do co-operate with each other for their mutual benefit. Like the aphids who live in ants nests; the aphids get the benefit of being protected by the ants while the ants milk the aphids for food. Yet in discussing life that help each other, he prefers to see it in terms of manipulation. He would rather use the word “bearers” instead of “carers” when writing about animals who care for the young. Hinting perhaps that bearers are suckers or losers. While the idea that any form of life could possibly give or help others because they love and care for them, is completely ignored. Even though it is well documented, that mother animals and human mothers who have cared for and looked after young who don’t carry their genes.

Another criticism of the Gaia hypothesis is that there is no very large brain laying around the place, directing life and telling it what to do. Yet this problem is the same we have about social insects like Ants, Termites and Bees. They live in complex societies with different insects having very different roles, (like workers, queens, drones and soldiers). Yet what makes these nests and hives work is a mystery because these insects have minuscule brains and no obvious leader. (the queen is seen as the leader, but her role in directing what goes on in the nest is still a mystery). The Gaia hypothesis just treats the whole of life on this planet as a far bigger and more complex version of a bee hive. With different species of animals, plants and micro-organisms all having different roles in keeping the planet going. This is similar to the concepts of the Collective Unconscious that was put forward by the psychologist Carl Jung. Who discovered that the unconscious minds of his patients were remarkably similar. This means, we don’t have to have an enormous brain lying around somewhere, to make the Gaia theory work. The whole of life can be the brain and intelligence of the planet.

Dawkins has also been a strong critic of creationists, and Lovelock was surprised to have him use the same arguments against the Gaia theory. Which is interesting, because although the Gaia theory has been adopted by New-Agers, creationists haven’t used it. Probably because of it’s name. Had Lovelock named it after a male god it might of gained acceptance by creationists. The name Gaia came from this friend, the author William Golding who named it after the ancient Greek earth Goddess Gaia.

In recent years, except for the USA government under Present Bush, the whole world, has woken up to the dangers of global warming. In James Lovelock’s new book, “The Revenge Of Gaia”, he points out that through our meddling we have inadvertently declared war on Gaia, and this is a war we cannot win. If Gaia has managed to survive for 3-4 billion years and survived asteroid strikes and super volcanoes, she can survive and fight back, against the meddling of a naked ape. The problem we might have, is that the way she might stop this meddling is to make the human race extinct. James Lovelock now wishes that he had called his theory Khali or Nemesis as the nature of these two mythical Goddesses fit the theory far better. Both Goddesses are motherly and nurturing, but ruthlessly cruel towards transgressors, even when they are her own children. Suggesting that although we are children of Gaia, this may not stop her from destroying us, if we are threatening all other life on Earth.

As he points out; the problem we have is although we are now aware of the dangers of global warming, very little is being done to rectify the situation. The biggest polluting country on the planet is the USA, yet the government of this country refuses to recognize global warming. Yet other countries are not doing much better. He regards the Kyoto agreement as nothing more that public relations exercise. Where he claims, most of the countries have got together to pretend to be seen doing something about global warming, but the effects on global warming through this agreement, have been so weak, that it is nearly useless.

He attacks the global warming policies of the British Government, and the European union as being too little too late. Britain and Europe in recent years have built thousands of large windmills to generate electricity, but again he seem to regard this as just a political stunt. Putting large windmills all over the country-side does give the impression to the public, that the government is at least doing something. But he points out that windmills are only going to produce a small percentage of our energy needs and they are a unreliable way of generating electricity. This is because they only work when the wind blows, so it means the national grid has to generate electricity in other ways when it is not windy.

Far more power could be generated through using wave-power, tide power or putting large turbines in the oceans to make use of ocean currents. Yet hardly anything has been done to finance these options.

Europe has also gone over to natural gas to fuel power stations, claiming that it gives off far less pollution than coal or oil. Lovelock dispute this; he points out that natural gas is methane, which is 24 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. The problem is that most natural gas in Europe how comes from Russia, which needs extremely long pip-lines to pump it all the way from Siberia to Britain. Long pipelines cause leakages, and when the amount of methane that goes into the atmosphere through leakages is calculated, it turns out that natural gas causes the same amount of global warming as burning coal.

