The First Fairy Tale
Dale K. Brown
James Lovelock, a British chemist specializing in atmospherics, was invited by NASA, in the 1960's, to participate in the Viking missions to Mars. The essence of the endeavor involved soft landing miniature, but still highly sophisticated, laboratories on its red and rocky surface in hopes of detecting whatever life forms the planet had to offer.
To the barely disguised relief of major religions everywhere, who, after having been forced by unassailable scientific data to recant their hitherto sacred doctrines of flat earths, six thousand year old universes, and the Theory of Evolution, no traces of Martian life were found, at least in those samples scrutinized by the static Viking Lander.
As a result of his participation in these projects, Doctor Lovelock began to wonder why the earth, that seeming jewel of the solar system, was the only planet in the entire neighborhood graced with life.
As future adherents later reported his conversion process, he suddenly found himself, like many a mystic before him, contemplating the earth from an extra terrestrial perspective. Why is it, he pondered, that the earth's atmosphere is composed of exactly the right gasses, in precisely the right quantities, at just the right range of temperatures necessary for the presence of life?
Furthermore, why do all living things (except perhaps that scum-bag species, man) exist in total harmony with their environment? And, why do humans have this deep seated feeling that they belong here, as if this planet were their home? And, by the way, what am I doing here?
Tossing his fellow countryman, Darwin's, theory of Evolution out the window, along with the, obviously flawed, precept that humans most likely felt more at home on the planet of their birth than they would, say, on Pluto, left the chemist in quite a quandary. So, Lovelock formulated a new hypotheses.
He began by envisioning the entire planet as a giant living organism and, before long, realized that, in fact, that's what it was! Through unstated means(no doubt chemical in nature), he further discovered that this immense ball of rock and dirt, overlain with oceans and seas, crawling with multitudinous (and often multi-legged creatures), and overshadowed by a protective layer of elemental gasses, was alive! How could this be?
As he pondered primordial riddles which had eluded humans from Solomon to Einstein, answers became apparent.
One billion years after its debut in the solar system, the lifeless earth had, apparently, been parasitized by a "Meta-Life-Form" which began the (unaccountably viral) process of transforming the planet into its own life substance. All life forms now upon the planet, the very make up of the atmosphere, seas and the terrestrial crust itself were, thus, revealed to be part of this being.
The good doctor must have realized from the onset that his discovery would be met with some skepticism, writing later as he did that "Some of this will be a little hard to swallow." Be that as it may, disciples began flocking to him in droves, anxious to partake of this new fount of knowledge. More of Lovelock's musings resulted in further discoveries about this reclusive deitess. Doctrine was established and scriptural wisdom began to flow.
Naturally a being this immense (to say nothing of novel), required a name. After all, one could hardly go around referring to the mother of all as "IT"; and the name Eve, which actually meant mother of all, in legend at any rate, was already taken.
Lovelock took this problem up with a friend of his, the novelist William Golding, author of that vaunted masterpiece on cultural decorum, "The Lord of The Flies." Golding suggested the name "Gaia" after the Greek goddess who drew forth the living world from the abyss of chaos. And so it was that, after eons of remaining nameless, the goddess finally had a name.
Since goddesses were, theoretically, composed of unfathomable materials and of unknown parentage, one need not, it was felt, inquire too diligently into these particulars. One could not handily quantify, say, the molecular constituencies of a Meta-Life-Form and, like all such beings preceding her, it seemed blasphemous to try. Nonetheless, there was much that could be deduced.
After Gaia came, from wherever it was she came, she digested the planet and converted its elemental constituents into her body. Plants, aquatic life, amoebas, insects, dinosaurs, snakes, skunks, dogs and humans, all arose within this "Gaian Matrix of Life". To this day, it is her life force which sustains them.
But, just as in the Garden of Eden, humans blasphemed the Holy Covenant and began to do things their way; and their way was not at all in accordance with Gaia's gentle designs.
Unlike that unhappy episode in Homo-Sapien's history, however, Gaia did not kick her children out of paradise; it was they who walked out on their own and never chose to come back!
As a result of their continuing reprehensible behavior, this errant species entered into an increasingly dysfunctional and, at times, confrontational, relationship with their mother-goddess.
And now, as in Eden, even if they wanted to return to the garden they could not. It's too late. Instead, they have now been doomed to either accelerate their cognitive development(devour the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, roots and all) so that they might learn to live in harmony with their mother, or face a "looming socio-ecological apocalypse.
This looming apocalypse, like the raptures and great tribulations of Christianity, lies dead ahead, in the near future; and the horrors and attendant miseries which will decimate humankind as a result will be unparalleled in their ferocity. In this version of the apocalypse, nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, just like the black book of Christianity specifies. And there will be famines and pestilence and volcanos and earthquakes in diverse places, but the end will not be yet. And, (to the delight of feminists everywhere) it won't be some nebulous "Father" lounging around in the third heaven on his sapphire throne all day, that's the cause of it all, but rather the Earth Goddess herself who awakens from sleep, finds out she's been raped, and wreaks havoc on everyone, guilty or not!
But there is still time, perhaps, to forestall these calamities. If a majority of the human race would forsake their perverted ways and start living in harmony with Gaia, if they would, for example, beat their chainsaws into hoes and their Chevy's into pruning hooks, if they would but study the sacred writings of AL Gore, author of that ground breaking ecological tome, "Earth in the Balance," if they would peruse and apply the collected wisdom of Edward Abby (and learn from the master how to spike trees, flatten the tires and, pour sand into the fuel tanks of heavy equipment), if they would just renounce their wicked stewardship of this poor violated planet, then doom might be averted.
As in Christian theology, little thought, apparently, was given as to just what the ramifications of life in harmony with Gaia might entail. It went without saying that since one of humankind's more grievous trespasses was their incessant ravishment of her planetary carcase that this above all must first be addressed. All logging must, just as a start, cease immediately.
This was good news! Especially to the various environmental groups who had, heretofore, been obliged to wage their lonely campaigns against human depredation from a purely secular perspective.
Holy warriors, while sometimes a real pain in the butt, can infuse even the most stodgy and unimaginative of institutions with a sense of purpose; with zeal; WITH A MISSION! It could be said, even from a detractors point of view, that this is, for the most part, all to the good. Such devotees may, it is true, reconstitute more or less freeze dried organizations such as the Sierra Club or even the Audubon Society, but the process of revitalization often dampens and moderates that holy zeal to the extent both reach a comfortable state of equilibrium.
There are those disciples however who, having once been instructed in the way and the truth, ride forth to battle with the dragon itself, those for whom only a holy quest will do. They live their beliefs.
Earth First! descended upon Idaho to protest all logging everywhere, but especially in the Cove Mallard Area of the North Central portion of that state. Their general appearance did little to endear them to local residents who, like as not, bathed at least semi-weekly, occasionally used toothpaste and antiperspirants, and patched the holes in the jeans that they wore.
Shrugging off their initial unfavorable impressions of these ecological missionaries, the good citizens of Idaho adopted their usual live-and-let-live attitude, which is to say, they went about their daily business.
Which is not to say that, as soon as the newcomers were out of both sight and earshot and off into the disputed area, casual discussions concerning the overall appearance and demeanor of these self invited guests didn't take place.
"Did you see those guys?" "Why hell, I bet none of 'em 've had a bath since they was born!" "Shit all Friday, Dougie boy, if my dog looked like 'at, I'd shave his butt 'n make 'im walk backwards." "Hey Pete, what about that smell? How in hell do ya suppose their women can stand to be made love to by such creatures?" "Well Vern, I'll tell ya, the god's honest truth how it is. The girls hold their noses and the guys close their eyes. That must be the friggin' way of it, far as I can see."
And the conversations rolled on and nobody took things seriously because, after all, many of the inhabitants of those small Idaho towns, although approaching middle age, had been, in their day, the sixties hippies in their own right...until wives, kids and attendant responsibilities necessitated the trading in of their V W buses and beads for four wheel drive Jimmies and Stihl chainsaws. They thought that the Earth First!ers' were just kids being kids and had no idea that this was, in fact, a religious crusade.
