Minggu, 26 Mei 2013

:: Gaia Theory and Catastrophes :: (AidaVyasa, 2007)

Behind the Catastrophes: A Gaian Perspective

Father Father Father help us. Send some guidance from above. Cause people got me questioning. Where is the love?

-“Where is the love?” Song lyrics  By The Black Eyed Pea-

            As we gather in the discussion room talking about religions, ethics, disasters, and its hidden connection, many people out there live in a stressful conditions due to catastrophes and other calamities. I remember the song from The Black Eyed Pea, “What’s wrong with the world mama? People living like aint got no mamas … Nations dropping bombs, chemical gases filling lungs of little ones, with ongoing suffers, the wars going on but the reasons undercover, … where’s the love y’all?” It is kind of questions we questioning many times in many places in this wide world. Let us say the nearest disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake, flooding in Sumatra, the ongoing mud flows in Sidoarjo, East Java, and many conflicts in Indonesia nowadays. Not just in Indonesia, but many places in the world. The ecological crises we are facing now are happening global – if not universal. Moreover, the crises are so huge and not only science or technology but no single government/community would be able to solve them alone. Furthermore, there is a fact that religion has close relationship with environment, and it has their own language with difference system of theology, beliefs, ritual, and ethics. These are premises which had been agreed.  
In his new book, Menuai Bencana, Agus Mustafa questioned why disaster happened upon mankind? And as the list of disasters forced us to interpret the meaning of its coming, it never stops its running. People tend to question the just of God, the problem of evil, and the connection between.
“Kenapa bencana datang beruntun kepada kita? Apa salah kita? Apa dosa kita? Bukankah bangsa ini berpenduduk mayoritas umat Islam? Bukankah dasar Negara kita adalah Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa? Bukankah di sini banyak orang pergi haji, yang setiap tahunnya tidak kurang dari 200 ribu orang?”[1]
Human started to think that God was behind the tsunami, or they blame themselves as a destructor of the Earth, or they think that it’s the way of how the nature works. John Campbell Nelson in his article, Religion and Disaster, emphasized as a matter to human misery whether disaster came from natural causes, human error or political intrigue.[2] Hinduism and Buddhism had karma to explain unpleasant events, while monotheistic religions see things as blessing, punishment, vengeance, or call for repentance. Basically, both myth and religion had similarity in describing wrath and blessing as a form of an angered ancestors, gods, and spirits.
Furthermore, step by step such stories replaced by science and modernity and many events interpreted scientifically. In his book, Magic, Science, and Religion, Malinowski stated that myth and magic has been used as a way to knowing science and religion. For example in the case of earthquake, some myth will explain by the moving of giant animals beneath the earth which shaking the ground and earthquake happened. And for quite sometime after, it replaced by plate tectonics and the idea of judgment day.
By the end of his article, John Campbell Nelson gives comment, “May God bless the millions of survivors of disaster in Indonesia who may well feel they have been cursed”; and this may seem that there are no hidden connection between God, human and nature. In this paper, I will try to describe what catastrophes from Gaian perspective are. This writing has purpose: to interpret disaster, catastrophes, providing a Gaian framework within mankind – the survivors of disasters can seek meaning of unfortunate events they had. But at first, I will give a short explanation about the meaning of Gaia Hypothesis.

What is Gaia?
In popular culture, Gaia is known better in New Age community because this theory is sound so romantic. Many still take the live Earth concept of Gaia as a poetic or spiritual metaphor rather than as a scientific reality. When it was popularized in the late 1970s the response was much varied and interesting. Gaia attracted a few scientific supporters, and many opponents. Gaia drew quasi-religious devotion from some environmentalist and from prophets of New Age ideas. It has been attacked not only for being unscientific, but as antihuman polemics, green politics, industrial apologetics, and even as non-Christian ecological Satanism, a religious cult or a new way of knowing.[3] We can see the description in animation movie, Final Fantasy: the Spirit Within, where this theory has deep impact in the world of science fiction also. And of course a little bit of world religion, especially for indigenous religion and paganism. In this animation movie, there was a nice conversation which described how two scientists see this hypothesis.  
+ “I mean ….”
- “Do you mean the spirit of the Earth?”
+ “Yes, spirit of the Earth.”
- “This is crazy, doctor. With respect, are you coming here to talk about this Gaia theory? And saying that this planet is alive? It has spirit? It’s not fairytale. I’m sorry but we have no time to …”
+ “It’s not just fairytale. This is reality …”
- “Oh …so if I pointed a gun to the Earth and shoot, then I’m not just making hole the Earth, but I kill it also?”
* “Dr. Sid,The Gaia Theory has not proven yet”
And the movie continue with Dr. Sid’s explanation about energy related with Gaia theory.

