Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Gaia as Holobiont

I started this morning reading the proceedings of a 2017 conference titled "Metaphors for a new body Politics" -- It is a lot of material, and it takes some time to go through it. Something from the chapter by Scott Gilbert, "Gaia as Holobiont" struck me as interesting and I am proposing it to you.

"You can see history in terms of the holobiont. The conquest of the Western hemisphere during the great Columbian Exchange was done not by the armed forces of Pizarro or Cort├ęz.It was done by diphtheria, cholera, smallpox, rubella, and Salmonella (37-39). The context determines the relationship. The European travelers brought with them all these microbes, which they had learnt to live with. The American Indians had no experience of these microbes, and it is estimated that 85 to 90% of the indigenous American community was wiped out by European microbes. What was mutualistic symbiosis to Europeans became parasitic symbiosis to the native Americans."

That made me think of the Covid-19 policy adopted (and much praised) by New Zealand. Keeping the virus away from their island. A fine idea in many respects, but they will never develop immunity against it. If something goes wrong and the virus starts diffusing there, it could be a disaster. Of course, they hope in a vaccine. Of course.....

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Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)