Gaia Mind


This is the page that I will develop to support my view that Gaia is a living entity and intelligent.


Partial critique of The Nature Principle



The Nature Principle

Richard Louv





Algonquin Books


“Some of the valuable take-away messages I brought from this book were that:

– We don’t have to leave our towns and cities to be ‘amongst Nature.’ Not only is Nature within and all around us, wherever we are, it is also possible to re-green our human settlements to an amazing degree if we just give some thought to it.

– Just because the frequent use of modern electronic gadgets affects the synaptic pathways in our brains, that doesn’t mean that our brains can’t still operate in the old ways too. We are capable of developing a wonderful and enriching combination of both that Louv calls  ‘the hybrid mind.’

– restoring the balance between humans and the rest of Nature will come not necessarily through legislation or via a greening of corporate consciousness—though both would be welcome developments—but through grassroots networking and the social media. This is already beginning to happen.”

Book Review by Marian Van Eyk McCain


Following, I intend to use Richard Louv’s book content as a springboard for launching some ideas about our living Earth and anthropogenic affects of Climate Change.


“Louv shows us how tapping into the restorative powers of the natural world can boost mental acuity and creativity; promote health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds. As he says in his introduction, The Nature Principle is about the power of living in nature not with it, but in it. We are entering the most creative period in history. The twenty-first century will be the century of human restoration in the natural world.” – Publisher Comments


One of the most tragic and destructive results of Richard louv’s idea that we are not tapping into the restorative powers of the natural world is Global Warming and Climate Change.  One big question around the issue is how climate skeptics have been so successful in sowing so many seeds of doubt as to the extent of the anthropogenic causes of a level of greenhouse gasses not known on the planet for over four hundred millions years.

I suggest that the underlying bedrock of belief within society – East and West – is that Earth is an object completely outside our psycho/physical existence.  For most people, Earth is an inanimate object made of hot and cold minerals suffused with water and surrounded by elements and compounds we call an atmosphere.



Two thirds of Earthlings living in Europe hold A Christian worldview.  Unfortunately for Gaia, many Christians do not separate the Old testament Jewish history from the message of Christ contained in the New testament.  Specifically, Genesis proclaims that the planet was given to human kind by a supreme being that commands love and devotion.  “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  Genesis 1:28.  With the cooperation of an overwhelmingly exploitative economic system founded on greed and privilege and remnants of Newtonian physics that hold a materialistic interpretation of the contents of the Universe,  Christians have nearly completed their mission.


In addition to the present “era of globalization,”  establishment science continues to use instruments designed to measure the effects of “matter” and “inanimate objects.” to analyse and categorise the behaviour of Gaia, a living, loving and intelligent being we have named Earth.  Our scientific validation procedures call for repeatability and certainty.  Yet, we know full well that humans and other than humans vary significantly in behaviour and healing abilities.  It is a great and significant mystery why some people, for instance, die from cancer and others survive.  The best and most dedicated of our medical practitioners cannot always accurately diagnose our illnesses. My opinion is that most people accept this situation.  Similarly, the periods of Earth cycles are never exactly the same duration.  The duration of the  El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is unpredictable.  The planet’s Milankovitch Cycles of eccentricity, obliquity and precession never repeat precisely.  Yet, our prestigious climate scientists are severely criticized when  their data and predictions are lacking in certitude.  Our entire system of scientific procedures where we dissect and pull apart in an attempt to understand how living structures “work” are poorly equipped to understand living beings such as humans and Earth.

Could we understand how a home computer works by dismantling and studying all the pieces arrayed on a table?  Of course not mainly because the software that controls it would be seen as just an array of tiny  magnets with an unintelligible arrangement of positive and negative charges.


Sadly, loving Nature as a thing outside us has not and will not penetrate deeply enough into our consciousness to cause us to change our behaviour and make the sacrifice necessary to head off the pain and suffering brought about by Ecocide.


Richard Louv asked:  “Do we have the right to walk in the woods?”  His friend answered:  “Look what our species is doing to the planet…Based on that evidence alone, isn’t the relationship between human beings and nature inherently oppositional?”  To louv, that point of view is understandable.

