Many of the processes that are vital for life to flourish on this planet are dependent on interactions between living things, such as plants and micro organisms, and inorganic entities, such as the air, the oceans and the soil. Collectively, these interactions regulate the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere as well as its temperature, the fertility of its soil and even the salt levels in its oceans.
The Gaia Hypothesis, first formulated by the scientist James Lovelock over fifty years ago, contends that these interactions between living and non-living entities on the Earth comprise a complex system of interdependent links which together form a coordinated, self-balancing and regulating mechanism – Gaia.
For example, the composition of the air in our atmosphere is the result of a series of ongoing interactions between living and non-living things, and the outcome of these activities is something which sustains life on Earth, helps to maintain the planet’s temperature and protects life on the planet against radiation from space.
The Gaia hypothesis posits that this interactivity of the organic and non-organic is unconsciously but purposefully orchestrated. The overarching objective of that orchestration is to maintain optimal conditions for life on the planet. According to the theory, when challenges are made to the planet’s delicate equilibrium then these interactive elements work together to make the necessary adjustments to combat and overcome those challenges.
There are some pretty serious challenges facing the planet right now. The global human population continues to grow at a breakneck pace, and is predicted to increase by another third within the next 40 years. In the process of feeding, fueling and sustaining our species we have been in large part responsible for climate change, as well as pollution, soil erosion, deforestation and large-scale depletion of natural resources.
The intensive farming, fishing and food production processes upon which we continue to allow ourselves to rely further eat into those natural resources and create imbalances in the ecosystem.
According to Gaia, we are a mere part of something much larger than ourselves on planet Earth. If we continue to damage the natural world around us we will eventually destroy our ability to secure a sustainable future for our own species.
But not for life itself on Earth.
The earth is more than just a home planet for human beings. It is a complex, living ecosystem and we are just one small but extremely disruptive part of it. It is in our own long-term interests to learn to love our planet, to protect other species and to respect our natural resources and use them responsibly and sustainably. If we do not, Gaia will find a new balance, continuing to regulate the conditions for life on this planet, only without us.
OK, after all that heavy stuff it’s stripey apron time.
This quick and very cheap recipe makes use of a much underrated vegetable, the swede (known as rutabaga in Canada and the USA). I grow swedes on my allotment plot, the Circus Garden, but this year they were rather small and disappointing. The fine specimens in the photograph above were kindly donated to me by John, one of my fellow plot holders and are much better than my own miserable efforts.
The swede originated in Scandinavia (hence the name) and is therefore a very hardy vegetable. It may be not much to look at (let’s be honest, it would probably only ever win a vegetable beauty contest if the other contestant was celeriac), but it is high in antioxidants, in the form of vitamin C, as well as being a good source of both calcium and iron.
Swede and carrot are a classic pairing and here they are combined with just the right amount of thyme and smoked paprika to produce a vibrant, rich and deeply satisfying soup – a great winter warmer.
swede and carrot soup with smoked paprika
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
400 g swede, peeled and cut into chunks
150 g carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp sea salt
generous grind of black pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1.2 litres vegetable stock
1. Pour the oil into a large pan and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and stir. Continue cooking until the onion is translucent. Add the Swede, carrot and garlic, and stir and cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes. Add the thyme, smoked paprika, sea salt and black pepper and stir in. Finally pour over the vegetable stock.
2. Bring the contents of the pan to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cook for 20 – 25 minutes or until the carrot and the Swede are tender. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few moments.
3. In a blender, process the soup until it is smooth and velvety. You will need to do this in batches. To serve, reheat the soup but do not allow to boil.