Gaia, Narrative and Agency

In the last two weeks you have:

  • Read about the Social Meaning of Climate
    • this chapter explored the different ways in which societies over time have constructed the idea of climate and how they have related to its physical attributes
  • Read about the Performance of Science
    • This chapter claims that one of the reasons we disagree about climate change is because we understand science and scientific knowledge in different ways.  Further, this chapter examines the changing nature of science and what significance this has for disagreements within scientific discourse about the existence, causes and consequences of human-induced climate change.
  • Went deeper into the exploration of the social meanings of climate and expectations of science through 
    • A lecture on Religion and Climate Change by Dr. Beverly McGuire;
    • Participation in a discussion about your readings and a
    • A lecture on Anthropology and Climate by Dr. Bill Alexander
Today in class we discussed the ideas of narrative and agency and we watched two videos on the Gaia Hypothesis.  The first video is here.

The second video is here. 

Your assignment is to watch at least the first 1 minute and 47 seconds of the below film.  In the comments section work with a partner to answer the following prompt:
In about 300 words, apply the ideas discussed in class and in the readings to briefly analyze the differences in narrative in the three videos.  In particular,
  1. How are stories in the videos the same and how are they different? 
  2. What might you discern about the narrators' values or worldview?  Why do you think this?
  3. How do the videos differ in their presentation of Earth's agency?
This assignment is due by 11am on Tuesday October 3. 


  1. Shep Davis / Jonathan WeaverSeptember 28, 2017 at 9:10 AM

    hep Davis, Jonathan Weaver

    In the first video in class shown the narrator dives straight into message he is trying to get across. The voice seems to be coming from nowhere and there is no pinpoint narrator for the video. Using claymations makes the video different from all the rest and having an unknown narrator makes it different from the 2nd video. In the 2nd video the narrator is a known person who talks more lively about the message he is trying to get across. The video seems to be outdated but still informative. In the final video the narrator is also unknown and instead of diving straight into the message of the video she presents the viewer with a question to create a mysterious sense of wonder. The first narrator seems to present the idea as “here it is” and seems to validate it as true the way it is presented. His world view is of course scientific but it seems to be more knowledge based from a company or organization rather than a single person. The second narrator seems to be a man of science who views the world in a scientific way. Even though he is old he seems wise and knows what he is talking about because of the way he presents his ideas with facts. The final narrator seems to be lead by an organization like Animal Planet or BBC because of the way the story is presented in a manner that is intended to hook listeners in. Their views are most likely tailored to create an interesting story while being factual. Finally all the videos are different because each narrator is coming from a different background. For example the first narrator seems to come from NASA or a scientific organization while the second narrator is a person who presents his own facts. Finally the final narrator seems to come from an informational channel that is intended to draw in readers. Overall the narrator's coming from different motives/background changes the way the video is presented as well as its contents while holding similar messages.

  2. miles and travis baxterSeptember 28, 2017 at 9:13 AM

    The first video was more so about how Gaia works with the regulatory system and how life is affected by it by using the visual representation of daisy’s and how their albedo can change the surface temp of the planet. The second video was James Lovelock explaining the origins of how he came up with it and the name and how we would use the earth. The last explained the stability and diversity of earth and almost like a combination of the previous videos by bringing in the life and diversity of the earth and the stability of it. The narrator values in the first were more for an educational and lighthearted view because it was trying to inform a broad audience for most people to understand, the second one was mores a scientific and intellectual view because it was from his perspective as a scientist in conjunction with the scientific community, the third was more of a cinematic summary of the Gaia system because it was part of an introduction of a scientific documentary. The first video was more visual in its educational portrayal to communicate its point since its purpose is to give us an intro to the earths regulatory systems. The second was like a conversation making it more personal to the viewers seeing as it was the only one with representation from the narrator and the third was dramatic in presentation to catch your attention because it was from a documentary made to explain how the earth works and why things are the way they are.

