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Environmental Values

Gaia Infiltrata: The Anthroposphere as a Complex Autoparasitic System

Karoly Henrich

Environmental Values 11(2002): 489-507. doi: 10.3197/096327102129341190

This paper compares the heuristic potential of three metaphorical paired concepts used in the relevant literature to characterise global relationships between the anthroposphere and the ecosphere. Methodologically, the guiding question is whether and to what extent metaphorical theses can support an arrival at hypotheses which accurately reflect reality and possess explanatory force. The predator-prey model implies that the populations of two species in such a relationship in principle exhibit coupled oscillations, giving prey populations the possibility of periodic regeneration. For some time, however, the most important indicators of human destruction of nature have been showing a relentless upward trend which appears to render the tumour-host metaphor more appropriate. Another fact which favours this analogy is that a tumour develops within its host and from its host's normal cells, in a similar way to the emergence of the anthroposphere from within the biosphere. But the parasite-host analogy also allows the formulation of fruitful hypotheses, since ecological parasitology is equally familiar with varieties of autoaggressive interaction and provides a means of focusing particularly on the adelphoparasitic hierarchy within the anthroposphere.

KEYWORDS: Gaia hypothesis, metaphor, predator-prey interaction, tumour-host dynamics, autoparasitism

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