In 1979 James Lovelock published a book called Gaia. It hypothesised that planet earth was a macro-organism that regulated itself across the millions of smaller systems that made up the whole. As a whole we, as a human race, are almost compared as a virus or disease that needs to be healed otherwise we will cause the whole thing to collapse… or at least make ourselves extinct so Gaia can get back into balance.
For us to get to a better place we need to shift our mindset from listening to our Primal Brain and start to plan and follow through with our Prefrontal Cortex.
In today’s episode I discuss this idea and how we if we can master our minds, we could reverse our mistakes and truly thrive on this planet…
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Episode 25: Surviving Gaia Theory
Hello Thrivers! Welcome to this week’s episode. Today I wanna talk about or contemplate or ponder two different concepts that’s coming to mind here. And they’re both related in a similar way.
So the first is the Gaia Theory or Gaia Hypothesis. ‘Gaia’ by James Lovelock was written in 1979 and it’s a really interesting read. What it’s about is in the 70’s, NASA asked James to work out what it is about this planet, planet Earth, that makes it habitable. How does it balance its atmosphere, how does it actually function as a whole? So that — Because they were about to go and explore Mars to see if it could be inhabited by humans. And so James went and was studying and going out on voyages and studying the atmosphere and many other things. And what he discovered was there are so many complex systems that require balancing, that he proposed that Gaia, planet Earth, was actually one big macro organism that was made up of many micro systems, but would have to have some sort of combined regulating system. Not necessarily to be sentient, but that it was a whole organism.
Not that we were all just different systems and ecosystems living on this one planet that the actual planet and everything in it is one big macro organism that balances itself out. So you think of our human body, we think of, you know, we have the lungs and the organs and all those kinds of pieces. They all have their own, sort of, regulation and balancing system to make sure that that survives. But it’s all ultimately connected, they don’t work alone. You don’t just have a liver hanging out somewhere, not that we know of. Not on this planet, anyway.
So it’s one system. Even us, as sentient beings, don’t control it. There’s an unconscious overriding system that makes sure that all things work together. And I absolutely love this idea that, you know, I like to call her ‘Mother Nature’, ‘Mother Earth’, even though you know, that’s not very scientific, but I do like to call her that. And I do like to say ‘she’ but even James says in his book that — he wrote the first book and had a lot of slack and ended up writing a second book that was aimed for the scientific people. Cause his first book was a little bit more poetic and still explained a lot of science especially — there’s a couple of chapters there that, you know, especially the one about the stratosphere and all the science. That was quite scientific. But not science-y enough for some people so he wrote a second book, I think it’s called ‘The Age of Gaia’, and that went more into the science. He even said when he called Gaia ‘she’, it’s like when we build a boat, many different parts floated out in the water and christen it and we call it ‘she’. It was the same sentiment.
And the same thing, I call Mother Nature ‘she’ and it’s not this idea that there’s this woman that organizes it all but there’s this — even when I was studying quantum physics, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake wrote a book about morphic resonance, how animals in one area, if they figure something out, automatically animals around the world — the same animal, same species — suddenly works it out. Like, there was this famous scientific experiment of these Blue Jays, I think they were Blue Jays in England where in one area, they started to work out how to take the milk caps off the milk bottles. And almost instantly, all of this species could do it. It’s believed that there’s a morphic resonance, that information is spread across through this field, this frequency that allows all of the same species to have a collective intelligence, if that makes sense. And so I feel like Gaia has this collective thermostat to make sure that all systems run together.
James, specifically, was looking at the stratosphere and he was talking about how this carbon, and nitrogen, and methane, and all these different chemical gases that need to be particularly balanced and it’s actually quite amazing that it does. He talks about how the mangroves are a vital part of our atmosphere because there’s organisms in there that help transfer or transmute different gases to keep us in balance. And the more we get rid of mangroves, the more we’re actually going to destroy and create this unbalance. We’re changing things and not realizing that the whole thing is connected. And if we’re not careful, it’s either going to cause us extinction, the human race, and then it would balance itself out like we are disease or cancer. Or it will completely destroy ourselves and the planet.
I believe it’s the former, that if Gaia Theory is true, I feel that we are — you look at what’s happening here, we as a species, there’s sickness that’s going around, obesity, we’re out of balance. As a human race, it’s obvious we are not surviving in it or thriving on this planet right now. We’re sitting behind screens, we’re sedentary, we’re eating processed food that’s not even real food. Our human race is going into — and we’re killing ourselves off through disease. Yes, we’ve survived, we don’t really have issues of disease and famine as much as prior to hospitals and things. But where we’re now, we have the food and the technology to, you know, heal infections and things like that, we’ve gone out of balance in other ways.
This brings me to my second point. I’m always really passionate about the power of the mind, self-development, becoming the best version of yourself. And I’m studying sort of with self-coaching scholars at the life coach school, this concept of the primal and the prefrontal cortex brains. I’m going off on a little bit of a tangent here but I’m going to come back, circle back and you’ll see what I mean… So every human has what we call a primal brain and a prefrontal cortex. Now the primal brain is what some people call the ‘lizard brain’, it’s the brain that has three things as it’s sort of goal. It’s to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and do what’s most easy. These three things run the whole of the primal brain. And if you don’t follow that it tells you that it’s a matter of life or death. Back in the days when it was cavemen and we needed to go out the cave which was unsafe, we needed to get out and find some food, the seeking of pleasure. Cause we know from food we’d get this natural pleasure, this hit of dopamine through eating that it would encourage us to get out there and get food when it was dangerous. Otherwise we’d just end up staying in the cave.