Although Lovelock is trying to warn the world of the dangers of global warming his solutions are very different to those into Green politics. Lovelock is clearly not a Green and is critical of the person who started the Green movement, Rachael Carson. As a young scientist he worked in the chemical industry on the chemicals she criticized. So he started his career as an opponent of Rachael Carson and everything she stood for. Which means, he is not in anyway a Green idealist and we can see this in his attitude towards nuclear energy. Lovelock is very controversial, because he claims that we now have the technology to generate electricity without causing global warming, if we were to use nuclear power. Which the Greens are very much opposed to.

The whole nuclear industry got itself a very bad name with the Chernobyl accident and since then, hardly any nuclear power-plants have been built throughout the world. Yet he claims that nuclear power is far less dangerous than the public is led to believe. He blames the media, who for the sake of creating sensational stories to sell newspapers, have over dramatised the dangers of nuclear radiation. He also attacks the Greens as well, whom were once part of the ban-the-bomb campaign during the cold war, and had generated a lot of anti-nuclear propaganda, to try and force governments to ban nuclear weapons and now believe their own propaganda and see anything to do with nuclear power as ‘bad’. The biggest fear of using nuclear power-plants is another big accident like that of Chernobyl, but Lovelock believes these fears are unfounded.

The greatest fear we all have about nuclear radiation is that exposure to it will cause cancers. He points out that since the Second World War very large amounts of nuclear radiation have been pumped out into the atmosphere. Two Atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, in 1946, in the 1950s, USA, Russia, Britain and France exploded hundreds of nuclear devices in the atmosphere until there was a test ban in the 1960s. At the nuclear power-station at Windscale in Britain, there was a nuclear accident and cloud of radiation covered the whole of Britain. (Something successfully covered up by the British government at the time). Then there was the Three Mile Island accident in USA, and finally the accident at Chernobyl. Yet he claims there has been no significant rise in cancer rates, when people were exposed to all this nuclear radiation. The biggest problem in trying to make sense of the data. Cancers can take a long time to develop, and there is no way of knowing if a cancer developed because of exposure to radiation or for some other reason. He goes on to point out, that the people who have worked in the nuclear industry, are no more unhealthy than the rest of the population.

He then makes the point, that the biggest causes of cancers are carcinogens which are found in natural foods, and oxygen. What is not well-known is that although we need to breath oxygen to survive, oxygen is also a poison. When our bodies convert oxygen into carbon-dioxide to give the body energy, toxic by-products are created that damage the cells of our bodies. Some of these damaged cells then can end up becoming cancerous. (Oxygen also oxidises the fat in our bodies, this oxidised fat around blood-vessels can swell up constricting the blood vessels, and cause strokes and heart attacks, if the constricted blood vessels stops the passageway of clots in the blood). The body counters the damaging effect of oxygen through antioxidants. These are chemicals found in fresh fruit and vegetables. (Some people also take vitamin pills as a protection against the damaging effect of oxygen, but benefits of vitamin pills are disputed, and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for eating fruit and vegetables).

This means the biggest causes of cancer is not nuclear radiation, in spite of the amount that has been exposed to atmosphere over the years, but oxygen in which we have no choice but to breath. Lovelock goes on to point out that the fumes that come from coal, oil and petrol are also carcinogenic, yet we don’t get anywhere need the fuss made about these pollutants, like we do with nuclear radiation. He then finishes his argument by pointing out that, using fossil fuels is destroying the planet and we need to urgently change our ways. Nuclear power is a technology that is ready available to us and we should be using that now.

He claims we urgently need to do this because Gaia could be dying. As pointed out earlier the sun is slowing heating up, and life counteracts this by taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The problem is now carbon dioxide is down to just 0.03% of the atmosphere. So the planet will not be able to take much more CO2 out the atmosphere if the sun continues to warm up. The threat of overheating the planet wasn’t as dangerous in the past as it is now, simply because the sun wasn’t as warm in the past. So to counter the effects of the increasing heat from the sun, Gaia has had to use other methods of cooling the planet besides taking greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. One of the methods has been the creation of ice-ages.

In the last ice-age, ice and snow covered the whole of Canada, most of Europe and Northern Asia. Ice flows also covered the Northern Pacific and the Atlantic and covered a wider area around the Antarctic. Now, it seems that ice and snow are as nearly as good at reflecting heat as a mirror, so having vast areas of ice and snow enabled the planet to reflect a large amount heat from the sun back into space. Now this is very serious, because already through global warming we are seeing all the ice-flows around the Antarctic melting away, and the ice in the Artic ocean disappearing every summer. This means; another way Gaia keeps the planet cool is rapidly disappearing.

