Gaia is the entire reason for everything that you are. She is the support system for you and everything you love. You may not have heard of her, but you owe everything to her.
Who is Gaia? She is our beautiful planet, of course!
Gaia was historically known as the Greek and pre-Greek goddess who was the personification of the Earth. She was highly revered and was credited as the mother of the gods and Titans. She was not the only earth goddess honoured in this part of the world, but nowadays she has come to be very meaningful to modern pagans and environmentalists.
Opinions on the goddess-Earth connection vary. Some believe Gaia to be the goddess who rules over our planet and the environment, and some believe her to simply be the personification of Earth. Others even believe Gaia to be our planet herself – a living, breathing being with consciousness. I personally subscribe to the latter, as I feel it creates more responsibility and respect. When we stop respecting our planet we become more disconnected from her, and it is easier to view her as a commodity rather than as our mother who nurtures and nourishes us daily.
The current-day idea of Mother Nature can be traced to Gaia and the other earth goddesses. You may also have heard of her described as the Earth Mother, or Magna Mater, with many earth-goddess counterparts such as Demeter, Terra, Cybele, Ceres, Hathor, Astarte, Danu, Bhudevi and Dewi Sri, to name but a few.
Regardless of your opinion on whether or not we can, or should, personify the Earth, a lot of people have evidently connected to the idea. In fact, in modern times Gaia’s name is increasingly being used with relation to ecology and environmentalism, with a quick Google search revealing many eco-friendly brands that contain her name. Those of you who were kids during the 90s may even remember Gaia as a character in the cartoon Captain Planet.
There was a time in my life when I was desperate in my environmentalism – I had this real urgency to everything, believing that we were in a race against time and had only a few short years to save our planet from dying. However, a few years ago, I had a revelation about Gaia that has caused me to approach things differently. You see, with my old mindset I had viewed her as weak. I had seen our planet as the victim, the suffering underdog who needed rescuing by humans. My new mindset is very different.
Gaia is not weak; she’s strong. She’s stronger than words could possibly describe and her systems work just fine. Our beautiful planet, consciousness or no consciousness, will do what she has to do to preserve balance and equilibrium. It does not matter if it takes her millions of years to do this, or if the life forms that call her home are wiped out in the process. She’s got this, and to be honest, we don’t factor greatly into her plans.
We humans often consider ourselves the dominant species on the planet, and therefore believe we are in charge of everything. But in reality, we are just one animal, and a rather nonessential one at that. Compared to the insects whose activities allow the plant world to flourish, or to the great whales and sharks who sustain the marine food chain, we do very little keep the web of life going. In fact we are the ones destroying the web of life, by viewing ourselves as separate to it rather than part of it.
In Gaia’s quest to redress the balance, it’s possible humanity might not make the cut.
For this reason, environmentalism is a humanitarian issue. As Gaia changes and we see more extreme weather events, such as storms, droughts and floods, the human price gets higher. But it is not often the developed world that pays this price. Too often it is the world’s poorest people who suffer. Without the means to escape or avoid these events, they are the ones starving in droughts or losing their children to floods and storms.
It is cruelly ironic that many nations who have contributed the least to climate change are the first to suffer the effects of it.
Furthermore, in our blind race towards the obliteration of our own species, we are taking out hundreds of thousands of other species as well. We are now losing animals and plants faster than we are discovering them and thousands of species are now becoming extinct each year. The Worldwide Fund for Nature estimates that the numbers are, in fact, closer to between 200 and 10,000 species every year.
We are in the midst of the 6th great extinction event in geological history, and while it would be nice to believe that the current rate of climate change is natural, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that it is not. It is human activity that has caused this crisis. Non-human animals evolved and existed in nature for millions of years until humans began to interfere with Gaia’s natural cycles; to wipe out a large portion of her biodiversity simply because of our own wilful ignorance and refusal to change is both unethical and arrogant.
In 100,000 years Gaia will still be here – but will we? Will the animals?
So yes, absolutely we are in a race against time. But it is not a race to save Gaia; it is a race to save ourselves. It is a race to save the animals and plants who share this beautiful planet with us. We do not own Mother Earth – she owns us, and we are just one of her many children. We are far less important than we like to tell ourselves, and although humans have created many beautiful and impressive things over the course of our existence, this does not give us the right to dominate and destroy everything around us.
Once we come to this realisation and develop a greater respect for Gaia, we will undoubtedly step more lightly upon her. We will live gentler, more responsible, more conscious, more ethical lives. After all, if we really are such an intelligent and moral species, as so many of us claim that we are, can we not find the strength to collectively do what is right, and stop harming the only home we have?
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Consider Also: Vegan For The Planet