    1. The stories in the video are similar in the way they describe the earth, all of which refer to it as a system. However, the complexity of that system is described differently. The Daisy World video takes a different approach to earth’s system by describing it through a theoretical approach, in which it refers to the planet in terms of “daisy world,” and the natural cycles within the earth’s system that keep it regulated. This illustrates the concept that a change in one environmental condition will cause a change in the other. Similarly to the other two videos, the Daisy World video also mentions the effects of “increasing climate change” as well as variables such as seasons, geography, humans, and diseases. All the videos mention the delicate balance of the earth as a system, particularly the GAIA video mentions that humans have created changes to a system that was originally “perfect.” The Lovelock video emphasizes the self-regulating nature of Earth as well and the ways that humans have now become involved in that self-regulation. The narrator of the daisy world video remains unknown and its presentation of the earth as a delicate system makes references to the effects of climate change; however, the narrator does not fully articulate the human effects that create climate change. The Earth’s agency in this video seems dependent on outside factors that work together and effect earth as a complete system and in order for this system to function, both must work in harmony. The lovelock video differs from the first video in that that narrator is known and describes the Earth and its processes. The agency of the earth is seen as a mixture of living things and inorganic matter that are not working separately but rather together, not capable of having one without the other and the earth as a self-regulating system. The author mentions that he does not deem it necessary to agree or determine how the earth was created. The final video also has an unknown narrator; however, this time it seems as though they are speaking on behalf of the earth. The author refers to the planet as “our earth,” making the narrator feel human and relatable. The third video also most directly mentions the effects human life has upon the earth’s system and personifies the earth as a “mother” figure.

  3. Lily S. and Lydia H.October 2, 2017 at 7:48 PM

    All three videos relate to the Gaia Hypothesis in some form, but each video explains and addresses it in different ways. In the first video, the narrator explains the Daisyworld theory. The narrator talks about how Daisyworld is a self-sustaining and self-replenishing environment due to the planet’s albedo. In the video the narrator does not directly speak of Gaia, but implies the Hypothesis, explaining how the system and it’s organisms interact with the environment. He illustrates what Gaia is without explicitly naming it. In the second video, the narrator, James Lovelock, directly talks about Gaia from his point of view. Lovelock explains how the Hypothesis came to be and how and why it was named Gaia. Lovelock thought that the Earth was a self-regulating system and that organisms are involved in the process. While speaking with a neighbor about this process they decided there should be a proper name for it. Lovelock thought it made sense, since Gaia is the greek mythological goddess of the earth. In the third video, the narrator talks about Gaia as a whole, connecting it to the complex systems of the earth, and catastrophes that interfere with the systems. The narrator addresses the conditions that made and keep the earth how it is and how it functions; what keeps Gaia operating. Overall the videos addressed the Gaia Hypothesis and what it is, but all in the different ways and point of views. Point of views ranging from illustrative, to background, and informative and eye catching. From, the interaction between organisms and it’s environment, how the Hypothesis came to be, and how Gaia works on a global scale. Each video’s story works together to create the picture that Gaia is, a system, made of systems that works together and and continues to create what we know as Earth.

  4. Kaylee Clark, Brycen BraswellOctober 3, 2017 at 12:56 AM

    In the first video, there is a detached male voice as the narrator. It is an educational claymation video that uses a theoretical planet to illustrate how a planet’s systems self-regulate. This oversimplified planet, “Daisy World” has only system which is albedo, but it is a representation of the more intricate Earth system. Although most of the video was about the albedo of Daisy World, the main idea was that maintaining life on Earth requires a “delicate balance” between the right organisms and the right range of environmental conditions, and that humans are disrupting that balance. The second video was a self-narrated documentary about James Lovelock and how he produced the theory of Gaia. Lovelock, who is featured in the video, states that he has no interest in understanding the creation of the Earth, but rather how the Earth works as a single, whole system. In contrast, the third video, narrated by the voice of a woman, asks the questions about how the Earth was formed and evolved into a stable, life-sustaining planet. Like the first one, it also talks about how humans are affecting the planet, and it is an educational film.
    The narrator of the first video is a believer in the negative effects of human caused climate change. The narrator of the second video holds value that Earth is intricate and highly connected to the organisms living on it. In the third video, the narrator implies a worldview that Earth is unique and intricate by pointing out that it possesses water, atmosphere, mild territories and several forms of life.
    The videos differ in that the first one acknowledges that humans impact the earth in a negative way, the second video claims that the earth can regulate itself, and the third video is a combination of the two in that Earth has evolved slowly to become a stable system that humans are now affecting.

