Regenerating Gaia: Imagine a Peaceful Rebellion that Regrows Nature

Gaia – the living global ecological system – is collapsing and dying as human industrial growth overruns natural ecosystems and climate. Yet the biosphere can regenerate, as it has done before, given the time and space, free from human burning and cutting. As the twin emergencies of climate and ecosystem loss threaten the end of being, I join in calls for a peaceful “Extinction Rebellion” whereby people together do what they can, do what they must, for Earth and our shared habitat. Let’s start by regenerating nature in order to sustain creation.

Regenerate Gaia, Regrow Nature

“Imagine all the people living life in peace… You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” – John Lennon, Imagine

“Imagine a peaceful rebellion that regrows nature… Let’s return to and tend our planetary garden. We once shared creation with other creatures, let’s do so again. Gaia can regenerate herself if given enough time, space, and love.” – Dr. Glen Barry

One of many amazing things about nature is it can grow back. 10,000 short years ago much of the Northern hemisphere was covered by a mile of glacial ice, scouring the land of all-natural vegetation. Before that, cataclysmic asteroid strikes virtually annihilated biological life, in moments of immense planetary scale death. In each case, fragmented life re-emerged – renewed and diversified – in relatively short order. Critically, enough natural remnants remained, and were able to recover.

For eons biological life of all sorts including natural terrestrial ecosystems have shown an innate, indomitable will to sustain itself. This is not necessarily the case. Gaia, the planetary organism that is the sum of all ecosystems, can – like all life – collapse and die. Yet creation has proven to be remarkably resilient. When adequate remnant nature remains, and once pressure is taken off quickly and long enough, life is able to regenerate; genes evolve, wildlife has babies, and natural ecosystems repopulate denuded land and sea.

Gaia is a living organism. And once again, all her organic and naturally evolved life is in peril. This time at the hands of humanity.

It is difficult to fathom the degree to which natural ecosystems and climate have been disrupted by human industrial growth, and the potential for spiraling collapse should natural ecosystems and climate not be allowed to recover. The biosphere is already bifurcating between extremes (a sure sign of impending collapse) – demonstrated by trends as diverse as climate weirding, rising authoritarianism, collapsing ecosystems, mass migration, and a state of perma-war – before settling into a new normal of a depauperate and perhaps lifeless planet.

Now living in New York City and working in financial IT, much of my formative years unfolded in close proximity to nature. Some of my most pleasant memories as a child include fishing for bass from a canoe with my parents, the smell of the Earth waking in a tent, and partaking in the symbiotic ecological cycles of animal husbandry and gardening as my family homesteaded. Over the past two decades I have restored a natural forest ecosystem on a few acres of denuded farm fields – a gratifying yet grueling task.

From an early age I sensed Earth was alive and gravely threatened, intuitions fortified by over a decade of graduate studies in ecology, and a lifetime of rainforest and climate activism. It has been 5 years since I published Terrestrial Ecosystem Loss and Biosphere Collapse, ground-breaking peer-reviewed science identifying a tenth planetary boundary. There I hypothesized that 66% of Earth’s land must be covered with natural and agro-ecological ecosystems to sustain the biosphere; and foresaw the need for a revolutionary response to ecosystem and climate emergencies, now being realized with global climate strikes and extinction rebellions.

Given such a massive and unprecedented global ecological emergency, surely an “Extinction Rebellion” is long overdue.

Imagine a peaceful rebellion that regrows nature.

The place for sufficient climate and ecosystem solutions to start is to let Earth rest and recover. And most importantly, to allow and assist natural ecosystems to regrow. We must once again put our faith in seeds, and the ability of nature to sustain all life.

Massive nurseries of natives plants from local genetic stock, nearby genotypes adapted to warmer conditions, and species suitable for forest gardens will be required to provide seed stock to re-establish intact and functioning ecosystems over two-thirds of the Earth’s surface. Enormous deforested and ecologically diminished areas exist, particularly in the tropics, that must be quickly reforested. Replenishment planting surrounding and reconnecting natural remnants over vast areas will yield ecosystem services and store carbon, as well as provide massive employment. Science knows much regarding how to harness ecosystems’ natural restorative processes, carefully targeting for augmentation the re-establishment of dominant and keystone species, as remnant ecosystems are aided to expand and reconnect.

There exists enormous potential to carry out landscape scale ecological restoration activities which assist natural remnants to age, expand, and reconnect. Protecting and restoring old-growth forests, other natural ecosystems, and all kindred species are a huge part of the climate change and ecosystem solutions, and a prerequisite to solve a whole host of other ecological issues including biodiversity, soil, wildlife, and water crises.

We are speaking of restoring natural ecosystems, going well beyond tree farms. Such rewilding focuses upon assisting natural ecosystems to recover their full ecological integrity. This is demonstrated by their possessing the full range of natural species, composition, structure, and function. Diverse agro-ecological systems that emphasize organic perma-culture will play a vital role, when interspersed with intact and regenerating forests, in order to once again ensure ecosystems provide the ecological context within which humans and other species can live forever.

