Gaia and all that 1009

I have been trying for the last few days to discover a coherent logic towards my feelings on man’s relationship with his environment.  This is proving not to be simple.

The process started when I heard on World Service radio a gentleman from the International Panel on Climate Change discussing their latest report.  As you know, I tend to accept the established opinion on climate change, and rather take the view that if all our industrial activity were not affecting the atmosphere, that would be strange.

But what struck me was that the gentleman said that a pause in warming for the last fifteen years was not significant, as fifteen years was a blip in processes that last over millennia.

Well, that would certainly be very true if you are considering natural climate change.  But we are not – we are considering man-made climate change.  In terms of the period in which the scale of man’s industrial activity has been having a significant impact on the environment, surely fifteen years is a pretty important percentage of that period?  Especially as you might naturally imagine the process to be cumulative – fifteen years at the start when nothing much happened would be more explicable.

Having tucked away that doubt, I started to try to think deeper.  Man is, of course, himself a part of nature.  Anything man does on this planet is natural to this planet.  I do not take the view man should not change his environment – otherwise I should not be sitting in a house.  The question is rather, are we inadvertently making changes to the environment to our own long term detriment?

That rejection of what you might call the Gaia principle – that the environmental status quo is an end in itself – has ramifications.  It is hard to conceptualise our relationship with gases or soil, but easier in terms of animals.  I am not a vegetarian – I am quite happy that we farm and eat cattle, for example – and you might argue that the cattle are pretty successful themselves, symbiotic survivors of a kind.  Do I think other species have a value in themselves?  Is there any harm in killing off a species of insect, other than the fact that biodiversity may be reduced in ways that remove potential future advantages to man, or there may be knock on consequences we know not of that damage man somehow?  I am not quite sure, but in general I seem in practice to take the view that exploitation of other species and substantial distortion of prior ecological balance to suit men’s needs is fine, so presumably the odd extinction is fine too, unless it damages man long term.

I strongly disapprove of hurting animals for sport, and want to see them have the best quality of life possible, preferably wild.  But I like to eat and wear them.  I am not quite sure why it is OK to wear animal skin on our feet or carry it as a bag, but not to wear “fur”.  What is the difference, other than that leather has had the hair systematically rubbed off as part of the process of making it?  A trivial issue, but one that obviously relates to the deeper questions.

Yes I draw a distinction between animals which are intelligent and those which are not.  I would not eat whale or dolphin.  But this does not seem entirely logical – animal intelligence and sensibility is evidently a continuum.  Many animals mourn, for example.  The BBC World Service radio (my main contact with the outside world at present – I have just today found my very, very weak internet connection just about works if I try it  at 5am) informed me a couple of days ago that orang-utans have the ability to think forward and tell others where they will be the next day.  Why cattle and fish are daft enough to eat is hard to justify.

I quite appreciate the disbenefits to man of radically changing his environment, even if it could be done without long term risk to his existence – the loss of beauty, of connection to seasons and forms of behaviour with which we evolved.  But I regard those as important only as losses to man, not because nature is important intrinsically.  In short, if I thought higher seas, no polar bears and no glaciers would not hurt man particularly, I don’t suppose I would have much to say against it.  I fear the potential repercussions are too dangerous to man.  At base, I don’t actually care about a polar bear.





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1,009 thoughts on “Gaia and all that

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  • Daniel Rich

    I’m a vegetarian, which is very luxurious choice, because, when it comes to survival, I’ll eat you.

    No idea why this thought/idea always leaves so many people in shock and horror.

  • Techno

    I remember when I first heard the theory of global warming in the early 1990s that I found it very plausible.

    What has changed my mind is the suspicion that there is an agenda behind it. I am particularly suspicious of “carbon trading”. The carbon trading system was designed by Ken Lay of Enron, which sets the alarm bells ringing instantly, and it has reportedly been shut down several times due to large scale fraud.

    I now regard global warming as a scam that is being exploited by both the “left” (communists who want to extend state power and create a global socialist government) and by the “right” (big business that sees it as an opportunity to make money).

  • moonrakin

    Unfortunately the evidence with which an informed assessment of the situation is being tampered with and misrepresented.