Gaia is both a religious and a scientific concept. Theology is also a science, but if it is to operate by the same rules as the rest of science, there is no place for creeds or dogma. Lovelock emphasized that theology should not state God’s existence. Like the way he said: ‘What would the universe be like without God?’[4] We will discuss more about God and Gaia later when we discuss about more deep about Gaian perspective over disasters and catastrophes.
Actually, Gaia or Gea (the Roman form), was an earlier name for our planet than Earth. In Greek, our planet has always been called Gaia or Ge, which we see in English such as geology, geometry, and geography. The story of Gaia's dance begins with an image of swirling mist in the black nothingness called Chaos by the ancient. In the myth it is the dancing goddess Gaia, swathed in white veils as she whirls through the darkness. As she becomes visible and her dance grows ever more lively, her body forms itself into mountains and valleys; then sweat pours from her to pool into seas, and finally her flying arms stir up a windy sky she calls Ouranos – stil the Greek word for sky –which she wraps around herself as protector and mate.[5] This is the myth.
In ancient times, belief in a living Earth is the same with belief in living cosmos. Heaven and Earth were close and part of the same body. The invention of telescope and Big Bang had change mankind’s point of view in seeing Universe since the place of God hides behind the magnificent of the theory.[6]
Gaia theory was created by scientist and chemist, Sir James Lovelock, who developed his theories in the 1960s before formally publishing them, first in the New Scientist (February 13th, 1975) and then in the 1979 book, Quest for Gaia. He hypothesized that the living matter of the planet functioned like a single organism and named this self-regulating living system after the Greek goddess, Gaia, using a suggestion of novelist William Golding.[7]
According to Lovelock, Gaia is a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil. He emphasized the importance to make conditions on the planet more hospitable. Lovelock suggested that life on Earth provides a cybernetic, homeostatic feedback system operated automatically and unconsciously by the biota, leading to broad stabilization of global temperature and chemical composition.[8] Here we can see that everything in the Earth is working automatically because of the Earth has her own will to live.
The concept of Gaia is entirely linked with the concept of life. To understand what Gaia is, therefore, we need to explore the concept of life. Lovelock stated that we have lost the instinctive understanding of what life is and of our place within Gaia. He illustrated that life are much in the stage of the drunkard’s walk where it is more like a self-organizing Universe. Gaia is the largest ecosystem. When Lovelock come in his reading about What is Life? By Schrodinger, he realized that planetary life was revealed by the contrast between the near-equilibrium state of the atmosphere of a dead planet and the exuberant disequilibrium of the Earth.[9] To question ‘What is life?’ is certainly needed. Gaia is the largest manifestation of life which made up from four components:[10]
  1. Living organisms that grow vigorously, exploiting any environmental opportunities that open
  2. Organisms that are subject to the rules of Darwinian natural selection: the species of organisms that leave the most progeny survive.
  3. Organisms that affect their physical and chemical environment. Thus animal change the atmosphere by breathing. Plant and alga do the reverse.
  4. The existence of constraints or bounds that establish the limits of life.