Of course, successfully regenerating ecosystems on a global scale presupposes that the damage to existing intact ecosystems ends. Much of the foundation-fed climate and environment movements have myopically focused upon technical solutions to climate change, failing to understand the role intact and regenerating ecosystems play in sustaining Gaia. Some go so far as continuing to sell logging primary forests as being desirable and even sustainable. We must go far beyond technophile solutions and end natural ecosystem loss and harness the Earth system’s amazing ability to regenerate herself.

This is what makes the Extinction Rebellion movement so exciting – it correctly diagnoses the threat to the biosphere, humanity, and kindred species as emanating from both climate change AND biodiversity/ecosystem loss.

Ecology is the answer.

There is no way humanity emerges intact from the climate and ecosystem emergencies and achieves global ecological sustainability unless we grow justice, peace, and equity as well. This will require powering down the industrial growth economy, demobilizing the military-industrial complex, and coming together as one human family to stop those destroying nature. Solutions include not only ending burning of fossil fuels and destruction of natural ecosystems. We must also make peace and demilitarize, promote greater fairness and justice, and limit human numbers and inequitable over-consumption.

Let’s return to and tend our planetary garden. We once shared creation with other creatures, let’s do so again. Gaia can regenerate herself if given enough time, space, and love.


  1. I often wonder how the Earth managed through the times before Atlantis. I’ve heard that there were previous advanced civilizations thousands of years ago that were annihilated by nuclear war. So, what about all the oil in the ground, how did those cultures manage to leave the oil in the ground? Obviously when the solar pulse comes, all of this will be a moot point, as the Earth will have a chance then to regenerate. I’m sure nature will have the last word. Hopefully some of us will be beamed up and able to survive away from this cataclysm.

  2. Hi Glen,
    As always I enjoyed this mailing – which I will soon pass along to my mailing list,
    Given the content of your article, here are a few page links from my website that I think will make you smile. (A lovely rendition of John’s classic tune) (Several encouraging videos) (Scroll down to the “How to Rebuild a Rainforest in eight years” link).
    I am grateful for your tireless energies on Gaia’s behalf Glen. I am confident She will show us the Way Forward. … Thank-you.
    Patience, Persistence and Solidarity,

  3. We have hope if we recapture CO2 like hell and actively sustain/help what’s left over of biodiversity.That means massive awareness and readiness to contribute to these matters.

