The Earth is living, and also creates life. Over 4 billion years the Earth has evolved a rich biodiversity — an abundance of different living organisms and ecosystems — that can meet all our needs and sustain life.

Through biodiversity and the living functions of the biosphere, the Earth regulates temperature and climate, and has created the conditions for our species to evolve. This is what NASA scientist James Lovelock found in working with Lynn Margulis, who was studying the processes by which living organisms produce and remove gases from the atmosphere. The Earth is a self-regulating living organism, and life on Earth creates conditions for life to be maintained and evolve.

The Gaia Hypothesis, born in the 1970s, was a scientific reawakening to the Living Earth. The Earth fossilized some living carbon, and transformed it into dead carbon, storing it underground. That is where we should have left it.

All the coal, petroleum and natural gas we are burning and extracting to run our contemporary oil-based economy was formed over 600 million years. We are burning up millions of years of nature’s work annually. This is why the carbon cycle is broken.

A few centuries of fossil fuel-based civilization have brought our very survival under threat by rupturing the Earth’s carbon cycle, disrupting key climate systems and self-regulatory capacity, and pushing diverse species to extinction at 1000 times the normal rate. The connection between biodiversity and climate change is intimate.

While using 75 percent of the total land that is being used for agriculture, industrial agriculture based on fossil fuel-intensive, chemical-intensive monocultures produce only 30 percent of the food we eat, while small, biodiverse farms using 25 percent of the land provide 70 percent of the food.Extinction is a certainty if we continue a little longer on the fossil fuel path. A shift to a biodiversity-based civilization is now a survival imperative.