SOF Fellow Leah Aronowsky’s article “Gas Guzzling Gaia” published in Critical Inquiry


This article tells the story of the oil and gas origins of the Gaia hypothesis, the theory that the Earth is a homeostatic system. It shows how Gaia’s key assumption—that the climate is a fundamentally stable system, able to withstand perturbations—emerged as a result of a collaboration between the theory’s progenitor, James Lovelock, and Royal Dutch Shell in response to Shell’s concerns about the effects of its products on the climate. The article explains how Lovelock elaborated the Gaia hypothesis and gave it evidential depth through a series of Royal Dutch Shell-funded research projects meant to identify organisms whose biological activities might double as climate-regulating mechanisms. The article goes on to show how this research subsequently laid the foundation for a distinct genre of climate change denialism, in which corporations sowed doubt not by denying the phenomenon of global warming but by naturalizing it.