Lovelock stressed that Gaia theory has a planetary perspective. The most important is the health of the planet rather than some individual species of organisms. He stated, “The health of the earth is most threatened by major changes in natural ecosystems. Agriculture, forestry, and to a lesser extent fishing are seen as the most serious sources of this kind of damage with the increase of the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane, and several others.”[11]
In one of the chapter of this book, The Ages of Gaia, James Lovelock explained the relationship of God and Gaia – it was merely more talking about himself rather than the subjects – the Gaia Hypothesis.[12]

In his book, The Ages of Gaia, Lovelock stated:
“I am scientist and do not have faith, but neither am I the counterpart of those with faith, an atheist … it takes a lot of hubris to imagine that we can ever reach the limits of our own intelligence; to think that we will ever be able to explain everything about the universe is absurd. For these reasons I am equally discomfort by religious faith and scientific atheism.”[13]

Again he stated:  
“I am happy with the thought that the Universe has properties that make the emergence of life and Gaia inevitable. But I react to the assertion that it was created with this purpose. It might have been; but how the universe and life began are ineffable questions.”[14]

The concept of Earth in Gaian perspective or James Lovelock idea is that Gaia is manageable. He stated that there is no other life in this Solar System, and the nearest star is utterly remote. And to know about the concept is to know about the maker of the concept. Lovelock stated again that in his belief, God rests at the stage of a positive agnosticism.
Gaia can be both spiritual and scientific and deeply satisfying. Gaia is a sentient being, a surrogate God. As a scientist, Lovelock believes that Nature is objective and not predetermined.[15] Here we can see how scientific Gaia is, though some scientist still doubt about it.

Gaian Perspective seeing Catastrophes
Ruether asked such question in her ‘Introduction’ page of her book, God and Gaia: “Are Gaia – the living and sacred earth, and God – the monotheistic deity of the biblical traditions, on speaking terms with each other?”[16] The term Gaia has caught on among those seeking a new ecological spirituality as a religious vision. Gaia is seen as a personified being, an immanent divinity.[17] If we consider Earth as living organism, it means that we consider Earth as God’s creation and she has their own destiny, fate and wills; and of course she ‘worships’ God the Creator also. Then how come mankind – in the name of religion, myth and technology rape her for the sake of their own. If it is the situation, then it has already described in the animation movie, Final Fantasy: the Spirit Within, if a person shoot the Earth with deadly weapon, it will not only making holes, but it also kill it. This illustration can be use to describe the reason why many catastrophes happened.
The catastrophes consist of: population and poverty, food producing for human population, the problem of energy, climate and pollution, forest destructions extinction, and war. From here we see evil things happened to the Earth. The myth has seen world destruction as divine judgment on human evil. Here we can divide that there are two disasters: natural disaster and unnatural one. Earthquakes consider as natural event which happen because the mountains, the land, the Earth is moving. While floods, global warming, dramatically climate change consider as unnatural even which happened because of human. Mankind as the ruler of the Earth has involves in many unnatural disasters in the Earth such as the upcoming issue: global warming. And Gaia sees this as thing to be concerned of by giving positive energy to the Earth and stop the Global Warming by stop doing things that can increase the effect of the green house gases.
Not so many scientists in Indonesia ever speak about Gaia in a scientific forum, though Gaia Hypothesis knows from Capra’s book, The Web of Life which has been translated into Indonesian. Capra in his book speaks about the benefit of knowing Gaia Theory related to understanding about disaster. The theory brought us to understand about the connection between the living planet, the plants, microorganism, animals, rocks, seas, atmosphere, and many other things. For example as it said in Capra’s book that Volcano eruption spread many CO2 and this is very hot. Plants and animal neutralized the air and this can be seen that there is live from the death and lively.
Lovelock idea about pain and suffering:
Third World, and our near-obscene obsession with death, suffering, and pain as if these were evil in themselves – these thoughts divert the mind from our gross and excessive domination of the natural world. Poverty and suffering are not sent; they are the consequences of what we do. Pain and death are normal and natural; we could not long survive without them.[18]

