What better time than Earth Day to consider the hypothesis that the planet is a “living being?”
“The idea that the Earth is a living being is kind of preposterous for most people,” acknowledged the artist Neil Dale, a longtime Bedford resident.
Nevertheless, he plans to explore and explain the concept – with words and original songs – at a free Earth Day program, “Who Is the Earth?” It is planned from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 in the Flint Room of Town Center.
Earth Day is regarded as the formal birth of the environmental protection movement. The date of April 22 was originally chosen in 1970 to maximize student participation. Today it is considered the largest worldwide secular observance.
Dale was a geology major at Harvard University in those days but ultimately became an artist because he felt geology led to environmental destruction.
He was inspired, he said, by the work of Prof. Lynn Margulis at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, a biologist who advanced the so-called Gaia Hypothesis, presenting the Earth as a single living organism.
“My talk is a basic presentation of the basic idea,” Dale said. “Ten years ago, I started writing songs to illustrate it.”
“The phrase I come back to most often is ‘a living being,’ just like bacteria or an oak tree or you or me. And for the same reason,” Dale said. “All of us are actually composed of trillions of cells that cooperate with each other and create an organism larger than they are.”
“Ecosystems are the same thing,” he continued. “Ecosystems across the world combine and cooperate to create the entity of the Earth. This idea leads to all kinds of solutions to environmental problems and to different understandings of ecosystems and how to heal them, for example, taking carbon dioxide out of the air and putting it in the ground to reverse global warming.”
“The ecology behind this idea is eye-opening, and the discovery of real solutions to our environmental crises is full of hope,” Dale said. “The implications of the living Earth are both far-reaching and emotional.”
At the individual level, he advocates actions like fostering the growth of native plants in the backyard “as a way to help the recovery of suffering ecosystems. Nature wants her land back and what tends to grow best are native plants.”
The program at Town Center is appropriate for adults and children from elementary school age up, Dale said. “I will also be playing a number of my own songs on the guitar,” he said, to help process the topic. The event is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Dale added that his website, Whoistheearth.com, is “a good place for people to find my talks, music, book, and references to other media on this subject.” His e-book, “Who Is the Earth?” features 150 illustrations.