    Talking of Gaia – James Lovelock isn’t getting much airtime of late – can’t just be that he’s getting on a bit – more that he’s not actually an acolyte and has the integrity to modify his opinion based on actual evidence rather than just whoop along with that supposed consensus

  • Mary

    B.Liar too Techno.

    Tony Blair takes time out from JP Morgan sinecure to shill for global warming
    No ‘serious person’ should doubt man behind climate change, says Tony Blair
    No serious-minded person could possibly doubt that climate change is manmade, Tony Blair has claimed, as several influential figures move to head off fresh doubts about the integrity of the science behind global warming.
    Why I do not buy carbon offsets
    July 24, 2008 by Robert Kyriakides
    I do not buy carbon offsets. The carbon offset is now big business. Plenty of people are being offered carbon offsets when they book air travel. In a moment of environmental concern many people do sign up. I do not recommend that you do buy a carbon offset . These are my reasons. We do not really understand […]
    The great persuader and climate change policies
    March 19, 2008 by Robert Kyriakides
    Someone who consults for JP Morgan Chase and Co and also for the Zurich Insurance Group is trying to persuade countries like China to drastically cut their carbon emissions. You may ask what JP Morgan Chase & Co and the Zurich Insurance Group have done themselves to cut carbon emissions; the answer is not very […]

  • Rose

    Isn’t fear of potential repercussions to man while not caring what happens to polar bears to ignore the connection there is between all living things? The view that Man is somehow at the top of the evolutionary scale strikes me as arrogant.

  • nobody

    Hullo Craig,

    I would critique this as a directionless piece lacking any fundamental underlying philosophical principle apart from ‘I don’t care about this and I sort of care about that’, except for the fact that what stands as the premise is entirely moot: the ice is currently at record levels, the sea levels are exactly as they always were, and polar bears are in no danger of dying from anything apart from old age.

    In terms of what’s causing global warming, between us and the sun one of these two things if very, very, very, very, very big. And it’s not us.

    That being said, if I was a banker keen to usurp national sovereignty and institute a one-world currency and thus effectively control the world by way of a global monetary policy I’d say ‘carbon trading’ was a brilliant idea! Three Cheers! Bravo! And long may I reign!

    If I was a banker that is. If I wasn’t a banker I’d tell them to fuck off and stop insulting my intelligence.

    But each to his own of course…

  • Tholo

    @Techno: Antropogenic climate change is real. That is as much a scientific fact as can be.

    Now, what about these Enron & Co.? They’ve been fighting the realisation of the consequences of oil exploitation for decades (“climate change is just a theory”, “it’s a scam”, “oil keeps growing underground so there won’t be a peak oil”, …); now that the evidence is becoming incontrovertible even for them, they try to make the most of it. They have even started advertising global warming as a good thing (“we’ll be able to drill the pole”, “we’ll colonise Siberia”, etc.). Them exploiting financial instruments linked to global warming is just going to happen; that is what they do. Hell, it’s probably one of the less nefarious things they do.

    Because they are so powerful and have so much liquidities, large oil companies like are in position of benefiting of any situation, no matter what happens. They do have their preferences, as some scenarios will benefit them more than others; but they will end up making money in any case. Hence, oil companies making money out of wind farms, solar panels and nuclear plants is not a sufficient sign to proclaim that these are bad avenues to explore. The only thing that would not benefit these societies are major accounting failure (like Lehman Brothers or Enron); strong regulation, consistently and globally (dream on…); or the utter collapse of civilisation.

    Big oil is coming to the position of the tobacco industry, who have began arguing that tobacco killing off people benefits society because there will be fewer pensions and medical bills to pay them. Are you going to start doubting the nefarious health effects of cigarettes because of these arguments? Same line on climate change.

  • Rob Royston

    Why is the Arctic ice suddenly melting but the Antarctic is not? It’s man made all right. Since I first read about HAARP I am convinced that the mad Banksters are doing it on purpose. All that oil and gas to be extracted and transported to hungry markets. There’s no way that the greedy maniacs could resist such a vast money making scheme.