  5. A few of the concepts in all three videos were similar, they all talked about how the earth is a functioning system that regulates itself. All organisms play a role in this to create a world that thrives and also destroys itself and the living organisms on it. The three videos also talk about how humans play a significant role in the Earths ability to function, whether it is positive or negative and also how humans can change some of their actions to decrease or increase their impact on the Earths system, whether that is by reducing green house gas emissions or by increasing populations. There is a continuous theme that science is important in understanding our environment in all videos but the ‘Big Mother’ video and the ‘NASA’ video focus more on this concept. In these two videos fact based science is very important, there is little philosophical input and much more of stating known and unknown information that we currently have while noting that there is still more to discover about how the Earth came to be and what its future may hold. The ‘Lovelock’ video concentrated on one mans views and beliefs about the functioning systems of the Earth. Lovelock talked more about how humans are a part of the Earths system whereas the other two videos focused more on how humans where affecting the Earths system (mainly negatively).
    The narrators where different in the videos, in the Lovelock video it was a physical person talking about how he came up with his own theory on evolution and how he came up with it. Lovelock describes his theory of a symbiotic relationship of humans and their environment, humans are a part of it, seen hiking and trying to understand it. He calls his theory the Gaia Theory. An unknown person, just a voice, narrates the other two videos as images are shown on the screen. The ‘NASA’ video simplifies the processes of the Earth by showing a Claymation of the Earths systems functioning. There is no clear opinion or personal view; it is simple and fact based. The ‘Big Mother’ video is also narrated by an unknown voice but it does suggest a more personal view and talks about the philosophical Gaia Theory. The ‘Big Mother’ video shows real life images of the Earth and presents a rather dark and devastating future for the Earth. ‘Big Mother’ notes how the earth is currently stable but humans play a dramatic role in its future success. It talks about the titanic internal and external forces the earth has to juggle.
    The agency for the three videos is different from each other. The ‘Big Mother’ and ‘NASA’ videos talk more about humans being responsible for the actions, and they seek to discover how the Earth was formed and what processes happened to make it the world we live in today. The ‘Lovelock’ video focuses more on a total earth system being responsible. Lovelock says that it doesn’t matter how or why the earth came to be but only want to look at what is currently happening and how we are currently interacting with our surroundings.

    - Sonia Bateson and Will Deane

  6. Kevin J. and Chloe C.October 3, 2017 at 7:39 AM

    All three videos cover the same topic, the Gaia Hypothesis. In broad terms their information is similar, they all speak of the interconnectedness of the Earth. How they go about getting this information is where they differ. The first video about daisyworld is a fun claymation video designed to entertain as much as it is to inform. It explains the ebb and flow of the temperature of daisyworld through two simplistic daisy species and how conditions on daisyworld always favor one species over the other. The second video seems to be aimed at a person who already has some knowledge of the Gaia Hypothesis. It uses real world examples and talks about how the name Gaia Hypothesis came to be. It aims to build on the knowledge the viewer already has. The third video is more professional in nature. It aims to cover the topic in depth and could be for someone who has only a limited understanding of the Gaia Hypothesis or someone who has studied it extensively. I think all three narrators have a similar worldview. They all choose to be part of a project that aims to educate viewers about the interconnectedness of all things on Earth. I would venture a guess that they all value the natural world and have an understanding that changing one part of an ecosystem can have unintended consequences. All three videos portray the Earth as a self regulating system. Its agency is to keep a stable system where many different types of life can thrive. There however are a few ways they differ. In the first video the two types of daisies are in constant competition, with conditions for one always being more favorable. Over time the daisies themselves change conditions and the other daisy becomes the stronger competitor. The second video portrayed the Earth as a cradle of life of sorts. It compares the Earth to other planets where life does not exist and talks about the system that helps to keep life on Earth. The third video portrays the Earth as a grand system that is able to produce life. Then it goes into the big current influence on Earth, humans. It seems to want to know if humans are going to mess up millenia of effort that the Earth has spent to create and sustain life.