Right now, in this world, if we’re being run by the primal brain, we are not having to go out, we’re ordering food in because it’s easier and safer, it’s much more efficient. We’re ordering food that’s processed, giving us too much of a dopamine hit, an unnatural amount of dopamine — our brain thinks it’s life or death over donut or chocolate. We’re sitting there, we’re seeking pleasure through watching Netflix and movies and all of those kind of things, we’re eating sugary processed food, and we’re sitting on our butts doing it, becoming sedentary.
So our primal brain is causing us to take the easy route, right? And I also mean this on a level of our global environmental decisions as well. If you can find a bin, people are just like, “oh well, I’ll just throw it” especially here in Indonesia where there hasn’t been much education on if you just throw a plastic bag of rubbish in the jungle, what actually happens? Their primal brain is like “What the easiest? Well just throw it over the fence” they don’t know.
Now, the prefrontal cortex. This is the difference between us and many animals around there. We have the ability to plan ahead. To try and succeed as a human. To have goals, to think about “Hang on, if I eat this donut, is it really life or death? No, it’s not. It’s just that I’m really addicted to sugar.” So you can have this almost outside experience of “I know this isn’t the right thing to do.” When you don’t understand that there’s these two brains, when your brain is saying “I need chocolate right now”, you have to. And you’re not understanding it’s just the 2 or 3 year old child brain. Because they’re the ones that don’t understand when you say “No, you can’t have that” they’re the ones that chuck tantrums and inside us, our primal brain is doing the same.
As a human race, we have the ability to really thrive on this planet. To help this Gaia theory to come back into balance. If we continue to remain in our primal brain, we’ll keep making immediate decisions that are causing damage because we’re avoiding pain, seeking pleasure, and taking the easiest route. Whereas if our prefrontal cortex, if you set yourself up for success, you can start towards a thriving situation.
Say, for example, you really know that you want to minimise your waste, right? But if you don’t go in and use the prefrontal cortex and go “You know what? I’m going to organize that I have recycling set up to catch up around here. I’m going to go in and organize so I have a recycling bin.” so that I know that my primal brain, in the moment, which can only think pretty much in the present moment, will do the right thing because I’ve already created easy options for it to throw recycling in the recycle bin.
The same goes for sustainable fashion, whole food eating, you have to require yourself to create some plans. Writing down, what is it over the next week, what’s the best way that I can eat so that I’m eating healthy, whole food, beautiful, delicious fruits and vegetables that are grown from regenerative agriculture. I know that for me to get myself set up for success, you need to go to the market and organize your food and then have that all planned. Because we know if it comes around to Monday and we haven’t organized everything, that first moment that you’re hungry, the primal brain is going to set in and you’re going to order processed food.
This is just one of the examples. I think of us on a global scale… Let’s look at mining rather than using regenerative energy, solar panels. Right now it’s easier, we know how to mine and use coal and oils and those things that we know we’re eating through our environmental savings bank. We can see that it’s going to get empty soon but we’re not doing anything about it because from a primal aspect it’s easier to do this way, you know? The hard way is to shift a planetary behavior to be a lot more regenerative and use sustainable methods. So this is where we need to become conscious of these decisions. “Am I doing this because it’s easier? And it gives me quick pleasure? Or am I doing this because I know that I need to align with thriving with nature?”
Next time you’re going about your way, you want to think about your own health, that’s the first way you can help Gaia. Because if you start to make that prefrontal cortex healthy decisions, either growing your own vegetables or supporting a regenerative agriculture farm or biodynamic farm, you are aligning yourself in the right direction.
The Gaia theory, I like to think that there is this big macro organism. I mean, it is hard to believe that there’s so many macro micro systems all aligning with each other and can just manage to stay the comfortable temperature that it has for us humans to exist. That there has to be some kind of regulation, a global overall macro regulation system that is balancing across the atmosphere, the molten lava in the center, the carbon balancing through the plants and ocean and atmosphere. But we need, for our survival, what’s the ironic thing for our long term survival, we need to get out of our survival brain, the primal brain, because it’s going to run us into extinction.
So next time you’re out there, look around your house, have you set yourself up for success from the prefrontal cortex or are you allowing your primal brain in that present moment to make decisions or try and use willpower to resist the primal brain. Whereas if you set yourself up for success using the prefrontal cortex, are you going to allow yourself to thrive on this planet and with this planet?
So that’s today’s ponderings, the Gaia Theory or Gaia Hypothesis, alongside our primal and prefrontal cortex. It’s something that I’ve woken up with this morning, and yeah, enjoy! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to come over to ThrivingWithNature.com and add some comments. I love seeing your discussions there, it’s absolutely exciting to meet like minded people who — you don’t always have to agree — what I enjoy is like minded people having conversations about these kinds of topics.
So yeah, thank you so much for listening Thrivers! What an absolute honor it is to have you here. I’m really grateful for you all and I wish you a beautiful, happy, thriving day!