  • fedup

    Thanks for this article Craig. The last thread has as some gems of transactions between those who “believe” in “Global Warming” and I along with the rest of the sceptics. The argument is all about “science” (just what science? is not the issue). This current con was designed way back by Enron (dealing on climate) and by the most clever boys in the room (see where did, that lot end up?)! Further the dog and pony show in the UN has concluded that the only hope for humanity is to be found in the financial markets. If this does not start ringing the alarm bells then we might as well be eaten by some other species because we are patently too dumb too!

    The simplicity of the thermometer in hand and taking readings and then extrapolating the data into future, and when our readings do not make any sense rejecting the readings itself and going back to the “trends” is a suspect fucking preaching of a new age dogma. The simplicity of the arguments forwarded by the mendacious misanthropes, is further exacerbated by their admittance; “we only have data for the last two/three hundred years”. This is of course based on the fact that thermometer was invented then, and before that instead of the anemometers, and thermometers, there was the good old wet finger to determine the direction and the wind chill factors!

    The fact is, why there is such a fearmongeing and for whose benefit is it? This no longer is the matter for debate. The pitiful compliance of the conditioned pavlov dogs, is evidently the model for the current avant garde of the hate, loathing and fucking phobia. These are more preoccupied by their solipsist preoccupation with the “global warming”, than any real science or hints of such.

    As I have already gone on record, this con is designed as an anti competitive measure to hold back the evolution of any economic competitors to challenge the dominance of the current batch of ne’er-do-wells.

  • Briar

    I’m sorry to see so much mixing of the political and the scientific here. No doubt big business is doing its best to make as much profit as always – by creating the sceptical atmosphere in which it can continue the exploitation of fossil fuels while raking in as much from carbon trading as possible. You can buy almost anything with money, including a lot of people prepared to make the five per of doubt concerning global warming look like 100 per cent doubt. Remember the tobacco industry’s efforts to rubbish the link between smoking and lung cancer? PR lies like the devil. But the facts are harder to lie about, if people are prepared to do the hard work of looking at them. And if you do that you find that, for example, the misused words “pause” and “hiatus” have been slipped into the discussion because they give the impression that global warming has stopped. Yes, folks, no global warming since 1998 (despite the fact that we’ve had a string of “hottest years ever” since then). The trouble is that there has been – this “hiatus” is meant to denote a slowing down of the rate of warming, not a cessation. Sure, the scientists thought it would speed up, not slow down. Seeking for the reasons why it has happened has greatly enhanced their understanding of what is going on. They know, for instance, that the sea is a great heat reservoir. Well, they always knew it was, just not that this would affect the rate of warming. Surprise. It does. Doubtless the models (models are not predictions – they are efforts to “model” how things happening now will shape up in the future, educated guesses) are now much more refined and closer to the truth as a result. The experience seems to have convinced more researchers and produced a rise in the degree of confidence that scientists have in the results – up to 95 per cent. Pretty good, in times when the underhand and dishonest, the politically motivated, efforts of the sceptics have seemed to be dominant in the discussion.

  • Daniel Rich

    This rock started its life without us and will end it life without us. We are no more than passengers on a lump in a solar system, flying 100K mp/h through the vastness of space, so I enjoy every moment of it [mainly because we’ll all be dead so damn long]. Money truly corrupts everything it touches. How come none of the greedy banksters that drove the entire world economy into the ground [2008 ad onward] are behind bars? This rock can withstand the most horrendous impacts of ABWLMs and doesn’t need our help. It’s like a person lying down in front of a truck ‘because all the little calf inside have to be treated humane…, on their way to the slaughterhouse…’ and afterwards wolfs down a hamburger. A friend who did research on Antarctica said that they clearly could see the changes in production of copper, bronze and steel over the centuries, because of the residue they found which had been locked in the snow/ice for so many years. I just wonder, why do I hear so very little about Global Dimming?

  • Phil


    Yeah you keep banging on about how fucking stupid every cunt is who pissing disagrees with your shitting confused bollocking anger.

    All I can glean from your nonsense is that you think the system is rigged against the poor and so the threat of global warming must be a scam.

    Have you got anything else to say? If so please explain your point rather than rage at the stupidity of others.

