The Perceived Role of Humanity as Managers and Stewards of the Earth

According to James Lovelock, humanity has the faulty impression that it can extend its population and lifespan indefinitely or to certain desired levels through the practice of planetary management and that there is no particular limit to the Earth’s carrying capacity. All living creatures have a finite lifespan as a function of the way living systems work, and as much as we might desire immortality, this is not a viable or tenable goal given what we now understand about our biosphere. The planet cannot support infinite human expansion and resource depletion either. At some point, a critical amount of degradation will be reached and ecosystem collapse will ultimately and logically follow suit. Such an event could end the existence of humanity as a viable species but evolution would continue on at its own pace and promote other life forms that would live within acceptable parameters.

Lovelock has a drastically different take on our self-perception as stewards of the Earth. He suggests that we be advocates for the various entities on the planet, be aware of their needs and comply with them, but he staunchly insists that we do not take on the role as caretakers of the Earth. His reason for this is quite rational and persuasive. Do we really want to be responsible for the workings of the planet? Do we want the responsibility of managing the weather, the composition of the atmosphere, the physical and chemical geography of the landscapes and the health and wellbeing of all the living creatures on the planet? I think this would be a hopeless and frustrating task of eminent proportions. That was the gift of Gaia until we began to dismantle the self-regulating systems that constituted the great wisdom of creation.


Gaia, The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine by James Lovelock. Oxford University Press, © 1991, 2000, Conclusion, Living with Gaia. pp. 175 and 186. Accessed 12 June 2020.

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