Gaia’s Revenge?

Gaia watches from a vale of sorrow,
her life abundant used to serve and feed
visions seeded with a bright tomorrow,
but dreamt by a voracious, fertile breed.
Weakened by a population growing,
polluted by exhausted seas and land,
hostage to consumption overflowing
she struggles to survive excess demand.
Few heed the warnings of her urgent sighs,
seduced by prospects of a better life,
tho’ Eden soon may wake to plaintive cries
interweaved with apocalyptic strife.
Bushfires and pandemics scourge the nation:
Gaia’s revenge, or human creation?

James Lovelock conceived the Gaia hypothesis, named after the Greek goddess of Earth, in 1965. Through it, Lovelock popularised the idea of the whole earth as one giant self-regulating ecosystem, describing his scientific journey as a quest in search of evidence for the idea that the earth is alive. The Gaia hypothesis attracted the attention of eminent theologians such as Rosemary Radford Ruether, and seemed to cohere with New Age spirituality.

In exploring this concept I was influenced by Judith Wright’s poem ‘Australia 1970’, where the final verse reads:

I praise the scoring drought, the flying dust,
the drying creek, the furious animal,
that they oppose us still;
that we are ruined by the thing we kill.

This casts Land as a protagonist where we might be wary of, in Ruether’s words, ‘”Mother Earth” rising up like a chthonic Jehovah to topple human empires and return earth to pre-civilised simplicity … a justified revenge of “nature” against “civilisation”’.


Chris Dalton is a retired public affairs analyst, with a passion for public theology, particularly with regard to the environment. Author of Reimagining Land in Australia: From Terra Nullius to Beloved Companion, he finds poetry a rewarding way to explore ‘wicked’ problems. He lives on Bunurong/Boonwurrung and Yuin Lands.

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