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Tyler Volk describes the environment that enables the biosphere to exist, various ways of looking at its `anatomy' and `physiology', the major biogeographical regions such as rainforests, deserts, and tundra, the major substances the biosphere is made of, and the chemical cycles that keep it in balance. He then looks at the question of whether there are any long-term trends in the earth's evolution, and examines the role of humanity in Gaia's past and future. Both adherents and sceptics have often been concerned that Gaia theory contains too much goddess and too few verifiable hypotheses. This is the book that describes, for scientists, students and lay readers alike, the theory's firm basis in science.
FANTASTIC VOYAGES. A view from above. A view from within.- GAIA AS HOLARCHY. Mats of microbes. Inward and outward causation. Planetary problems and opportunities.- OUTER LIGHT, INNER FIRE. Inclines of light. Architectures of heat. Feedbacks between life and climate.- PRIMARY SUBSTANCES OF GAIA. Air. Water. Earth. Wood.- GEOMETRIES FOR GLOBAL METABOLISM. Interpenetrations. Sheets, tubes, and tiny spheres. A spectrum of borders.- WORLD WIDE GENES. Collective green. Little enzymes that run the world.- BIOGEOCHEMICAL SYMPHONY. Carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. Elemental mergings and partings. A paradox of Gaia's closure.- MOMENTS OF TRANSFORMATION. Internal thresholds. Jolts from space.- ARROWS IN THE LIFE OF GAIA. Persistence. Self-evolution. Evolution of the holarchy.- EPILOGUE: HUMANITY AS A SUBSTANCE OF GAIA.
Tyler Volk is Associate Professor of Biology at New York University. He is the author of Metapatterns: Across Space, Time, and Mind and What Is Death? A Scientist Looks at the Cycle of Life.
Gaia's Body is an outstanding contribution to global ecology. Its main virtue is that it brings the Gaia concept to the heart of science. By defining clearly the Gaian system and placing biogeochemistry in that context, the concept loses much of the fuzziness it may have had for some scientists. - Peter Westbroek, Nature