Another problem is that under the ice in northern countries are ice-covered peat bogs, full of frozen methane gas. As pointed out earlier; methane is 24 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, so when these bogs become unfrozen, they will release vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

Warming the oceans with the melting of the ice on the Antarctic continent and Greenland will bring about big rise in sea-level, flooding large cities and towns round our coasts. But there is an even bigger problem if the oceans warm up. When we think of deserts we tend to think of deserts on land like the vast Sahara desert. Yet there is deserts in the ocean as well. People very much like tropical seas and oceans because the water is so blue and clear, but what is not realised is that the reason the water is so clear is because it is devoid of life. Life in the water, like life on the land breaths in oxygen, but the amount of oxygen that can mix in water depends on it’s temperature. The colder the water, the more oxygen can be mixed in it, as it becomes warmer the oxygen level drop, this means that the colder waters near the poles can support far greater densities of life than tropical seas and oceans. This is why oceans and seas in colder latitudes are not clear, but are brown or grey, because they are full of microscopic life that can live in the oxygen rich water. Now this microscopic life are even more important in taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, than the forests of the world. All of life is made of carbon, in the oceans when any life form dies it is quickly eaten up, but not all of it. A lot of it still escapes being eaten and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. In the cold depths of the ocean the carbon is preserved and becomes part of the ocean silt. This means that life in the oceans is continually taking carbon out of circulation and trapping at the bottom of the ocean. So if the oceans were to warm up the desert areas of the oceans were to greatly increase, there will be less life in which to take carbon out of the atmosphere. Another problem would be that if the oceans gets warmer it will release both carbon dioxide and methane trapped in the ocean silt. Adding to our the increasing greenhouse gases.

What this all suggests is that Gaia is in crises, and human beings have two choices we can be part of the solution and help Gaia to overcome the immediate problem. Or we can be the problem itself, where Gaia will have no choice but to destroy the whole of human kind because we are, without realising it, doing our best to destroy her.

Now it seems that with modern technology there is a lot we can do to help Gaia. One proposal is to create giant sun shades in space. Above our atmosphere, between the sun and Earth there is a place called the Lagrange point. This is where the gravitational pull of the Earth and sun are even and cancel each other out. In this area giant discs can be placed which will could reflect back some of the heat of the sun coming to the Earth and help cool our planet. It seems that this is not some fanciful dream, we have the technology to do this now, if we have the will to do it. A less high-tech way to achieve the same result, would be to launch millions of balloons into the stratosphere made of reflective material. Again these balloons will be reflecting sunlight back into space before it reaches the earth, and so cooling the planet. Lovelock also pointed out that sulphur occurs in aviation fuel, but is taken out as it will cause acid rain. But if it was left in, and aircraft dump the sulphur in the stratosphere, it greatly add to ‘global dimming’ and help to cool our planet down.

Another proposal would be to extract carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. The problem then would be what to do with it. Already people have taken carbon dioxide from power-stations and tried dumping it in the ocean but it was discovered that carbon dioxide increases the acidity of sea-water and could damage life in the oceans. The Norwegians have already pumped carbon dioxide into exhausted gas fields, and this could be a short term solution, of pumping this gas into exhausted oil and coal fields as well, but there is no guarantee that the gas will not escape at a later date. Although carbon dioxide is not a poisonous gas, it can still kill people, an escaping dense cloud can drown people, as they will be unable to breath oxygen inside the cloud. A solution to this is to react carbon dioxide with serpentine powder and the resulting product would be magnesium carbonate. This is a hard solid and can be used as a building material. So factories all over the world could make magnesium carbonate and greatly reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Food also can be made out of carbon-dioxide. This is what all animals and plants do. Already we have the technology to do this, but it is doubtful if the general public will accept food made in a factory rather than grown on the land. But if we were to do this, farm land can be used to plant trees to soak up more carbon-dioxide. Another advantage of this, is that many of the animals and plants facing extinction today because the increasing use of farm land, that is destroying their habitat. If we were to make food in factories instead of growing it, all the animals and plants on the verge of extinction can be saved and earth can go back to being what it was, before human beings invented agriculture.

There are also vast areas of the earth that have been deforest and trees can be replanted there. There is problems of shortages of water in places like the Sahara desert and Australia, but now with modern technology it is possible to extract salt from sea-water. So if this was done on a massive scale, the deserts of the world can be irrigated with desalinised sea-water and forests can be grown again in these places. Trapping carbon inside the trunks of the trees, and the trees can be cut down to be used as building material and new trees planted in their place.