Very interesting, Lovelock mention about ‘catastrophe theory’ or ‘strange attractors’ related with the interest of pathology, mathematic, and religion. In mathematic, attractors are a stable equilibrium state, such as a point at the bottom of a smooth bowl where a ball will always come to rest. Attractors can be lines, planes, or solids as well as points, and are the places where systems tend to settle down to rest. Strange attractors are chaotic regions of fractional dimensions that act like black holes, drawing the solutions of equations to their unknown and singular domains. Phenomena of the natural world – such as weather, disease, and ecosystem failures – are characterized by the presence of these strange attractors in the clockwork of their mathematics, lurking like time bombs as harbingers of instability, cyclical fluctuations, and just plain chaos.[19]
Could it be that pollution is natural? If by pollution we mean the dumping of waste matter there is indeed ample evidence that pollution is as natural to Gaia as is breathing to ourselves and most other animals. I have already referred to what might have been the greatest air pollution disaster to affect our planet, which took place about two aeons ago with the emergence of oxygen as athmospheric gas.[20]
Ancient Near Eastern societies faced many disasters. One particularly great flood that destroyed everything was long remembered in the ancient Near East. The earliest version of this flood story goes back to Sumerian times (c. 3000 B.C.E), preserved in a fragment of a tablet from the library at the city of Nippur. After the great flood, here come the solution. After, for seven days and seven night, the flood had swept over the land, and the huge boat had been tossed about by the windstorms on the great waters, Utu (the sun) came forth, who sheds light on heaven and earth. Ziusudra opened a window on the huge boat. The hero Utu brought his rays into the giant boat. Although the fragmentary nature of the text doesn’t make clear what Ziusudra put in the boat, but he becomes the one through whom human life begins after huge flood.[21]

This kind of flood story has been known in many religions and cultures. And as Ruether stated: “In these stories of yearly drought and death of vegetation, destruction and new creation, death and resurrection, are two sides of the same story. World destruction, through floods, drought, and trampling armies, becomes punishment by God, retribution for failure to obey the laws of one God, who controls nature and history from above.[22]

Our Ecological Fate
In the Gaia Hypothesis, humanity is seen as part of the total, ecological life of the planet and the complex meta-ecological awareness organism is affected by everything living in it. There are strong connection between the creator, the Earth and mankind and all creatures and creation within the Earth. So, no wonder if Gaian people feels like they become one with the Earth and felt hurts when other people hurts the Earth. We can see green people like this in green community such as Gaia Movement or GreenPeace.
Technology, power, economy, science, religion, all human constructions, always wills the good but does the evil. We have so many examples for this. For mankind nowadays, nothing is scared and everything will be consumed. When I saw a documentary film, entitled, Jesus Camp, I was so surprise when Evangelical Christianity stated that it is allowed to consume everything lies on Earth without being scared to have global warming or flood because this world is created and should be consumed until it dropped. And this is wrong because they use religion to defend their action to ruin the Planet Earth, while some other try to prevent the Earth from destruction.
In our social and cultural construction of ‘nature’, humans from the outset of hunting and agriculture, have modified and changed the earth systems themselves, reshaping plants, animals, air, water, and soil. Nature, in the sense of the earth system apart from human influence, is in its own constant process of adaptation and change. Human reshaping of non-human nature is itself a phase of this process of continues adaptation.[23]
“Why have narratives of world destruction played such a large part in religious consciousness? What role does apocalyptic narrative play today, as human face the destructive possibilities of their own power on an unprecedented scale?[24]
Scientific culture no longer has a God that is independent of nature. It cannot expect life force unconnected with the biosphere to intervene and renovate the earth after we have destroyed it. Nor is there another world in the sky to which we can escape. We have no home outside the earth. And so our destruction of this home is permanent destruction of ourselves as well.
Science, philosophy and religion can be a source of environmental ethics. Eastern religions have frequently expressed the goal of harmony with nature. Taoism in China portrays the world as an organic, interconnected system. Every particular being is a manifestation of the Tao, where to achieve a harmonious relationship to the natural world, we must respect it and adjust to its demands.[25]
But it is interesting when Saint Francis expressed eloquently a deep love of the natural world and a sense if union with it. He saw nature as a living whole and all creatures as objects of God’s love. Saint Francis has continued to appeal to the popular imagination, and the order that he founded has passed on both his respect for nature and his dedication to the poor.[26]

Is Earth okay now? Lovelock described that now Gaia is slowly taking revenge unless mankind changes their attitude toward her. And how is that? By giving positive energies to her. The climate change is already insoluble, and Earth is getting weak. The main question which lies between nature, science, and disaster is:  Who was behind the catastrophes? God or humanity? Who was really behind this tragedy? And the answer of the question will answer the question of was it completely ‘natural’ disaster or the way of God tickling human’s behavior? And now, another question: is it social construction? But this paper is not going to answer this question, rather to see the question from Gaian perspective which consider Earth as living organism. And Gaian sees catastrophes as both normal and abnormal things which need mankind to understand this by doing good deed to the Earth.

