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Gaia Theory

  • By: Martin J. Haigh
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Gaia (or Gaea, from its roots Ge, “Earth,” and Aia, “grandmother”) is the name of the Greek goddess of Earth (cf. Tellus or Terra Mater [Latin], Bhumi Mata [Sanskrit]), who lends her name to geography and all the geosubjects. In Greek mythology, Gaea, born of chaos, gives birth to the sky, hills, oceans, and, eventually, time. Gaia is also the name given to a scientific theory of Earth that has given rise to a new kind of earth systems science, which puts biological processes in the driving seat. First formulated in the 1960s as the Gaia hypothesis by the British Earth scientist James Lovelock, its distinctive feature is that it conceives Earth as a biologically controlled (biocybernetic), self-regulating system. Gaia theory suggests that the biota, ...

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