So we are not helpless, there is a lot of things we can do to save the planet. We have the technology, the engineering skills and the resource to do this. What we don’t seem to have, is the political will to do it. Lovelock has already pointed out, the mistakes politicians and scientists have made already.

In the 1970s Norway and Sweden were discovering that their trees were dying and the wildlife in their lakes and rivers declining. They quickly discovered the cause was acid rain, but the problem was; where was it coming from? It was soon decided that the United Kingdom was the cause of this. At the time the UK produced most of it’s electricity through burning coal and sulphur fumes coming out of the power-stations was mixing with clouds and turning the moisture in the clouds, acid. The UK government accepted blame and agreed to put sulphur removing devices on their power-station smoke stacks. The trouble was this didn’t solve the problem, it was then discovered that sulphur pollution was also coming from Germany, the USSR and from other Scandinavian countries. Sulphur was also coming from the North Sea as the run-off from intensive farming was polluting the sea with fertilizer and this was greatly encouraging the growth of algae which in turn was giving off sulphur gas. (This in itself would be helping Gaia because algae is a plant and uses carbon dioxide so we should be encouraging the growth of algae).

Then as the dangers of acid rain became known the European Union they introduced legislation to ensure all emissions from power-stations were filtered out. Now on the face of it, this was a very good thing but doing this had an unexpected side effect. Since this then the European continent has got dramatically warmer. It seems that the sulphur pollution in the atmosphere was causing what is called, ‘global dimming’. The sulphur haze right across Europe was reflecting sunlight back into space and keeping the ground underneath the haze several degrees cooler. Which is something no one predicted.

This then is the problem, we simply don’t know enough to know how the planet will react to increasing carbon dioxide emissions. For instance, with global warming it is predicted that evaporation from the oceans will greatly increase. This will create more clouds and in theory more clouds will shade the ground and cool it, but it is not as easy as that. It seems that water vapour is also a greenhouse gas. So clouds can have the effect of either reflecting sunlight back into space, or trapping heat under them, depending how high or thick they are. So there is no way of knowing if increasing cloud cover will cool or heat the planet or have no effect on its temperature.

There are also things we cannot know. Volcanoes have the effect of cooling the Earth, simply because they throw up millions of tons of dust and particles into the stratosphere. These particles can travel right around the globe, shading the Earth from the sun’s rays and cooling it down. In extreme cases, super volcanoes have thrown so much debris into the atmosphere they have started off ice-ages. Human beings are able to do the same thing if they want to, simply by exploding large numbers of nuclear bombs just above the ground. During the cold-war scientists worked out that if we did have a nuclear war, so much debris will be blown into the stratosphere it would create what they called a ‘nuclear winter’. So it means we do have a ‘instant fix’ if the earth suddenly warmed up too rapidly. Not necessary to have a nuclear war, but explode a large number of nuclear bombs in unpopulated places on the earth. There will be fears about the amount of radiation in the atmosphere but we have to remember that this happened in the 1950s, where the USSR and USA had a competition about who could explode the biggest nuclear bomb. They were using Hydrogen bombs which uses fusion rather than fission nuclear power. Without going into details, fission nuclear explosions give off radiation whereas fusion nuclear explosions don’t. Though a fission nuclear explosion is needed to cause fusion in hydrogen, so a H bomb will give off some radiation, but not the same amount as a old style Atomic bombs. (This is similar to using dynamite, where a small explosion using gunpowder is need to set the dynamite off.)

Lovelock seems to be very pessimistic about our chances, predicting the end of civilization and human beings going back to the Stone-age with just a few survivors living in the arctic regions. He seems to have very little confidence that the politicians will have the will or wisdom to do anything until it is too late. He doesn’t even have much confidence in environmentalist whom he regards as being wrong headed in their proposed solutions. While the public are being totally mislead about the true dangers and what needs to be done.

As Lovelock points out our rain-forests are the lungs of the planet, yet they are being cut down at the frightening rate of 50 acres per minute; and the probable loss of approximately 800 square miles of wild habitat each day to human needs. There are international laws against the destruction of the rain-forests but they are being totally ignored by the people in those areas, through illegal logging. Now illegal logging is very hard to do in secret, you cannot cut down large trees and transport them in large trucks to saw mills, without everyone in the area knowing about this. Yet it is happening and it happens because of wide-spread corruption, a lot of people can make a lot of money from selling the wood from these trees. Also rain-forests are being cleared in places like Borneo to grow palm-oil, which is being use extensively in super-market produces in the West.