  • Je

    Your article Craig illustrates how many things are lumped together as environmentalism/conservation. There is the really important thing – climate change which could kill billions. Then there’s the preservation of the polar bear, the Panda, the Ruddy Duck, or the great crested newt. Or not building on greenfield. Or keeping the parks clean. Which are by comparison totally and utterly utterly utterly trivial and unimportant.

  • Villager

    “But I regard those as important only as losses to man,not because nature is important intrinsically.

    28 Sep, 2013 – 8:39 am
    “Isn’t fear of potential repercussions to man while not caring what happens to polar bears to ignore the connection there is between all living things? The view that Man is somehow at the top of the evolutionary scale strikes me as arrogant.”

    Add plain ignorant too.

    “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
    ― Albert Einstein

    and another:

    ““Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

  • Runner 77

    I think the problem with Craig’s argument starts with the notion that “Man is, of course, himself a part of nature”.

    Yes – we evolved as part of nature; but the explosion of symbolic abilities and, especially, symbolic systems is a gateway event that has turned against natural evolution, so that industrialism is now firmly in charge, exploiting the world, destroying ecosystems, and programming humans to further its interests. Children are ‘educated’ to replace their embodied awareness of nature and other creatures by a cooler, detached understanding of their place in food chains and biological taxonomies; so it’s hardly surprising that Craig and many others don’t care about polar bears. A wide awareness of the natural world is replaced by consciousness’s detailed focus on particular issues – often those emphasised by advertisers and the propagandists of the mainstream media.

    Humans may have started out as using symbolic powers; but in industrial society, humanity’s dog is being wagged by the tail of ideological, and especially economic, systems. Thus the notion that “man is a part of nature”, and therefore that anything we do is ‘natural’, is a superficiality that is often used to deflect awareness of the destructiveness of industrialism.

  • gyges

    What puzzles me about the global warming thesis is the inherent contradiction of the Gaia theory.

    Gaia tells us that life on earth is a self correcting mechanism that, via feedback loops and such, regulates the environment so that it sustains life on the planet. In other words, if the planet warms, water vapour and hence precipitation will increase; greater precipitation (that is, snow at the poles) leads to thicker ice caps since they don’t retreat as far back in summer. Also, larger surface areas of ice caps reflect more heat etc …

    I found this post,, very interesting; both from a data analysis perspective but also from the point of view of the irrationality of some of the commentators. Very weird.

    Lastly, the nail in the ‘climate science’ coffin for me was the way the quantity surveyor at UEA behaved with respect to the freedom of information request of his emails and what was found when they were hacked. What did they say in Amory v Delamirie? Everything is presumed against a destroyer of evidence.

  • John Goss

    I do care about polar bears. I care about them in the same way I care for other carnivores like lions or crocodiles – with respect. I would not approach any of these species. They can be very dangerous. For me the argument boils down to privilege. We are privileged to have commandeered the planet and turned its resources to our advantage. We are the single biggest polluters of the planet, and I believe that the upper-atmosphere tests in the sixties, carried out by Billy McCormac (a freemason) and his team, are responsible for the depletion of the ozone-layer. (As a spin-off let me just mention that Billy McCormac junior, a friend of Karl Rove, is one of the advisers through the Prime PR company to the Swedish government responsible for issuing an arrest-warrant for Julian Assange).

    Like Craig I speak out for the disadvantaged and underprivileged in human society and against the bald eagles, other hawks and slaughterers. To me there is no difference between a dolphin and a buffalo (a kind of cow). Cattle in the world today are treated as factors of production when they are actually sentient beings. It hurts when the calves, mostly bullocks are sent to the slaughter-house so that we can drink their mother’s milk. They can smell the death in front of them and know their turn is coming. They try to escape but are fenced in. They shit themselves. They have no voice in parliament and no blogs to fight their corner.

    In the east the butcher or slaughterer is considered the lowest of the low. We use the words as a parallel to those who commit human genocide. So the question I ask meat-eaters, because I have asked it of myself, is would you be prepared to do the slaughtering yourself? Could you look a cow in its big brown eyes and at the same time slit its throat and watch the life drain out of those eyes? It was the question Barnes Wallace asked himself, and why he became a vegetarian.

