a world on the scale we do is as foolish as it would be to consider our brains supreme and the cells of other organs expendable. Would we mine our livers for nutrients for some short-term benefit?

Because we are city dwellers, we are obsessed with human problems. Even environmentalists seem more concerned about the loss of a year or so of life expectation through cancer than they are about the degradation of the natural world by deforestation or greenhouse gases—something that could cause the death of our grandchildren. We are so alienated from the world of nature that few of us can name the wild flowers and insects of our locality or notice the rapidity of their extinction.

Gaia works from an act of an individual organism that develops into global altruism. It involves action at a personal level. You well may ask, So what can I do? When seeking to act personally in favor of Gaia through moderation, I find it helpful to think of the three deadly Cs: combustion, cattle, and chain saws. There must be many others.

One thing you could do, and it is no more than an example, is to eat less beef. If you do this, and if the clinicians are right, then it could be for the personal benefit of your health; at the same time, it might reduce the pressures on the forests of the humid tropics.

To be selfish is human and natural. But if we chose to be selfish in the right way, then life can be rich yet still consistent with a world fit for our grandchildren as well as those of our partners in Gaia.


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Holland, H.D. 1984. The Chemical Evolution of the Atmosphere and the Oceans. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. 656 pp.

Lovelock, J.E. 1972. Gaia as seen through the atmosphere. Atmos. Environ. 6:579–580.

Lovelock, J.E. 1979. Gaia. A New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 157 pp.

McIntyre, D.B. 1963. James Hutton and the philosophy of geology. Pp. 1–11 in Claude C.Albritton, ed. The Fabric of Geology. Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass.

Margulis, L., and J.E.Lovelock. 1974. Biological modulation of the Earth’s atmosphere. Icarus 21:471–489.

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