  7. Hannah Lewis and Nick CoutrosOctober 3, 2017 at 7:57 AM

    Each video emphasizes a different theory or perspective about Earth, but have the same general idea that Earth works as a system. In the first video, the narrator describes a "Daisy World" view, noting the natural cycles in the Earth's system that helps it be self-sustainable. Another key idea includes the fact that Earth's albedo helps it replenish itself constantly. The video seems to differentiate itself from the two others by using claymation, helping the view visualize each process and idea. There is music playing in the background and the narrator is not visually shown. It is more like a voice from above. The narrator seems to explain all ideas of Gaia in general, but uses names of individual theories like "Daisy World" instead of "Gaia." The second video is much more personal, as James Lovelock is visibly seen talking about Gaia from his point of view. There are a few visuals, but the viewer mostly sees him narrating. Lovelock mentions how Earth works as a "single entity", also stating that Gaia is the name he decided to use for the system. The camera shows the book he wrote in its name at this time, providing proof that Lovelock is a reputable source on this subject and has enough evidence and thoughts about Gaia to write a book about it. The last video seems much different compared to the other videos. Like the first, it has an unknown narrator. However, the perspective is different because the narrator seems to be speaking on behalf of Earth. There seems to be more emotion, as the narrator uses "our" and "we." This makes them seem more personable. The visuals are meant to capture the viewer and instill mystery, especially in the first minute of the video. The general idea seems like one shown on Animal Planet or a history channel, with the main purpose of informing the audience and making them think; not telling opinions. All in all, the three videos addressed the same topic: the Gaia Hypothesis. Each gave a different point of view, such as the Earth working as a holistic system. Each narrator offers their perspective, informing the viewer on how Gaia works or at least their interpretation of the subject. Overall, all three create a visual of how this system works together to keep Earth going day after day.

  8. The stories of the three videos are similar in the way that they perceive the earth’s system and it’s agency in terms of the Gaia hypothesis. The planets all relate in the way that the factors interact with the surroundings in order to self regulate and become stable conditions. The lovelock video and the “Big Mother” video differ from the Daisyworld because Daisyworld is a made up planet that is only inhabited by black and white (low and high albedo) daisies. There are also no other factors on Daisyworld like seasons, diseases, rotation, weather, geography, or even humans. The narrator’s values of the videos differ because in the first video the narrator is unknown where as in the second video the narrator is shown and you can tell more about his values than you could with the first one. They also differentiate because in the first video the unknown narrator seems to be relaying information/facts/statistics inside of presenting information first hand like the narrator in video two does. The second video’s narrator seems much more scientifically driven and presents his hypothesis in a story structure of his own findings. The third video’s narrator relates more to the first one in the way that they are more trying to sell their audience on their research and hook their attention early on. The three video’s differ in their presentation of earth’s agency and the Gaia hypothesis because they all seem to be driven by different reasons to produce the videos. The first video’s narrator seems to be from a scientific research organization of some sorts and is presenting a research finding. The second narrator is a scientist who has performed his own research and wants to present it to the public. The third video’s narrator seems to come from a research/informative program that gets views by developing a story to draw in viewers.


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