In the Beginning was Nothing. The first question that ought to strike wonder in the hearts of all humans is, ‘How did a massive ball of molten rock hurtling through space become transformed, over the last over four and a half billion years, into a staggeringly beautiful planet populated by a fabulous range of Biodiversity? Why is the Earth like it is rather than being something completely different – for example, lifeless like all the other planets in the solar system?
In the Charlton Heston film. ‘The Planet of the Apes’ a space craft crash lands into a lake in the middle of a desert on an unknown planet. The astronauts escape the sinking ship and discover the planet not only has water but a breathable atmosphere and a tolerable climate. They begin to speculate about whether there is any life on the planet and rejoice when they come across the first Flower. The astronauts were making what must have seemed like a couple of straightforward assumptions: firstly, that it is perfectly feasible to have a habitable planet without any life forms and, secondly, that life simply invades an already habitable planet – in Darwinian terms, life adjusts to the prevailing state of the environment. These assumptions are still prevalent in technologically advanced societies – even amongst scientists and environmentalists. Such assumptions contain echoes of ancient religious myths in which god makes a habitable planet and then places various life forms onto this divinely fabricated paradise.
James lovelock, however, has shown these assumptions to be false. It is life which turns an inhospitable planet into a hospitable one. It sounds paradoxical but it is life that makes planets livable. Life doesn’t just adapt to a static, pre-prepared, environment as Darwin suggested, it changes the environment to suit life. So, if Charlton Heston had been a gaian then, as soon as he’d stepped onto this unknown planet and found water, warmth, and oxygen, he could have concluded immediately that there was abundant life on the planet. Anyone watching the film who is drawn into the drama generated by the astronauts speculating about whether there was life on this unknown planet, is living in a pre-lovelockian world.
The Critical Role of Photosynthesis
There is, however, one form of life which has done far more than any other to transform the Earth into its present state – Photosynthesizers. Without Photosynthesis the Earth’s atmosphere would still be dominated by Carbon – just like that on Venus and mars. And the Earth would be far hotter than it is now, “Without life the Earth would have an atmosphere comparable to Venus, with 98% carbon dioxide, 1.9% nitrogen, a trace of oxygen, an atmospheric pressure 60 times that of the living Earth and an average surface temperature between 240C and 340C.”
Without Photosynthesis there would be no life on Earth: there would be no soils, no water, no breathable oxygen, no stratospheric ozone layer, etc – not forgetting the obvious, no food chains. Over the last couple of aeons, Photosynthesis has also been the key factor stabilizing the Earth’s temperature. As a consequence, it is easy to conclude that Photosynthesis is the central component of the Earth’s life support system.
Most scientists continue to argue that geological forces have created the Earth’s habitability. They believe the Earth would have become naturally habitable whether it had life or not. NASA is perhaps the most prestigious scientific institution to express such a view, ‘The earth would still have remained habitable even if it had never been inhabited.” These arguments rest on the simplistic notion that without water there would be no life on Earth. This is true – but it is far from being the whole truth. Lovelock argues that it is life which preserves water on Earth – Photosynthesis releases oxygen into the atmosphere and this prevents hydrogen from escaping the Earth’s orbit. Without life, there would be no oxygen to react with hydrogen and hydrogen would disappear into space leaving behind a desiccated planet.
Gaians accept these scientific truths whilst consumers in the over-industrialized world regard such geophysiological facts of planetary life as the wacky, new age, views of a cult movement. It has to be suggested, however, that lovelock is one of the world’s greatest scientists whose achievements are on a par with Galileo’s discovery that the Earth revolves around the sun. Just as Galileo triggered off a profound cultural revolution, from a geocentric, to a heliocentric, world, so lovelock is triggering a new cultural revolution – a shift from a technocentric, to a biocentric, worldview.
Lovelock’s new science of the Earth, geophysiology, is not merely a wonderful scientific achievement. It is a matter of survival for the human race (hereinafter referred to as oomans i.e. bipeds who have not yet realized they are planetary beings). Geophysiology could help to stop oomans from destroying the Earth’s life support system and show them how to create a sustainable planet. The One sided Conception of Global Burning.
Since 1989 the bulk of the world’s climate scientists have publicly demanded action to combat global burning. They have insisted on major reductions in the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. What they have not done, however, is to demand the Reforestation of the Earth to extract the excess Carbon that has been dumped into the atmosphere during the industrial revolution. It is pointless reducing Carbon emissions without extracting the excess Carbon already in the atmosphere. Environmentalists have followed in scientists’ footsteps and have also dismissed the need for Reforestation – such environmentalists are more accurately described as the ‘greenless greens’.