Barbour, Ian G.. 1993. Ethics in an Age of Technology: The Glifford Lectures 1989-1991 Volume 2. New York: Harper San Francisco
Lovelock, James. 1988. The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of our living earth. New York: W.W. Norton and Company
Lovelock, James. 2000. Gaia: A new Look at life on Earth. (New York: Oxford University Press)
Mustafa, Agus. 2006. Menuai Bencana. Surabaya:Padma.
Ruether, Rosemary Radgord. 1992. God and Gaia: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing. New York: Harper San Francisco
Sahtouris, Elisabet. Earth Dance: Living Systems in Evolution. copyright © 1999 http://www.ratical.org/LifeWeb/Erthdnce/erthdnce.html last visited (21 January 2003).
Turney, John. 2003. Lovelock and Gaia: Signs of Life. New York: Colombia University Press

[1] Agus Mustofa. 2006. Menuai Bencana. (Surabaya: Padma)., pp. 12.
[2] John Campbell-Nelson, “Religion and Disaster” in ICRS-Yogya Conference: The Problem and Promise of Inter-Religious Studies (a paper), p. 2.
[3] John Turney. 2003. Lovelock and Gaia: Signs of Life (New York: Colombia University Press)., pp. 4.
[4] James Lovelock. 1988. The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of our living earth. New York: W.W. Norton and Company., pp. 194.
[5] Elisabet Sahtouris. EARTHDANCE: Living Systems in Evolution. copyright © 1999 by Elisabet Sahtouris. http://www.ratical.org/LifeWeb/Erthdnce/erthdnce.html (21 January 2003).
[6] James Lovelock. 1988. The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of our living earth. New York: W.W. Norton and Company., pp. 196.
[7] Wikipedia (February 11th, 2007)
[8] Wikipedia (February 11th, 2007)
[9] James Lovelock. 1988. The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of our living earth. New York: W.W. Norton and Company., pp. 202.
[10] Ibid., pp. 37-39.
[11] Ibid., pp. xix
[12] Ibid., pp. 191.
[13] Ibid., pp. 193.
[14] Ibid., pp. 193.
[15] Ibid., pp. 204-205.
[16] Rosemary Radgord Ruether. 1992. God and Gaia: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing. (New York: Harper San Francisco)., pp. 1
[17] Ibid., pp. 4
[18] James Lovelock. 1988. The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of our living earth. New York: W.W. Norton and Company., pp. 198.
[19] Ibid., pp. 206
[20] Ibid., pp. 101-102.
[21] Rosemary Radgord Ruether. 1992. God and Gaia: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing. (New York: Harper San Francisco)., pp. 61-62.
[22] Ibid., pp. 64
[23] Ibid., pp. 5-6.
[24] Ibid., pp. 61.
[25] Ian G. Barbour. 1993. Ethics in an Age of Technology: The Glifford Lectures 1989-1991 Volume 2 (New York: Harper San Francisco)., pp. 72.
[26] Ibid., pp. 75. 

2 komentar:

  1. mba, dalam teori evolusi. jika albino melakukan similasi dg non albino. maka albino akan hilang. menurut mba aida, berapa lama lagi albino akan lenyap di bumi ini? :))
    dan saat itulah menurut saya sbg puncak peradaban, setelah itu kita akan mengalami kemunduran peradaban. krn hitler tlh gagal melindungi ras arya. :))

    1. masih lama :)

      *kok ya kepikiran sampai sejauh itu ya, kalau tidak Luchman siapa lagi...^^