I neither agree with this point of view nor even understand it.  Some human behaviour is inherent and others are culturally derived.  The proof of one or the other alternatives does not lie in the number of people acting in a certain way.  For instance, 250 years ago slavery and slave trading was practiced by numerous people and countries.  Furthermore, in India there are still “untouchables.” “Dalits are at the bottom of the Hindu caste system and despite laws to protect them, they still face widespread discrimination in India…”   27 June, 2012.  Would we today argue that slavery is inherent to the human species?  I think not.


As I have argued in my book, Planet as Self, we destroy Nature because we do not realize that Earth is not “out there” or “other”.  We are the planet. For example, roots, trunk, limbs, and leaves when functioning define a tree. So the word tree defines a wholeness composed of  cooperative parts which we have given names to.  To hold that the roots are not the tree would be considered a tiresome exercise in semantics.  I suggest this applies to Earth as well.  We humans and other humans are no less the Earth than the leaves of an Elm tree in the late Spring and Summer.  Over several thousands of years, cultures that honoured the Earth as a living being have been almost completely eradicated in favour of a mechanistic and “God in the heavens” worldview.  Thus, I speak out of a perhaps outdated but not historically uncommmon point of view.  Similarly, my maternal grandmother and grandfather farmed in Indiana, USA in the late 1940s and 1950s.  If a person, male or female, knocked on their backdoor, they would be greeted, asked in and offered food and drink.  I don’t believe my grandmother actually saw evil in people.  If ever anyone in our family spoke unkindly of a person, she would most often defend them and call them honey child.  Most people don’t behave that way now but I honour and respect the practice just as I honour and respect the higher part of myself, Gaia.

We complicate and fragment our understanding when we dissect our Earthly beingness into a dichotomy of spiritual and  material as if they were two separable entities.  They simply are not two.  Looking at the evolution of religious spirituality, we find that whereas in early Egyptian civilization only the Pharoah ascended into a sort of “heaven”.   In later centuries it came to be that all humans –alas, no other beings- could end up there according to the dictates of those who made the rules of behaviour.  Taking one example, from the Vedantas ofancient India, we have inherited a concept of Brahman, one consciousness, a universal consciousness that encompassed all beings.

With our present evidence of the self-organising and self-sustaining abilities of Earth, brought to us primarily through quantum physics,  it is past due that we should realize that we as Earthlings along with all forms both animate and inanimate, emanate the consciousness of Gaia according to our abilities, just as Gaia emanates the consciousness of our galaxy according to its abilities and so on into the cosmic level.  Just as I don’t know how my body keeps my heart beating, I accept the mystery around consciousness and other ways of knowing.  However, surely it is not beyond possibility that Gaia is the next higher level in a cascade of beingness which stretches from the microscopic beings to the macroscopic cosmic beings consisting of clusters of microbes and clusters of galaxies.  I like to call this cascade a holarchy, or holoarchy in the terminology of Arthur Koestler.  A holarchy is a connection of parts he calls holons which may at first appear to be a simple hierarchy.  However, there is a major difference in that a holon is both a part and a whole.  One could say that a holon may be a whole at a lower level of complexity and just a part in a higher level.  Within a holarchy, a whole is often more complex than just the sum of its parts. The solar systems in a galaxy is one example.  Using the holarchy concept makes envisioning connectivity and the oneness of “all there is” much easier to digest.


Louv quotes a young woman’s experience watching a forest being destroyed:[pg. 267] “It was like they cut down part of me.”  Louv claims that her feeling for the natural place was “an essential part of herself.”  The trees were not “out there.”  This young lady was just one of a whole classroom of young people.  How do you reach the others? I recall Paula Allen Gunn in a heart wrenching passage as she speaks for the spiritual oneness of indigenous Americans: “You can’t take us from the Land because we are the land.”  This inherent knowing of the origin of self is precious and reminds us of just how much we desperately need counsel and support from indigenous people. Sadly, it also reminds us of the values that we have almost, but thankfully, not completely destroyed.


Larry Hinman, professor of Philosophy at the University of San Diego, talks about moral arguments having a first principle. [pg. 268]  Louv states that “A meaningful connection to nature is fundamental to our spirit and survival as an individual and as a species.”  I suggest that we go deeper than just “connection” The first principal is that we are embedded in both the consciousness and the physicality of Gaia. As I mentioned above, suggesting that we are connected has not sufficiently penetrated our underlying world view, a conditioned view of separate “things” out there playing a loveless, peripheral role in our lives.