  • Jay

    Nature has made man in his-Gods alikeness to garden the planet and create a world not destroy it,
    Carbon credits given to the individual not the corporations would reduce our overall consumption.

    As consumers we are guilty as accused for the over production of unneccersay manufaturing.

    What do any of us as egalitarian individuals actuallly do to offset our Carbon consumption?

    Nice one Craig.. I fear your Polar Bear is a comparison of western culture.

    As the Panda is the Idol of WWF they are struggling to rejuvinate it’s species.
    What is the next symbol for destruction!

  • Mary

    Rose. What you say is very true. Anyway when we have gone, the insects and lower life forms will probably still be around.


    I read this on DV this morning. Interesting that the writer expected the NY market involving fossil fuel stocks to crash on release of the IPCC report but they did not. The balls are kept up in the air somehow.

    Wall Street to Planet Earth: We Don’t Mind and You Don’t Matter
    by Chris Williams / September 27th, 2013

    He is a prolific author on the subject of climate change.

    Chris Williams is a long-time environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis (Haymarket, 2011). He is chair of the science dept at Packer Collegiate Institute and adjunct professor at Pace University in the Dept of Chemistry and Physical Science

  • nevermind, its in the public interest to prosecute Ian dale for GBH

    The only conclusion I’m getting from the scientists and this article is that we cannot trust mankind to solve its unsustainable impact on earth.
    No more to be said really, now lets see how many carbon trading issues and chem trail reports we can highlight here.

    I’m appalled that the BBC and other MSM media outfits have transmitted Ian Dales violence against a man and his dog, excessively and on a loop and that he has got away with a caution.

    How come that the public interest is a twitter, at least, a stretchy bit of rubber you can pull this and that way. It might have been in the interest of Lord Brown to stifle public resolve against his plans to pollute our rivers and more, by having Ms. Lucas charged, but it is not in the same public interest to have the violent outbursts on TV, for all to see, of some wannabe publisher prosecuted.

    Oh shit, I have just added to global warming, again…
    does that mean I do not care about our impact on this world?

  • Observer

    At a triple satellite scientifically measured average annual increase of 3.2mm per year, the sea level at San Francisco Bay may be expected to increase by 32cm (about the length of a 13in cock) in ONE HUNDRED YEARS time. Not enough to drown the Maldives or cause the slightest concern to the mortgage lenders or Al Gore in purchasing his sea front property there. QED.

  • Passerby

    Craig, agreed with your points. Evidently the forces of conservatism are now bent on fighting the nature itself, in keeping it a constant. Fact that this planet has undergone many changes, and continues to do so, have no bearing on the thinking of those bent on preservation of the status quo.


    Runner 77 said;

    Humans may have started out as using symbolic powers; but in industrial society, humanity’s dog is being wagged by the tail of ideological, and especially economic, systems. Thus the notion that “man is a part of nature”, and therefore that anything we do is ‘natural’, is a superficiality that is often used to deflect awareness of the destructiveness of industrialism.

    1- Human beings are a natural species living on this planet. Thus whatever they do is also natural to them, regardless of how it may be interpreted. If the latter was not the case, nature would have ceased to sustain the anomaly and the abhorrent blip. As it has done so to many other species. Destruction is part of the nature’s cycle, and despite our wishes, Earth is a dynamic planet, it moves, heaves, rotates, and travels.

    1.a- Earth is not a closed system, it is a part of a bigger system, and the greater systems dictates as to how it should behave. The flexing of the crust (that is ground you and I are residing on), despite our inability to determine and discern (astral bodies exerting such forces). This combined with the rotational moments of the fluid core, that is regulated by the solid inner core (we hope), is giving rise to the birth of new crust (mountains, hills, and islands ) as well as the destruction of the old crust (valleys and depressions).

    2- Destructive industrialism is war and the industries associated; armed forces, security, secret services, war tools manufacturing, war services providers, and war mongers. To consider the use of the term “fossil fuel” without the associated power matrix of this product is a wilful neglect of the glaring facts; he who controls the oil taps plays the tune!

    2.b- Thus, if you wish to stop using the energy derived from this fuel, that is your choice, however you cannot impose your will on the rest of the humanity.

