I’ll be 80 this month. At this age I can look back and pinpoint the various times when scientific theories moved from speculation to established fact. For example, I was in the anthropology department at Georgia State when plate tectonics was formally accepted by the world’s leading geophysicists.
My fellow students were almost giddy. “Well, it’s about time,” they said as they studied the charts posted on the corkboard outside the Geology Department door. I was too new and naïve to understand their excitement. I do now. It was one more piece of evidence that the Earth is a living organism
The Gaia Theory came along a decade later. It didn’t go as far as saying that the Earth is alive, only that the life forms on Earth have evolved together and are interdependent upon one another. Together they keep the Earth habitable. Today, many scientists not only consider the Earth a living entity, they believe other plants may be alive as well.
This possibility lies behind Curiosity’s mission to Mars. NASA believes Mars was once wetter and warmer than it is now, and evidence of life may lie just below the surface. We can no longer say with confidence that Earth is the only planet that can sustain life. Mother Earth is not a metaphor. The Earth gave birth to mankind. It nurtures all life on and beneath the surface of the planet. It thrives or fails to thrive just as other living things do.
I mentioned Mother Earth in a previous column and was reprimanded by a reader who told me to forget Mother Earth and return to Father God, but a living Earth doesn’t diminish the need for a supreme creator. It simply expands how we perceive God’s creation.
Genesis opens with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Christians begin their prayers with, “Our Father who is in Heaven.” Jews pray to a God that is ”... ruler of the Universe.” From a theological view point the heavens encompass the whole of the cosmos.
The cosmos is constantly expanding, giving birth and, like the Earth, can be thought of as a living entity. You have a choice: God or accident? But either way the facts are the same. Creation is a physical reality.
When it comes to the Bible, I am not a literalist, but sometimes a literal interpretation of scripture is possible, even preferable to metaphor. In a recent sermon a local pastor discussed the Eucharist, the sharing of bread and wine in celebration of Jesus’ words, “This is my body. This is my blood.”
If John 10:30, “I and my Father are one,” is true, Jesus spoke with God’s voice and for all Creation. The bread--- grain from the earth, and the wine -- liquid from the grape, are literally the body and blood of the Earth.
God may be everlasting, but a healthy verdant Earth is not. Too many people who claim to be religious show no respect for our planet. It is not a dead rock in space. It is a living, breathing organism and as much a part of God’s creation as the creatures who live on it.
I have seen several points in history when human perception changed. I was 13 when the first atomic bomb was dropped, 36 when the first man walked on the moon, and old enough to join AARP when the World Wide Web was first introduced. Each of these events changed the way we look at life on this planet.
Climate change is the biggest game-changer of all. Many scientists believe we’ve already passed a point of no return. There is no way to go back. We need a radically new way of looking at the Earth. New technology, new energy sources will help, but ultimately we need a new code of behavior if the Earth is to remain healthy enough to support the next generation.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.