For the last couple of aeons, Photosynthesizers have helped to stabilize the Earth’s climate. In the modern world, however, oomans are decimating more and more of the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity. This is destabilizing the climate – perhaps just as much as the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The anthropogenic destruction of the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity raises a series of critical questions.
Firstly, is it possible for oomans to reduce the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity? Secondly, if it is possible for oomans to reduce the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity, could they completely destroy it?
Thirdly, even if oomans cannot destroy the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity, could they destroy enough of it to trigger off a global burning disaster, which then destroys so much more of the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity that it poses a threat to oomans’ survival? Fourthly, could oomans’ destroy so much of the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity that they create a global burning disaster that destroys all Photosynthesis on Earth? Fifthly, could oomans cause such extensive damage to the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity that they trigger off a self-perpetuating, global burning disaster that leads to a lifeless planet?
None of these issues have been discussed in environmental circles – this article has been refused publication in various environmental magazines.
The First Photosynthetic Issue
The first Photosynthetic issue is whether it is theoretically feasible for oomans to reduce the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity. Most scientists/environmentalists hold it is not possible. They argue that if a Photosynthesizer is burnt or cut down it will regrow or the nutrients released will stimulate the growth of Photosynthesizers elsewhere. The implication of this view is that Photosynthesis on Earth is constant. This is the ‘bouncy castle’ theory of the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity – oomans can jump up and down on Photosynthesis in one area and it just bounces up elsewhere.
Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to indicate whether oomans are boosting or decreasing Photosynthesis. However, the basic assumption of this article is that oomans are reducing global Photosynthesis. The main evidence for this derives solely from common sense – that oomans have converted one third of the Earth’s land surface, much of it formerly Forested, to pastureland. The Photosynthetic capability of pastureland is insignificant in comparison to that of Forests.
Theoretically, it is quite true that, under normal climatic conditions, most Photosynthesizers, if cut down or burnt, would either regrow or would boost Phytomass elsewhere around the Earth. However, when the destruction of Photosynthesis is so extensive that it adversely changes the climate then the regrowth of Photosynthesis becomes much more difficult.
As far as is known, only the ehrlichs believe it is possible for oomans to reduce global Photosynthesis – they estimate there has been a 13% decrease in recent decades. However, they have never speculated about whether it is possible for oomans to completely destroy the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity. Even lynn margulis, one of the few greens brave enough to suggest that oomans might wipe themselves out, seems to believe oomans cannot destroy the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity, “It is an illuminating peculiarity of evolution that explosive geological events in the past have never lead to the total destruction of the biosphere. Indeed .. extensive catastrophe seems to have immediately preceded major evolutionary innovation. Life on Earth answers threats, injuries, and losses with innovation, growth, and reproduction. The most severe extinctions the world has ever known, at the permo-triassic boundary 245 million years ago, were rapidly followed by the rise of mammals .. The cretaceous catastrophe .. cleared the way for the development of the first primates .. World war two ushered in radar, nuclear weapons, and the electronic age. And the holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki decimated Japanese industry and culture, unwittingly clearing the way for a new beginning in the form of the rising red sun of the Japanese information empire. With each crisis the biosphere seems to take one step backward and two steps forward – the two steps forward being an evolutionary solution that surmounts the boundaries of the original problem. As heartless as it sounds, a human Armageddon might prepare the biosphere for less self-centred forms of living matter.”
The Second Photosynthetic Issue
Assuming it is possible for oomans to reduce Photosynthesis, is it possible for them to eradicate all Photosynthesis on Earth? It has to be suggested that this is highly doubtful. No ooman is ever going to pluck the last Flower and find ever-lasting fame for ending 3 billion years of continuous Photosynthesis on Earth.
The Third Photosynthetic Issue
The third issue is whether oomans could destroy enough of the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity to imperil their own survival. It seems feasible that oomans could damage global Photosynthesis to such an extent that they trigger off a major global burning disaster which destroys even more substantial parts of the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity, thereby further exacerbating global burning. These positive feedback factors could eventually bring about the eradication of the ooman race.
The Fourth Photosynthetic Issue
The fourth issue is whether oomans could destroy so much of the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity that it triggers off a catastrophic global burning disaster that eradicates the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity. Although it is unlikely that oomans could destroy the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity, it is possible they could provoke global burning into doing so.
