An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of September 9, 2001
isued   from the woods just south of Natchez, Mississippi, USA

GAIA

Were it not for their awful attacks in the gardens and the fact that I take much of my daily food from these gardens -- so that in a sense "it's them or it's me" -- I would hesitate to attack the ants at all. My respect for life in general is too high to permit needless taking of life, plus in certain ways I actually admire fire ants considerably. In fact, I can't be around any complex social insect without wondering about a concept that is gaining respect in many quarters, but which to most people remains pure malarkey.

One feature of that concept sometimes is this: That in complex societies such as those of honeybees and fire ants, the actual "beings" are not the individual ants, but rather the colonies themselves. The colony is a diffuse animal. The queen, as she controls the colony's activities by issuing chemical messages that are transferred from ant to ant, constitutes the "brain" of the diffuse being's central nervous system. The individual worker ants running here and there reacting to the queen's chemical messages are like slow-motion electrical impulses flowing through the body with messages to fulfill this or that command.

This concept becomes more plausable when we recall that lichens are actually composed of two different species -- a species of alga, and a species of fungus -- that somehow unite to form this third species, the lichen. You can isolate algal cells from some lichens and the cells will survive as free-living algae all by themselves. Clearly, in Nature the question "where is the basic living thing" is not always clear maybe not even an important one.

Part of the Gaia Theory is that the whole Earth Ecosystem is one living organism, so that we living things are all just parts of the body comprising the Earth-Ecosystem body. According to this theory, humankind, because of its destructive nature, may be considered a disease organism, with AIDS being the Earth's immune system kicking into action, in an effort to keep the infection we constitute from spreading. Facebook Icon.