  4. Thanks Dr. Barry, for your efforts and strong response to the present critical problems occurring in a highly manipulative social species’ ecological release over the entire habitable planet.
    We are seeing right now, due to technology, and massive population, concerted efforts to further colonize.
    Colonization can be defined as extracting resource from habitat external to the habitat occupied by an organism, and such colonization does profoundly perturb, to the extent of destroying those ecosystems from which resources are extracted.
    As you know, animals evolved from or split from motile ancestors of heterotrophic fungi, and we exhibit on an ecological level many aspects of introduced alien fungi – we destroy/oversimplify (the latter reducing resilience, causing increased state oscillation – both, then demonstrably causal of extinction and change as catastrophic as the stochastic entry of a large astroid or Siberian Traps volcanism event) vast forest, grassland, and other ecosystem eradication greater than the phytophthera species that our world transport did to past endemic as well as intensive human concentration of perennial horticultural crops.
    We also act as hugely scaled-up versions of chytrid fungi transported by ourselves across spatial barriers that would not otherwise be bridged, killing nearly 1005 of amphibian species so far more ancient than us, that we , in our previous dewatering, damming, and transport of water from systems that had created diverse habitats (we focus on direct destruction of estuarine and riparian areas, paving over them, dredging, erecting controls over essential natural seasonal flooding, enough to really have NO historical understanding of theecological role played by amphibians, migratory birds, and the systems themselves, which were not yet dominated worldwide only two centuries ago) of which we know NOTHING. We invaded in these technological ways , likely contributing to a collapse that would have, in any case caused this present Sixth Mass Extinction event (misguidedly now called erroneously a geological era or period “Anthropocene.”).
    Populations, understood Malthus and Darwin, MUST be constrained, and while there appears minor evidence of some facultative response toward K-selection in some populations (Europe and the US BOTH outrageously colonize outside resources for waste – heavy domestication of ungulates as well as fossil carbon, each pollute in ways that drive down the natural complexes of large vertebrate organisms, and thus the necessary patch occupancies that prevent homozygosity leading to higher vulnerability to microorganism parasitism. I only mention this because medical technology continually prevents that very evolution of constraints on our populations that would balance any past invasive alien species following its local catastrophic effects on complex ecosystems.)
    China, relevant here as illustration of dysfunction – to which I’ll get with elaboration – has for centuries veering into millennia, simplified the temperate lowlands of East Asia.
    It developed a rather steady-state feudal type culture of oppression. It demonstrates that agriculture itself when pursued by a large dense population only allows fragmented complex natural systems to survive in very limited more vertical terrain (The more tropical India shows some of the same effects – BEFORE modern tech, and also drove some parallel processes tht may have caused depauperation in its more varied, and thus more connected suite of ecosystems – which I won’t get inoto here) – and so many species bacem locally and regially extinct that we have no real sense of its cataastrophic effects, which I speculate were far larger than presently presumed.
    But the illustration here is one of both human population density and high reproduction (common in agrarian cultures for obvious labor reasons. It also includes a form of social discrimination of females. I mention such things ONLY because dynamics of evolution and ecology, social forms, and even stress epigenesis are so related that almost none of those not educated in all , can understand dynamics, and thus their fixes and panaceas must inevitably continue to fail.).
    AND, that density and reproduction will still both result and cause further external colonization, if not planned or concerted.
    It also causes accceerated evolution of microorganisms that can prey /parasitize
    We know that East Asian populations are now less susceptible to Vibrio species, TYphus, and a few other plagues to which other populations are more deadly/virulent. In highly connected human traffic, a kind of colonization occurs.
    More important perhaps, is the fast generation of virulent viruses. Only modern med-teh suppressed SARS worldwide. MERS-CoV arose I think, in the heavily packed Indus civilization of Pakistan, but that illustration is peripheral to the total ecological package shown by China.
    China, as connected as it has been since prehistoric times, did export disease along with tech like (absolutely deadly military tech, which includes more affecting Europe’s military development even before the poison of guns, thus accelerating mass armed conflict) guns/powder, silk, and the populations enclaves so affecting Southeast Asia and Far western Oceania
    More recently a deadly virus resulting from overdense keeping of pigs also almost escaped. The Bird flus that sometimes species-jump to us mammals with deadly consequences, is an important case from which to take cautionary understanding. That these three microbial evolutionary events took place within a mere couple decades should be instructive, especially in the face of human contrafactual and erroneously static ideation.(deities as agents, permanent-style”fixes” that do not take into account the periodicity of many temperate ecosystems – ur failure to ecologically understand or accept variable fire-dependence being a single mistake of many. Look to the rise of antivaxx for a combination. We will both misatrribute And misuse tech in our large feudal, combative societies. I may have mentioned Robin Dunbar’s work in comment to you years ago concerning our species’ maximums in relation to “peaceable” norms.
    So long as we are our species, we will not exceed those minimal affiliative sizes, sufficiently separated from other small groups; only then are we historically and cognitively good, moral, kind, toward others. Larger populations are always collectively generative of Hobbesian flux – aggregations into exploitative , hierarchical strata, giving defacto slavery and suffering to our own kind, domestics, and ecosystems themselves.
    I’ve spoken against the facile presumption of colonization of other planetary bodies, the incredible waste, the toxicity of the mining and dissociation from all other of earth’s equally valid organisms required to develop toward anthropocentric life such as this entails.
    (Much of my life has been spent in exploring wild, natural, and damaged environments, observing the cognitions and behaviors of species. Thus I encountered such poisonous effects as mines and fuels extraction – whether fossil or mining of vast autotrophic-dominated systems, such as forests, and tracing the loss of vast complex grassland, riparian, and ecotone systems.
    Evolutin and comarative cognitin, inncluding decades of human psychology and general social sciences were essential to evaluation of behavior. We perturb systems, our species, beyond their functional natural oscillations, and unless we ruly withdraw from your 67% , so fragment that we continue to act as those plant- and animal-killing fungi, on this planetary scale. We will NOT escape, as our very internal and extermal selves interact and depend upon teh ecological cycling of complex microorganisms. Isolated humans on all the non-Gaia planets will be only failed dispersals, having no value.
    Already, we have disrupted diurnal and circadian cycling natural to our and other organisms. Yet, all earth is dependent upon diurnality, seasonality, and longer developmental and metabolic cycling. The imposed disarticulation from cycling is already known in medicine to cause dysfunction, diminished health and cognition. The trend seems toward dysfunction on a huge social scale, even though some seek to return to it for part of their lives and activity.
    EVERY new, clean tech has been already misused to profound wastage – light, heat, hydrocarbon molecules (plastic is now pervasive right down to individual molecules, never mind the choking of bird offspring and the known hormone disruption. It is necessary to set free bacteria that consume hydrocarbons, although these have been sequestered from or not developed in response to this multifaceted plague. I’d inject it into fossil fuel strata, as we refuse to cease use of the ocean-acidifying, air polluting, worldwide moneymaking parasitism we’ve made of oil)
    I apologize for not editing – but all must begin to tie together what they wrongly presume disparate, and need to learn not to erroneously artificially exteriorize – the failing of economists, engineers, and other manipulative and lay persons.

Leave a Reply to Wendy Martin Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *