Earth's Basic OS

A computer, your desktop, laptop or even iPhone has a BIOS, a Basic Internal Operating System that allows all the software apps to run. It also happens that our planet has a BIOS that allows living things (our "wetware" apps) to run and multiply. Aptly enough, it's called the Gaia Theory, although it's now generally accepted as a valid scientific principle.

First developed in the 1960s and '70s by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulies as part of NASA research to determine whether life could exist on Mars, the Gaia Principle can be seen as Earth's BIOS.  It states that organisms on the planet's surface have evolved and interacted with atmospheric and chemical forces to support and perpetuate life. This began with primal single-cell organisms in Earth's seas, but continues with land vegetation and animal life to maintain the necessary balance. It doesn't involve teleological thinking about an outside plan or purpose for life. Rather, it divines the internal purpose built inevitably (or luckily, or both) into our system's overall development and continuance.

Gaia's BIOS also reaches into the planet's structure, its Bio-geophysiology. It explains how changes to life systems, through the carbon balance of the atmosphere and possibly volcanic activity, affect Earth's albedo (brightness, i.e. reflectivity to sunlight and heat.) This ties in with global warming and cooling.

Overheating of the biosphere, as in any computer, must be controlled to prevent a system crash or total meltdown. The Gaia approach identifies checks and balances, our planet's natural thermostat to control temperature.

But the fact remains, the massive impact of human activity threatens to overwhelm or override these internal controls. The melting of the poles, for instance, with the loss of their white, reflective snow and ice, dims the albedo. Dark wet tundra absorbs more heat.

The good news: If humans are powerful and clever enough to endanger or corrupt the BIOS, we can help to restore it. But it may require more purposefulness.