Then there is the suggestion that we are “stewards” of the planet. This may have a nice ring to it but upon serious examination it resembles the sound of a plastic cymbal.  The definition of a steward is:  “responsible and management of resources.”  We, as individuals, governments or companies, lack the wisdom or knowledge to control and manage Nature, the word we use for the aggregate physicality of Gaia.  We must play in tune with Gaia’s rhythm or in time be selected out of the orchestra.



“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand.”
– Baba Dioum


On page 269, louv advocates that we must “love ourselves as part of Nature.”  Yes, but does that mean that as part of Nature we are loveable?

Love of others is conditional on love and acceptance of ourselves as being lovable.  When we accept as a basic belief, a first principle, our embeddedness within Gaia, then we find it much easier to open to the love and tender concern Gaia has for all its parts.  What we have here is a reciprocity seldom mentioned in Nature literature.  Lots of people profess love for parts of Nature but ask them if they think Nature or the Earth loves them back, as Robin Wall Kimmerer does her students, and mouths drop open with puzzlement. It is only with the deep realization of how Earth loves and cherishes itself in all its splendour that we begin to change our behaviour and look lovingly at “others as self.”  It is only when we see nature’s beauty as a reflection of self that true compassion flows.  Only then will we willingly, lovingly sacrifice for the overall good of “the planet.”  Slowly but surely will we settle into a cooperative rather than oppositional, confrontational way of being in the world.  Why has this not happened?  Because most of us were not taught that Gaia is loveable.  Most people therefore cannot even conceive of Earth as a living being.


An appeal from Planet as Self.


Go with the Flow

In the past millennia, creatures, warm and cold-blooded beings, plant and mineral beings exercised their innate drive to expand their activity and awareness. It is only now that our species has pushed the envelope to an extent that we must use the combination of our thinking function and our deep intuitive knowing to make wise decisions. With power comes responsibility. We have the science, we have the spirituality, we potentially have the wisdom and we have the level of consciousness to not only survive, but share in the increasing health of Gaia. Yes, there are detractors, there are greedy people and corporations without moral sensitivity, but they cannot prevail over the loving grace of Gaia. As we become ever more conscious, our understanding will grow and our feeling of connectedness will deepen. The power of Gaia’s love as it is expressed in us is wondrous and beyond imagination. “If the extinction of humans ever happens, it will be because we neglected to respond to her (Gaia) ‘feelers’ and healers, failed to fulfill our Gaian and evolutionary role.” (Hardin, 2004, p. 128) The appeal I am making to the reader is just to stop and think about a possible alternative in the way we look at our planet. Please start questioning your suppositions as to just what it means to be a part of a living planet.

Gaia is a philosophical agent with great freedom as a being to express herself. One can look upon Gaia as she manifests or mediates the creative energy of the cosmos. Let us not get caught up in disputes about the details of the mechanism used by the Cosmos to impart this creativity. We are just not in a position to pronounce on just how this is done. Why argue over whether it is a kind of radiation from a divine source outside or whether it is an emergent phenomenon? There are endless debates and a vocabulary of distinctiveness, for example, around pantheism (God is everything), or panentheism (everything is in God). People obtain doctorates in philosophy running this distinction around and around. Let me put it this way: take yourself away from streetlights and light from cities–if you can find such a place anymore–on a clear, new moon night and just lie back on the ground and gaze out through the Milky Way, our galaxy. Try counting the visible stars and remember that the fuzzy bits and globs you see are countless stars and millions of galaxies. Now then start telling us about the nature of God, the Creator. How are you going to write 60,000 words on that?

We just don’t know much at all about the universe or cosmic energy or forces. For example: “It seems that ordinary matter–gas, stars, planets and galaxies– makes up less than five percent  of the Universe. The remainder is unseen. Astronomers believe that 70 percent of this is ‘dark energy’–a hypothetical phenomenon that affects the rate at which the Universe expands. The remaining 25 percent is believed to be dark matter.” (Gill, 2009) I suggest that the most brilliant of our scientists don’t really know, although they describe attributes, what gravity really is. We can hardly begin to understand what we can see and measure let alone the purely theoretical stuff that we can’t see. I am not implying that we should not ponder the mystery of life. I personally enjoy it. But to place such importance on this effort that we spend endless days and months disputing while ignoring the effect our species is having on our birthplace, our habitat, our greater selves is a kind of madness. Why not accept, now, in this present moment, the mystery, and become fully embedded in your birthright, grounded in your beingness, and fully engaged with the beauty and nurturing aspect of Gaia.



Climate Change from a Living Earth Point of View





“Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall.  He will end by destroying the earth.”  Albert Schweitzer


“Climate is essentially an emergent property of life’s interaction with its immediate environment.”  Peter Bunyard


Just as cancer cells appear to have no awareness that they are committing suicide by killing their host, we are doing the same in respect to Gaia.  Although we have not found a cure for cancer, I do hope that Gaia will be able to find a cure for her form of cancer.

I’ve written this because I think that we are getting our climate change information in short bursts of controversial statements and media hype.


According to James Hansen, “A greater obstacle to public communication has arisen with the politicization of reporting of global warming, a perhaps inevitable consequence of the economic and social implications of efforts required to alter the course of human-made climate change. We have the impression that the effect of politicization on communication of the science is aggravated by the fact that much of the media is owned by or strongly influenced by special economic interests.

The task of alleviating the communication obstacle posed by politicization is formidable. The difficulty is compounded by continual attacks on the credibility of scientists. Polls indicate that the attacks have been effective in causing many members of the public to doubt the reality of global warming.” [1]

A Fascinating Point of View on Climate Change


I often hear the phrase ‘It has been this warm before.’  In the US southwest, for instance, I have seen the graphs of past temperature fluctuations.  Most probably a severe drought in the 1300s AD brought forth the demise of the cave dwelling indigenous people that left fascinating cliff dwelling ruins in southern Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, for instance.  However, what seems to be left out in an analysis is the fact that CO2 has not been this high for millions of years.

“For a 2009 study, published in the journal Science, scientists analyzed shells in deep sea sediments to estimate past CO2 levels, and found that CO2 levels have not been as high as they are now for at least the past 10 to 15 million years, during the Miocene epoch.” [2]

Now, if one accepts this as a fact, of course there are ‘facts’ and ‘facts’ that are not seen to be facts, then it must be admitted that we just don’t know how our climate will be affected by the high and rising levels of greenhouse gases [GHG].  We haven’t been here before.  Right? There are models and they are important and useful. But can they be relied on to provide the reliable data we need to cope with a possible runaway temperature increase? So why play around with Earth’s behaviour as if it were a dice game?

Regardless of whether GHG levels are cyclical, long or short, scientific research tells us that the accumulation is already high enough to cause death and destruction to most of life as we know it.

Let’s concentrate on diminishing the gases and not let the argument as to how they got there be an excuse for doing nothing.

Of course, people affected by floods, tornados and heatwaves don’t need this notice.  But, unfortunately we are caught up in a social/economic profit motivated structure that is unable to entertain any serious discussion involving a possible adjustment in overall profit or the diminishing of industrial growth.

We live in interesting times.

The books that I am familiar with on the subject, although written by highly qualified scientists such as James Hansen, seem to me to miss important aspects that would serve to fill the gaps left by the media. In this book, which is not intended to tell the whole story, I hope to tie up a few loose strands and fill in some gaps usually ignored by the typical news item.






“Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the average weather, or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years. The classical period for averaging these variables is 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization. The relevant quantities are most often surface variables such as temperature, precipitation and wind. Climate in a wider sense is the state, including a statistical description, of the climate system. In various chapters in this report different averaging periods, such as a period of 20 years, are also used.”   Definition courtesy of IPCC AR4.

Anthropogenic carbon emissions have altered natural climate cycles for the last several thousand years in gradual increments.  As more and more of our species left hunter gathering groups and engaged in agriculture, our footprints deepened.  Forests were cleared for agriculture, housing, war machines, weapons and shipbuilding and many other purposes. Forest destruction has persisted to this day and previously massive rainforests are threatened with total destruction with no hope of natural regeneration as the poor soil is depleted by export crops such as palm oil and soy beans.  Parallel with this destruction we are witnessing a human population increase that is totally out of balance with the rest of Nature.  It seems that many people believe they have an inalienable right to have as many children as they choose and to deepen their footprints without regard whatsoever for the Earth’s carrying capacity. There appears to be no serious discussion world wide directed toward seriously limiting human population.  Do we really have an energy crisis or are we just feeling the results of runaway population growth? The rise in population and the rise in temperature and atmospheric CO2 follow the same upward trend locked into a regenerative feedback cycle.  By which I mean that the more people there are, the more energy is required, the more energies expended and the more CO2 is emitted —  not to mention unhealthy pollutants such as carbon monoxide and carbon particulates. It is only since the Industrial Revolution and the development of monitoring technology that we have charts and diagrams that take temperature and CO2 out of the speculative realm to the home of certainty.  It is a certainty that the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere is higher than we have seen in over a million years. One source cites 15 million, [1] and another cites 3.6 million [2] and that humans are the major cause.

There can be no doubt that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane coupled with carbon particulates from brown coal fired electricity plants, contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect that has inhibited the sharp drop in global temperature seen in the past 3 or 4 interglacial periods.  The graphic picture of the global temperature pattern revealed by the Vostok and EPICA (Antarctic) earth-core samples, resembles an upside down icicle of warmth for around 8,000 years followed by around 110,000 years of cold (known as an ice age). This upside down icicle depicts a very quick rise, very sharp peak and a very quick fall of 2 to 3 degrees centigrade within less than 10,000 years before gradually settling into an ice age of nearly 10 degrees colder than the peak in around 10,000 additional years.

A good visual of the Vostok findings may be found here. [3]

A good visual of the antarctic core samples visual may be found here. [4]

This graph was published in 2009.  Since then CO2 in the atmosphere has risen to over 400ppm.

Like all living organisms, Gaia is self-regulating.

Humans are obviously an important part of Nature, but since our ecological footprint has only been really significant for maybe 50 out of the last 10,000 years, I think we need to ask:  How did the Earth manage to sustain itself before we arrived on the scene?

Humans have dangerously stifled the planet’s natural means of regulating itself.  Gaia maintains a balance of forces using Her life-forms and weathering process.  A few life-forms vary the amount of reflected sunlight, atmospheric CO2 and O2 content, whilst others sequester carbon. The ocean absorbs vast amounts of C02 but less and less as its temperature increases.

“Our study carried somewhat surprising results, showing that although the major impact of deforestation on precipitation is found in and near the deforested regions, it also has a strong influence on rainfall in the mid and even high latitudes,” said Roni Avissar, lead author of the study, published in the April 2005 issue of the Journal of Hydrometeorology. [5]

Moisture from forests is driven north in the Northern hemisphere and south in the Southern hemisphere.  In the Northern hemisphere, for instance, the Amazon rainforest has in the past, through wind channels, brought welcome moisture northward into the arid regions of Mexico and the US Southwest.  The continuous and ruinous wood chopping has already caused and/or enhanced severe draught in these areas.  Since the destruction continues, the American Southwest is doomed to a Sahara-like future and the wondrous mountain forests of the Chiricahuas, for instance, will be lost, probably forever.  I suppose you would have had to actually walked within this region to grieve for them as they suffer.  I only hope I can live long enough to see them once again and hope they will not die before I do.

Glacier melt re-mineralizes the soil after each ice age.  There is an amazing array of self-regulation behaviours too lengthy to delve into here. However, our present and recent past global growth economy is destroying these mechanisms.  It is obvious that the fate of the Earth and our fate intermingle, for of course we ARE the Earth and we are thus committing suicide.

Being at the top of the food chain does not mean that we can now assume Earth management responsibilities. Several knowledgeable and well-meaning authors have written about how we should be stewards of the Earth.  This idea might appear acceptable at first glance, but with more reflection, I suggest that it is an extremely dangerous anthropocentric view of our presence.  Stewardship is defined as responsible planning and management of resources.  This view is dangerous simply because we have not the wisdom and understanding to control and manage ‘Nature’, the word we use for the aggregate physicality of Gaia. We must play in tune with Gaia’s rhythm or be selected out of the orchestra.


So it has been Hot Before


Climate change sceptics never tire of stating that the Earth was warmer millions of years ago. Be that as it may, we can forget about how the planet was 65 million years ago for the purpose of determining how our industrial pollution affects the present.  Yes, the planet was far warmer and there was over 10 times the amount of atmospheric CO2 around.  Why Gaia evolved to a series of cyclical glacial and interglacial periods is beyond determining with the instruments we have on hand and thus beyond our understanding. We must begin to appreciate that Gaia may just know what she is doing.  Perhaps the long glacial periods are necessary to counteract the increased warming energy of the sun.  Again, we don’t know.  Of course, if we continue to look upon the planet as a piece of machinery that can be rebuilt and controlled, than there is very little hope for us.  Gaia is a living organism which we live in and function as part of.  Living organisms are complex and Gaia even more complex.  Regardless of how the planet was 65 million years ago or 2 billion years ago, we have to work with the present extent of Earth’s evolution.

First some background information. I’m afraid that many people think that climate is completely unpredictable and entirely erratic.  This is not true.  Let me explain why.


Why the Heating Effect from the Sun Varies


The fundamental driver of atmospheric temperature is, of course, the sun.  The amount of heat felt on the Earth’s surface is dependent primarily on the angle of incidence of sunlight.  Obviously, with a sphere, the greatest heat is absorbed at the centre of the globe if and when the globe lies in a plane perpendicular to the sun.  The heating effect tails off as the angle, of incidence, [the angle formed by the input rays and the reflected rays when the sun’s rays are not perpendicular] increases and the sun’s rays are spread out over a greater area.  At an angle of 30 degrees, for instance, the sun’s rays are spread over an area double to that of the perpendicular and thus the heat generated is only one half.  Calculating the heating effect of the sun, called insolation, is much more complicated and variable due to three aspects of the earth’s juxtaposition to and orbital path around the sun.  The following explanation is limited to just an introduction.  Full understanding requires detailed diagrams and more precise information than I am able to impart in this chapter. The details are truly fascinating and are fully and clearly explained on the web at: [6]

There are three major physical factors that affect insolation and it is only their synthesis which varies insolation enough to trigger the significant rise or fall of global temperature that results in the fairly recent glacial/interglacial cycles with a period of around 120,000 years.




Basically, the equator only receives maximum energy transfer (when the sun’s rays are perpendicular) twice a year because the earth is tilted.  It is this tilt – called obliquity – which causes what we call the seasons.  The northern hemisphere, for instance, receives a lesser incidence angle during what we call summer and greater during the winter.  The tilt also varies slightly (from 22.5 degrees to 25 degrees) in a cyclical manner that either favours warming or cooling in both hemispheres but always opposite to each other.

This can be tricky to visualize.  You might push a stick through a small ball of something soft so it sticks out at both ends.  Colour one end of the stick blue, for instance and name it the North Pole and the other, South Pole a different colour.  Hold it in one hand and tilt it around, for example, 30 degrees.  Then hold a somewhat bigger ball in the other hand that represents the sun. Tilt the stick so that the North Pole is tilted toward the sun.  You can see that at the beginning you have maximum summer at the North Pole and maximum winter at the South Pole.  Move the tilted ball 180 degrees and you’ll note the opposite effect.  At the 90 degree and 270 degree points around the sun you can see the equinoxes where the tilt has virtually no effect.




The factor that amplifies both warmer and cooler conditions is the shape of the earth’s orbit around the sun.  You may know that something that is ‘out of round’ is often called eccentric.  The Earth’s orbit is not only eccentric, but the amount of eccentricity varies over time in a cyclical manner.  During the thousands of years when the orbit is more circular, the amount of variation in each season is less. The opposite, of course, holds true when the orbit is more eccentric.




The last, most difficult to grasp factor is called precession.  My simple explanation for purposes of this discussion is that since the Earth is not perfectly round, it does not spin like a fast moving top but wobbles slightly.

The effect of this wobble on our climate is subtle.  You may need to study precession more deeply elsewhere to fully grasp the concept.  Wobble not only adds or subtracts to the amount of tilt, but means that the beginning and end of the seasons don’t hold to the same geographic location around the Earth during the precession cycle.  The reason being that wobble changes the maximum and minimum extent of tilt so that the equinox points are not synchronous with our solar based time.  How might that affect insolation?  The start of winter at a given geographical position X, for instance, makes a complete cycle approximately every 23,000 years. (Note that none of the Earth’s orbital cycles are of equal duration over a period of many cycles.) If winter occurs in the northern hemisphere over mostly land and the Earth’s orbital position is near the farthest point from the sun, then these winters are colder and thus enhances the build-up of ice. If this is synchronous with a cooling effect out of the other two factors mentioned above, then it is likely that the planet will remain in an ice age.

Again, the opposite or interglacial period, may occur where warm winters are in synch with a warming effect out of the other two factors.

Interesting graphics related to obliquity, eccentricity and precession may be found here: [7]


It is how the orbital cycles line up with each other


Since the period of all three of these cycles is different, they are constantly aiding and opposing insolation. [8]  According to  Milutin Milankovitch, a Serbian astronomer and mathematician who calculated the three orbital forcing cycles explained above, when the three cycles move into an aiding insolation  position, they trigger the start of an interglacial period then when the shortest period decreases sufficiently, the effect is favourable for a sudden decrease in insolation and average global temperature.  The resultant full cycle is around 120,000 years and co-relates favourably with ice core samples.  Of course, as in most scientific theories, there are detractors who wish to trash the whole idea One reason for this is that there are so many variables to consider. Factors such as absorption of CO2 by trees, clouds formed because of transpiration by trees, variations in the amount CO2 being held in the oceans, snow cover, the numbers of phytoplankton, the amount of dimethyl sulphide…all these and more must figure into the equation.  With so many variables, all global warming theory is open to criticism and debate. Which of course provides an opening for those who, for whatever ulterior motive, want to try and prove that climate change is not happening.


There is more to the story


As if there were not enough variables to contend with, I must add that cyclical variations in air and ocean currents are affected by orbital forcing explained above and in turn also affect the amount of heat absorbed. Scientists, particularly Professor Andre Berger, have been able to plot the various orbital cycles and produce a table going back a million years.  This table also contains insolation figures.   An analysis of the tables reveals two rather worrying facts which due to the complexity of the material that I have tried to throw some light on above, have not been explained by the media.

One, the event that should have triggered a cooling cycle – minimum tilt that favours a cooling trigger – has passed its nadir and is now increasing.  Another nadir is not due for another 40,000 years.

Two, eccentricity is now nearly as low as it ever been in the last million years and will become even lower for the next few thousand years.  So the Earth’s orbit is almost circular.  This means that the past reinforcement and coincidence of cycle overlaps that have triggered colder winters and global cooling, for instance, will be missing for many thousands of years.

Professor Berger proposes that we shall not see another ice age for many thousands of years. He states:

“Today’s comparatively warm climate has been the exception more than the rule during the last 500,000 years or more. If recent warm periods (or interglacials) are a guide, then we may soon slip into another glacial period.”  But Berger and Loutre argue in their Perspective that with or without human perturbations, the current warm climate may last another 50,000 years. The reason is a minimum in the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit around the Sun.  (Berger and; M. F. Loutre. Science, 23 August 2002: 1287-1288)

Much of the climate change literature points out that the adverse (adverse to life-forms like humans) conditions such as increased desertification, flooding of coastal lowlands such as Miami Beach and Bangladesh may occur regardless of our efforts to cut down on anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.  Perhaps they read Berger and Loutre above. So how are humans connected with the variations of orbital factors?


Altering Albedo


One might well point out that these factors taken simply as stated operate regardless of the human actions.  Yes, that is true. However it is not the whole story.

Next we must briefly consider both how much of the sun’s energy is reflected back out into space (referred to as albedo) and how the variations at the earth’s surface, some materials not only vary in absorption capabilities but also hold heat longer than others,  plus the content of the various layers of the atmosphere effect global temperature.  As you know, our atmosphere impedes the escape of reflected sun energy by further absorbing and reflecting back heat.  This called the greenhouse effect.  Without this property, the earth’s temperature would be perhaps 30 degrees cooler and life as we know it would not be possible.  Our scientists, armed with sensitive instruments, have documented the heat energy absorptive properties of the atmospheric gasses, aerosols, and especially carbon particulates from diesel and coal fuels.  Climate sceptics like to point out that water vapour is the strongest greenhouse gas.  So what?  We can’t drink ocean saltwater but fish live in it.  What’s the point?

To put it simply, we are upsetting the balancing and regulating capabilities of the living Earth by emitting such a large volume of gases, aerosols and carbon particulates that their heat absorption capabilities have increased the greenhouse warming effect dramatically.  Regardless of the arguments of climate sceptics, there are just no other factors other than anthropogenic that would account for the resulting rise in CO2 and average global temperature.  A graph of both CO2 and global temperature over the last 600,000 years reveals that they are virtually synchronous.  Our media has had a circus day describing the possible results of excessive global warming.  Enough has already been said so I’ll not go into that subject.  I suggest that overall, the IPCC has underplayed the tune and understated the possibility of runaway global warming.


The Real Questions


The media have drawn our attention away from what I suggest is the real question.  So, we have global warming and that is a problem.  We have identified several factors that are causing the temperature to rise.  However, I think we are blind to the most significant question:

What, given the factors we have identified and considering Gaia’s ability to self -regulate over time, does Gaia have available to reverse the warming if we continue with our industrial expansion?

As we saw above, The Melankovich cycles favour cooling to their maximum extent yet our interglacial period has not come to an end.  I support Dr. James Hansen’s suggestion that we may well skip the next ice age.  If we do, will the Melankovich cooling factors overcome the warming factors that are still present 120,000 years from now? If not, then how hot will the Earth be?

You may still feel that since the Earth has been a lot warmer in the past there is nothing to be concerned about.  Yes, but don’t forget that the sun is constantly growing in volume and putting out more heat.  Dr. James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory was prompted by his dismay over how much cooler the earth had stayed relative to the effect of the increase strength of the sun’s energy over the last 2 to 3 billion years. Lovelock and Stephan Harding of Schumacher College have listed and explained the various positive and negative feedback mechanisms that come into the forefront as Gaia self-regulates.  Obviously, Gaia’s efforts have brought us to where we are now which resulted in incredible diversity and growth as polar ice diminished.  Not only have humans caused a major drop in diversity and increase in extinction, but our technology and economic system of expansion based on Earth’s resources have set up atmospheric and oceanic conditions outside the parameters we have studied in the last 600,000 years.  Although we certainly cannot answer the question above, we can attempt to discover what resources were available let’s say 120,000 or so years ago at the end of the last interglacial period.

At the beginning of each interglacial period as the ice receded from the land, vast numbers of trees spread north and performed a carbon sequestering service.  They also released water vapour which stimulated cloud cover that increased the albedo effectively taking the place, as far as reflectivity is concerned, of the miles and miles of ice that had melted. With that negative feedback firmly in place and the orbital forcing factors favouring cooling, the downward cycle of Gaia’s temperature was assured and triggered the end of the interglacial period.

Unfortunately for all, these natural feedback factors been destroyed by humans. Millions of trees over thousands of years have been chopped to build armadas and commercial shipping, other war implements, and shelter for humans as if the trees’ only function to serve the greed of humans.

“Apart from the profligate burning of fossil fuels and releasing the earth’s long-term carbon and energy storage depot that has taken millions of years to lay down, deforestation has been the main contributor to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that has resulted in global warming.1 Energy capture and storage is absolutely essential for the survival of the planet, just as energy capture and storage is necessary for the survival of individual organisms.”  (Ho, M. W., Darling & Greene, 2008, pg. 81)

That’s why I emphasize that we are asking the wrong question perhaps too late. How will Gaia halt the present positive feedback loop?  Could it be the halt of the Atlantic current because of the rapid melting of northern ice?  If the Atlantic ocean cools sufficiently to absorb enough CO2 to counteract the other positive feedbacks, then possibly global cooling will be triggered.

We have James Lovelock to thank for prompting research into how the Earth self-regulates its temperature.  How severely have we weakened Gaia’s ability to self-regulate effectively? When and if Gaia achieves temperature stability, what kind of environment will we have to adjust to? We simply cannot answer these two questions.  We don’t know and we don’t even know if we can ever know. No sane gambler would play a game with such dismal odds.  Perhaps our leaders are insane.