    Je said;

    There is the really important thing – climate change which could kill billions.

    As it stands, this eventual outcome will take many thousands of years, however a more pressing matter would be a dying distant star going supernova, and emitting xray pulses, that would fry all living organism on this planet with in a matter of seconds. How do you propose Carbon Trading or for that matter any other financial instrument would address this eventuality?

    Are we playing what if scenarios, then could we consider;

    1- What if magnetic poles flip?
    2- What if ISON is about to hit the Earth?
    3- What if the organisms from the vicinity of black smokers adapt to living in our environment? (the only know poison that kills all is sulphur, alas these organisms thrive on the stuff).
    4- What if, we encounter a black hole as our solar system is traversing the universe?

    There are even greater dangers, however just to illustrate the point. This kind of “science” is akin to the teenage angst, very real for the individual experiencing it. Alas, but a mole hill for any other observer.


    Daniel Rich, You sound a balanced and self aware individual, who is not suffering from the species dysmorphmis. (sorry Fedup for stealing your term) syndrome.

  • A Node


    Craig has said he has doubts about climate change. Are you going to call him “an ignorant climate denier who scoffs at the entire notion of science”?

  • Passerby

    A Node, a very well constructed question!

    Needless to point out, “deniers” are clearly in denial of being deniers, and so they will never even know they are deniers. Impeccable logic applied and interpolated. Although there is always the awl test and or ducking stool trial, if not then some more smoke will not be harming the environment as the deniers are tied to the stakes, and set to burn in the wood pile.

  • Runner 77

    1. “Humans are a natural species living on this planet”.
    Well, that certainly how we started off; but today we mostly inhabit symbolic systems and the manufactured infrastructure derived from these. Not many industrialised humans could survive in a truly natural environment. And I suspect that nature WILL at some point destroy the ‘anomaly’. Google Jared Diamond, Easter Island for an excellent parable of why this may well occur . .

    To say that “destruction is part of the Earth’s cycle” is glossing over major differences between natural destruction and the role of industrialism. Cosmic events aside, natural destruction tends to destroy individuals rather than species, with very few exceptions. And by maintaining the health of ecosystems, natural destruction often turns out to be CONSTRUCTIVE (Sorry – italics and other forms of emphasis don’t seem to work on this website) at more fundamental levels. The same cannot be said for e.g. tar sands mining, widespread deforestation, and the extinction of multiple species. We should not interpret the fact that SOME TYPES OF change are intrinsic to nature as a licence to destroy anything that’s not industrially useful.

    1a. I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make here; but I’d certainly agree that the Earth is part of larger systems. That doesn’t mean that whatever industrial society does is OK. The analogy between industrialism and cancer is an alarmingly close one, as John McMurtry has argued very plausibly.

    2. I agree that the arms industry represents industrialism at its most obviously destructive. And the links between war and the oil industry are clear for all to see. That does not mean, however, that ALL uses of oil are immoral, or that we should live in an entirely preindustrial way. Although there’s no clear dividing line between the immoral and the moral uses of oil, that doesn’t mean that there can be no distinction. By analogy, there’s no clear dividing line between night and day; but I don’t think you’d argue that night is the same as day . . .

  • Moniker

    How could we be anything but ‘natural’? Has anyone ever managed to come up with a definition of ‘unnatural’? We’re a product of, and a part of, this planet. I like the tree analogy. Trees only make sense if you regard each branch as a community because they all shoot off and lead different kinds of lives. As do all the groups of everythings on this planet. We’ve evolved to do a lot of stuff via emotion and intellect so what’s ‘natural’ for us is to do what seems right to us. Trouble is, we’ve got an intra-species battle going on because a small group within us (homo very richius) are doing their level best to mislead the rest of us into harming ourselves and all the other branches with a wonky idea of what seems right, and why.

  • glenn_uk

    Without doubt, this is the most disappointing article Craig has written to date. My old grandfather advised that if you’ve got nothing to say, then don’t say it. This article would have been an excellent opportunity to put that advice into practice.

  • A Node


    So is Craig “an ignorant climate denier who scoffs at the entire notion of science”?

    …and if not why not?

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