Lessons In
Earth Care


Stephen Marshall, Master's Candidate, University of Vermont

David Attenborough in his movie A Life On Our Planet provides personal testimony to the devastation humanity has wrought upon the body of our home and host of life as we know it (sometimes personalized using the name of the Greek goddess of Earth), Gaia (The Guardian, 2014; BBC, 2011; Kensington TV, 2008; Naked Science, 2014), and provides an agenda for restoring Earth - Gaia - to full ecological health. His is not the only affecting and effective movie on this subject, but his vision is especially comprehensive. The agenda isn't complete, and we need to fill in some gaps, but he fulfills his purpose by making the health of Earth's ecosystems personal and compelling to everyone. At least, he succeeded with me.

Lynn Margulis is given credit for popularizing the Gaia Hypothesis.
lynn Margulis discusses Gaia Hypothesis, 1984, NASA

I want everyone to see this film, to discuss its content, meaning, and import, and in what way the viewer identifies with it. I want to explore that agenda, fill in the gaps and the detail. I propose to do this with a series of movies and short videos, as found on YouTube, Netflix, and other sources, and with conversation, in person and online. I want these to be personal, real conversations between us. These are to be the lessons in Earth care. With these lessons we begin to imagine a transformed world, and how we will achieve that transformation.

When I first thought about how to deliver the message of David Attenborough's film, the message felt so much bigger than me, and so important, that I knew that I couldn't deliver it alone. Just inviting my friends to watch it with me wasn't going to grow to the needed scale. Also, I do not have that command of social media that a campaign needs, nor do I understand the cultures of the people this message needs to get to. I immediately realized that in this iteration of the project, I would be reaching out to people who are already activists, not to educate about global ecosystem decline, but to open a conversation about a grand unified agenda for all environmental and social justice groups to apply to their work.

I am not the first to think or act on these thoughts. Herein I will document the organizations I have encountered, conferences I have attended, and academics and public intellectuals who I know are working toward restoring Gaia as a healthy commons. My goal is to join with others to build this unified and informed agenda, to push in the same direction. This project is intended to help them, meaning you, to achieve something humanity needs desperately: a unified message of care for Earth and the life it sustains. When we speak truth to power, mass in our millions to address the climate crisis and uncountable ecological crises, we must have consonant messages: social and economic justice produces a healthy planet . With Gaia's Fever: Lessons in Earth Care, I intend to help build that shared agenda.

Many of these movies and videos try to provide an A to Z explanation, too many claim that their solution is the best solution, and only one that is needed, and all of them after telling you the bad news try to deliver some uplifting news, or at least information about what you can do. So through the cycle of each item, similar themes are reiterated: global heating, over-extraction, poisoning of soils water and air. Some are highly particular, for example the importance of soil health to capturing carbon, and how to achieve this with grazing cattle, and others are general, such as Hans Rosling's discussion of human population and energy consumption trends. Together they propose a diverse agenda for a healed Earth. There is controversy and push back, science and not such good science, and science whose arguments do not rest easily together. I hope that, by watching Lessons in Earth Care, with others or by yourself (please do this with friends and allies), you will develop a deeper understanding of the issues, think about your place in the system of life and claim responsibility for it, decide to join with family, friends and others, and join the global movement to abate Gaia's fever.