In Brazil rain-forests are being cut down for cattle grazing, to feed the growing burger industry. Unfortunately, cattle grazing is one of the most inefficient methods of producing food. It requires from 4 to 10 times more cultivated fields to grow cereals and vegetables than to graze cattle. We even have the crazy situation where poor countries with starving populations, will export corn to rich nations to feed up live-stock! Not only that, cattle are a major contributor of methane gas, which is one of the most potent of all greenhouse gases. So eating burgers is a major waste of the planets resources and greatly contributes to the greenhouse effect, but the vast majority of people who are burger eaters, would be unaware of this.

One of the biggest causes of global warming is overpopulation. As the population grows more food needs to be grown which means more trees being cut down The human population of Earth reached 1 billion in 1804, 2 billion in 1927, 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion in 1974 and 5 billion in late 1986. On October 12th 1999, the human population of Earth reached 6 billion. Today it is 6,034,213,000 and rising.

Recently, many people claim the population problem has been solved. In India and China the two most populated areas in the world, had to use very draconian laws to keep the population down. In India they even forcibly sterilized women, while in China, couples are restricted to only one child. An unfortunate by-product of these laws is that both countries have a culture, that makes having a son necessity. As the result, female foetus are being aborted or baby girls are being murdered. And now a generation on, both countries have too many men and not enough women. This could spark a population crash in the next few generations as there will be too few women to produce children.

In many third world countries the population is being restricted by the Malthus theory. Thomas Malthus in 1798 pointed out that left unrestricted, human populations would grow until they became too large to be supported by the food available. At this point the population would be limited by famine and warfare, as people starve or fight over food. This is exactly what is happening in Africa today. In places like the Sudan; war and genocide is killing millions of people as men fight over scarce food recourses.

So we can see how the world population problem is being solved. Draconian laws are restricting population growth in India and China and war, genocide, disease and famine are restricting population growth in Africa. The problem is with these ‘solutions’ is that they cause horrendous suffering to the population. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envisage the suffering of a African family living in a famine area. As the parents watch their children die of starvation, thirst or disease caused by drinking contaminated water, or the fear of militias or a warlord coming into their village to steal or kill everyone simply because the villagers belong to a different ethnic group. Or we can look at the fate of Chinese men who now have little chance of ever getting married because there are too few women in the country. Or the fate of Chinese women who have been kidnapped and forced to live with a man she doesn’t know. This is because in China today, people pay criminal gangs to kidnap women for them to marry.

Yet there is a far more humane solution the world’s population explosion, and that is to give women equal rights. Europe up to the 20th century also had problems of overpopulation, but then women began to demand equal rights, and this was to have a dramatic effect on population size. Up until 20th century, the Church had strict rules about the use of contraception and abortion. It was also a rule that a wife could not refuse to have sex with her husband, and by law a husband had a legal right to rape his wife, if he so wished. The result was that women didn’t have control over their own bodies and found themselves forced to produce children every year, whether they wanted them or not.

Then as women became empowered in the 20th century they began to use birth-control methods and found they had the right to decide how many children as they wanted. This was even true in strongly Roman Catholic countries like Italy and Ireland where women were willing to defy the Church’s teachings on birth control. The result was that most women restricted themselves to about 2-3 children and the population stabilised and even went down in some countries. Which goes totally against the “selfish gene” theory, because women when given the choice, don’t want to keep on breeding to pass on as many of their genes to the next generation.

This then begs the question; why did the Christian and Islamic religions make such crazy laws that force women to have children every year and cause a population explosion? Some people put this down to Church dogma but in the USSR a atheist state, they also greatly encouraged women to have more children and even gave them medals for the amount of children they produced. So what is going on? Why do male dominated countries want women to produce lots of children? It seems this has to do with power. A country or a religion that has it’s population increasing every year will greatly outnumber a country or religion that is keeping a stable population. This means that countries that force Women to breed every year will quickly outnumber countries that don’t do this. This gives these countries a greater manpower, which is very useful in times of war. The drawback is that the increase growth in numbers means that it is harder for a country to feed all its citizens and condemns many to a life of poverty and starvation. Also now with a overpopulated world we are destroying our environment. But that doesn’t seem to be a concern to the religions and countries who create these laws and customs.