Out in woods, however, the battle was being joined. Spikes magically appeared in trees (although none of the holy throng would admit to committing such heinous acts.) Trenches were excavated across the Cove's access roads, although exactly what for remained a bit of a mystery since the machines they were presumably trying to impede were capable of moving mountains. Tri-pods, barricades and battlements were erected out of trees, shrubs and earth, but (although one might think that this smacked of exactly the kind of desecration these constructions were designed to abort) if Gaia raised any objections to these prophylactic violations of her sacred carcase they went, largely, unreported.
There was an air of festivity which permeated this camp of the unwashed, yet presumably holy, as they bent themselves to their respective daily tasks(and partied on into the wee hours of the morning). The consecrated were thoroughly enjoying themselves. And then the logging company to whom the rapacious logging contract had been awarded showed up.
Cowards that they were (and what else could one expect from tree rapists), they brought the U.S. Forest Service with them, to say nothing of the county sheriff and the odd state trooper or two. While futile negotiations were underway with the heretics, some Earth First!ers chained themselves to the axles of various official vehicles and refused to budge. Others threw themselves to the ground fore and aft of departmental cars and trucks and announced to the, somewhat, bemused officials that they intended to stay there until all logging in the Continental United States, Canada, Alaska and, the Amazon Basin ceased forever and ever...Amen!
Fortunately for them, the county sheriff had a sense of humor. Rather than drive off with a herd of Earth First!ers clattering away under his cruisers' axles (as one obviously uncharitable official suggested), he produced a pair of bolt cutters and freed the would-be martyrs. Those few who persisted in further acts of civil (and uncivil) disobedience were arrested and hauled away to the county dungeon to face a variety of (largely) misdemeanor charges.
Appeal after appeal was filed, and delay after delay was granted by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that bastion of conservative ideology in San Francisco which consistently issued a string of rulings largely sympathetic to the environmentalists.
Finally, however, Congress, tired of what they perceived as the court's seemingly liberal ideologies, threatened to break it (the court) up and redistribute it throughout various judicial venues in the western districts it once ruled. The Ninth promptly began to issue slightly more conservative opinions and remains a viable entity to this day.
If Earth First! typified or were the only organization of its kind, then heretics of all persuasions, be they loggers, businessmen, miners, or farmers, could chuckle and rest easy after a hard day's work, but Gaia's disciples are now everywhere. She is taught as fact at many prestigious universities and colleges who would rise in righteous wrath if one suggested teaching creation theology. She permeates virtually every environmental organization known and, according to believers, she means business. Her requirements are modest, however. The human race must cease their extraction and utilization of her precious resources. To begin with, the forests must be saved and logging must stop.
Aside from humankind being required to fore-go the housing, resins, chemicals, and construction materials which forests provide, they would, by these standards, be forced to give up all paper products, too, and this could well prove to be a somewhat sticky selling point; for as one disbelieving citizen was overheard to mutter in the great state of Idaho, "Saving the forests may be all well and good, but saving one's ass is imperative!"
All modern forms of transportation, planes, trains and automobiles would be verboten, too, which is just as well, for there would be no fossil fuels to run them, anyway. The pharmaceutical industry, dependent as it is upon exotic petro-chemicals to produce their daily miracles, would grind to a halt and even if they didn't, there would be no system of mass transportation to distribute them, anyway. People who lived in north temperate or arctic climates would, without wood, heating oil, or electricity presumably freeze through the winters. Farmers in Canada and America, whose massive machines, petro-chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, feed their respective nations and a large percentage of the rest of the world, as well, would presumably, from then on, do the work by hand.
Starving to death in the dark may seem, to some, an exorbitant price to pay for utopia and yet there are growing numbers who insist that its ultimate attainment is worth a little discomfort. There are also a great number of the still unconverted who would be more than happy to let them pay it.
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