Gregg Easterbrook dismisses the notion of oomans causing extensive damage to the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity. He believes the damage that oomans are doing is nowhere near as comprehensive as that caused by natural disasters e.g. that which occurred during the last ice age when ice sheets covered much of the Amero-Euro-Asian continents. The fact is, however, that oomans are far more of a threat to the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity than ice ages covering the northern continents! The reason for this is that global Photosynthesis increases during ice ages, but decreases during periods of global burning. During the last ice age, ice sheets covered the northern continents but the decline in sea levels exposed huge areas of land in the tropics which were eventually covered in new Forests. In contrast, oomans are cutting down Forests around the world and boosting global burning which is further decimating the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity. In other words, oomans are causing more damage to the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity than ice sheets over the northern continents and they are destabilizing the climate more than ice ages. Global freezing boosts Photosynthesis whereas constantly increasing global burning will eventually make the Earth too hot for Photosynthesis and for life.
The Fifth Photosynthetic Issue
This leads to the final and most extreme issue: whether oomans could trigger off such a powerful runaway global burning disaster that it would destroy the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity and eradicate all life on Earth. It has to be suggested that this is a real possibility. If the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity is destroyed then the rest of the Earth’s life support system will start to collapse: the oxygen in the atmosphere will decline; hydrogen will escape into space; water will disappear; soils will disappear, etc. If the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity is destroyed, the Earth will not remain as it is now. On the contrary, the Earth will lose its uniqueness and will increasingly resemble its neighbouring planets.
As far as is known, this is the first article to highlight the eschatological issues surrounding oomans’ impacts on the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity. It is the first to suggest that oomans could significantly reduce global Photosynthesis, and trigger off a global burning disaster which destroys more of the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity thereby threatening not only their own survival but the survival of all life on Earth.
There is no scientific proof that oomans could destroy the Earth’s Photosynthetic capacity. There is no scientific proof that oomans could trigger off a perpetual, runaway global burning that could cause such a disaster. There is no scientific proof that oomans could trigger off a global burning disaster which destroys all life on Earth. Indeed, science is not going to furnish proof about any of these issues because planetary disasters would need to happen first to provide the proof about the fate of the Earth. It is only when the Earth is dead that scientists could obtain the proof that oomans are capable of killing the Earth. Whilst there is no proof about these long term developments there is some evidence that these events could occur. Conversely, there is no proof that such events cannot happen. We are dealing here primarily with limited amounts of evidence giving rise to speculations about long term trends. But, if oomans don’t start asking such questions then they aren’t going to get any answers. If they don’t think more about their future then perhaps they won’t have one.
The critical question isn’t really whether oomans will survive or not but how much damage they will cause before they depart -will they leave behind them remnants of life on Earth or render the planet lifeless? Over the course of the Earth’s history there have been five major catastrophes leading to mass extinctions and yet the Earth has managed to recover each time. This might suggest that no matter how destructive oomans are, they could never destroy the Earth. This conclusion is wrong. All of these disasters have brought about periods of global cooling. The Earth can always recover from bouts of global cooling. What oomans are inflicting on the Earth is a global burning disaster. The Earth cannot recover from a severe bout of global burning. For the last four aeons the role of life has been to keep the Earth cool. Oomans are the first species to understand this responsibility but seem to have no interest in bearing such a burden. The reason that oomans are unlikely to survive is because they believe they are (or should be) consumers living in a global supermarket rather than planetary beings with planetary responsibilities.
Photosynthesis is a miracle. It is the essence of the history of the Earth. Without Photosynthesis there would be:-
no Carbon burial,
no Carboniferous rock formations, no chalk, no limestone,
no oxygen in the atmosphere,
no stratospheric ozone layer,
no coal nor oil deposits,
no Plants nor Trees,
no food chains,
no Wildlife habitats,
no stable climate and, indeed,
In sum, no life.
This article is based on Special Publications no.6 (3rd Edition) ‘The Destruction of the Earth’s Photosynthetic Capacity’ posted at http://www.geocities.com/carbonomics/MCsppub/11sp06/
11sp06a_f.htmland Carbonomics X: ‘The Essence of the History of the Earth. The Beginning and End of the Earth’s Life’ posted at http://www.geocities.com/carbonomics/MCcarbon/
The author went to York university and then Hull University where he studied the works of Hannah Arendt. He has since been involved in community work and writes only occasional articles. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from the United Kingdom.