Back in the 19th century Swedish scientists worked out what would happen if industry kept on pumping out carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and predicted this would create a greenhouse effect and warm up our planet. Yet this was completely ignored. Then in the 1950s scientists produced scientific instruments that could measure the amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere and could measure it increasing and showed direct evidence this was happening because of industry, but again this was ignored.

Then in the 1980s and 90s there has been increasing evidence of global warming as scientists can now show how the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting. Yet the USA government, the biggest polluter in the world is still not convince. Other governments of the world are convinced but still do very little about it. So why?

To understand this we have to look the mentality of male rulers and industrial leaders.

Because men are competitive then what motivates them is being winners, ‘The Number One”. So to male rulers the important thing is to gain or keep power. In democratic countries it means that what happens in the next election is all important. So he knows that to restrict the use of motor cars or aeroplanes, because of the pollutions they give off, would loose him votes. If he is a dictator then the main focus would be making sure he is not assassinated or any other alpha-men will not challenge him for power. So all male leaders will be so caught up in their power games, that global warming will not figure very importantly in their priorities.

The same is true of the industries that pollute our planet. As businessman say; “it is the bottom line that counts”. In the competitive world of business, businessmen know when they are doing better than their competitors when they generate larger profits than them. So in their list of priorities, profits count for far more than the survival of the planet.

This means that governments are only going to do something about global warming if it is going to win them votes. While industry will only change their technology and production methods if it is going to be profitable. Saving the planet it seems are not high on their list of priorities. What many scientists and industrialist claim is that technology and industry has got us into this mess but it will this that will get us out and solve the problem. And to be fair there is some truth in this. Cleaner technology in producing power without carbon dioxide is what could save the planet, but as usual, the motivation is not there.

The fact is that our male political and industrial leaders just don’t care enough to do anything about global warming until it is too late. This is because trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions doesn’t evoke the competitive instincts of men.

If on the other hands our world was in danger of say colliding with a asteroid or comet, then male leaders would become very motivate because you would have the excitement of sending out a nuclear missiles to blow it up. Though unfortunately scientist have discovered that the best way to deal with a asteroid heading for our planet, would be to land a rocket on it and use its engines to slightly change it course. Which is very boring solution, compared with the option of sending nuclear weapons out to blast it, out of the sky.

Likewise there is no excitement, competition or profit in just reducing pollution. The military cannot go out and make war against pollution, it cannot just blast the CO2 out of the atmosphere with guns! While industry doesn’t make a profit in reducing CO2 emissions. And as yet, politicians don’t get votes cleaning up our biosphere, so where is the motivation? The fact that greenhouse gasses could warm up our planet to the degree of destroy most of the life on our planet, it seems, is not motivation enough. It would need female leadership to care about the planet and the life on it to do something about this before it is too late.

Female leadership would be highly motivated, to do something about global warning, simply because Women don’t only think about themselves, they care deeply about the lives of their children and grandchildren. So they would be very concerned about what the world will be like in 50 or 100 years time.

As pointed out earlier the sun is slowing heating up, and life counteracts this by taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The problem is now carbon dioxide is down to just 0.03% of the atmosphere. So the planet will not be able to take much more CO2 out the atmosphere if the sun continues to warm up. So the strategy of using carbon dioxide as a means of regulating the temperature of the earth is coming to a end, as there is only a small amount of this gas left. This means life has to devise a new system in which to do this. So perhaps the creation of a clever monkey like humans with hands that can manipulate the environment, is part of this new strategy. Hopefully we will in time produce technology that can keep our planet cool, as the sun heats up. Or we can transport life from our planet to others planets or moons or even other stars with planetary systems. Admittedly at present we are not doing well, in that we are heating up the planet through industrial pollution. Yet even this may be part of the plan. In that an environmental catastrophe caused by global warming may make us human being realise the importance of looking after the planet. We now have the technological power to destroy the Earth which we might do through thoughtless and irresponsible action. Because we still have a attitude of wanting to plunder and exploit the environment for our selfish gain.

It is clear that while men continue to rule our world, they will do little to help and protect Gaia, simply because the alpha-males who rule our world have a really poor track record for taking responsibility for the world they live in. Gaia can only be saved through Women taking over the world and working with Gaia to save our planet.