This article originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of Immanence.
Gaia, the beautiful, rose up,
Broad bosomed, she that is the steadfast base
Of all things. And fair Gaia first bore
The starry Heaven, equal to herself,
To cover her on all sides and to be
A home forever for the blessed Gods.
Since Her conception, people have been screwing with Gaia, the Greek Earth goddess and grassroots-slang term for our terra firma. Gaia had offspring by the hundreds-She gave birth to all creation, after all-populating the annals of Greek myth with Titans, furies, nymphs, and giants. (The Olympian gods came later, from the Titans. But that’s another story.)
Gaia was a huge figure in Greek religion, though few stories exist about Her. Gaia is not anthromorphised (given human form) as some other Greek deities are-She is considered a spirit or energy of the Earth more than a lady wearing a purple dress and flowers, telling Captain Planet how best to beat the bad guys. Anthromorphised deities are more likely to have a lot of stories about them. The more like humans they are, the more trouble they get into.
The parlance of our times refers to Earth as Gaia, wrongly quoting Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis: “Earth is a single, living entity.” The Gaia Hypothesis doesn’t state this, but “that all living things have a regulatory effect on the Earth’s environment that promotes life overall.”1 All processes and relationships among living and non-living things on this earth form a system so complicated it can be thought of as a single organism.
Gaia is still very important-as concept and deity. Like it or not, we’ve only one Earth. Whether you think of the dirt you sink your toes into while enjoying morning coffee in your front yard as a primordial Greek goddess, or as just the rock we live on, the fact is, we have to take care of Her. It’s like your parents-they raise you; then you take care of them in their old age. That’s how life works-how it must work with Gaia. She’s the reason we’re here–so step it up and move Her out of that third-rate nursing home.
This coming Earth/Mothers’ Day (which is EVERY day, no matter what those lying, misogynist Gregorian Calendars say), thank Gaia for being your mother. Plant a tree, pick up litter, recycle, compost, ride your bike to work, don’t mow your lawn-whatever you can to help the Earth. Do one small thing daily in devotion to Gaia-and maybe there’ll be something left for our grandkids to savor on this planet.