A Fourth International Conference (Wikipedia Reference) on the Gaia Theory, sponsored by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and others, was held in October 2006 at the Arlington, VA campus of George Mason University. Martin Ogle, Chief Naturalist, for NVRPA, and long-time Gaia Theory proponent, organized the event. Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and long-time advocate of the Gaia Theory, was a keynote speaker. Among many other speakers: Tyler Volk, Co-director of the Program in Earth and Environmental Science at New York University; Dr. Donald Aitken, Principal of Donald Aitken Associates; Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, President of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment; Robert Correll, Senior Fellow, Atmospheric Policy Program, American Meteorological Society and noted environmental ethicist, J. Baird Callicott. James Lovelock, the theory’s progenitor, prepared a video for the event. This conference approached Gaia Theory as both science and metaphor as a means of understanding how we might begin addressing 21st century issues in a holistic and interdisciplinary manner.
Explore the bios of the conference speakers.
See list of conference sponsors, at bottom of this page.
- To promote awareness and understanding of the Gaia Theory among a diverse audience including scientists, educators, policy makers and the general public.
- To explore the broad implications of the Gaia Theory and the connections it reveals between science, culture, economics, politics, education and other aspects of human life.
- To explore & celebrate artistic and literary significance of the metaphor, Gaia.
- To inspire the implementation of ongoing interdisciplinary thinking and actions.
By all accounts, the conference was a resounding success! Thank you speakers, exhibitors, steering committee, volunteers, attendees and all others! We knew the event would at least be great on account of the wonderful speakers and the mix of topics they covered. However, there was a level of energy, enthusiasm and interest that went even beyond what we were expecting! There were great conversations and connections made during the breaks and lunches. The audience came from a wide variety of “walks of life” and was very complimentary of the synergy between the dual emphasis on science and metaphor.
Most of our speakers stayed for much more than just their presentation – many attended both days. Many speakers reflected that in addition to sharing their own areas of expertise that they had learned a great deal as well.
The Paul Winter concert, the sculpture unveiling and some of the sessions highlighted the tremendous power of the metaphor of Gaia to engage people with different interests and to work synergistically with the science to promote the best possible understanding of our planet.
Kitty Bailey is a supervisory chemist with the Food and Drug Administration in College Park, Maryland. She’s a life-long amateur naturalist and birdwatcher who lives in Arlington, Virginia with her family.
Rich Bailey is the Naturalist with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. He has a B.A. in Environmental Anthropology from James Madison University, and an M.E.S. in Environmental Studies from Evergreen State College. Along with Martin Ogle, he helps manage Potomac Overlook Regional Park and presents programs on a wide range of natural history topics. He has served as well on farmland protection/land trust boards and curriculum advisory committees. Rich is particularly interested in the Gaia Theory as it applies to predicting the future behavior of life on Earth as it adapts to changing solar and other environmental conditions.
Bonnie Burgess has been an instructor in Environmental Sciences at Marymount University since June 2002, in Biodiversity Issues and Ethics and the Environment at Johns Hopkins University since 1998. She is also a camp counselor and workshop instructor at the National Zoo. She has been a volunteer at the National Zoo since 1995 working in such programs as the Cheetah Conservation Station, the Great Apes, the Golden Lion Tamarins, and the Invertebrate House. Ms. Burgess earned her MS in Environmental Science in 1998 from Johns Hopkins University and published her book, Fate of the Wild: the Future of the Endangered Species Act and Biodiversity in hardback in 2001 and in paperback in 2003.
Dr. Thomas I. Ellis
Associate Professor of English at Tidewater Community College, and founder of GAIA International (Global Awareness Interdisciplinary Alliance), a student organization whose mission is to sponsor projects, events, and publications that promote interdisciplinary ecological understanding, and responsibility. Dr. Ellis is a scholar of English Renaissance Literature, and has traveled widely, teaching in Greece, China, and England and presenting papers on Gaia Theory at domestic and international scholarly conferences.
David Kerner is a mechanical and aerospace engineer and a specialist in science and technology policy. He advises state and federal government agencies on the social implications of technology policies and translates social policies into technological initiatives. Mr. Kerner is a strong proponent of applying appropriate technologies – i.e., appropriate in size, simplicity, and sustainability – as part of holistic solutions to social issues.
Joe Keyser is the GreenMan, host of The GreenMan Show, an award-winning cable television program on the environment, newspaper columnist, and currently public education coordinator director for the Department of Environmental Protection in Montgomery County. Previously, Joe was the Program Director for the American Horticultural Society, and continues to serve on the board of several regional non-profit organizations. His career in communications has resulted in more than 45 national and international awards.
Martin Ogle has been Chief Naturalist for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority since 1985. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University and Virginia Tech, respectively. Mr. Ogle has presented more than 100 lectures and courses on the Gaia Theory for universities, public groups, and other audiences since 1990. He has met and talked with many of the top scientists in Gaia Theory research. His meetings and correspondence with Drs. James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis helped inspire the development of the Gaia Theory conference.
Charles Smith is a Natural Resource Specialist for the Fairfax County Park Authority. A Northern Virginia Native, Charles has been active in stream monitoring and is currently president of the Prince William Wildflower Society – a chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society.
A member of the Environmental Systems Research Institute’s Washington D.C. Technology Center in Vienna, Virginia. Mr. Zimble has worked with Geographic Information System and remote sensing technologies for over 10 years applying these technologies in both academic research and practical applications for use by governments, international organizations, and NGOs. Personal and professional interests include the design and delivery of demonstrations that highlight the usefulness of GIS and RS technologies for communicating complex environmental issues at all scales for use in decision-making. Example contributions include participation in the Defying Ocean’s End program.
Michael Zito holds a Bachelors in Biology with a Chemistry Minor and Masters in Environmental Science. He has been teaching science in Arlington Public Schools for 18 years. Michael first became aware of the Gaia Hypothesis through the computer game SimEarth at the same time he was taking a course in environmental analysis and modeling at George Mason University. Michael began introducing computer modeling into his curriculum including the classic Daisyworld model which he implemented in Vensim (a systems modeling program). He has used the Gaia Theory to teach scientific controversy, the connections between the living and non-living in a tightly coupled system and holistic vs reductionist views of scientific inquiry.
Co-sponsoring Organizations of the 2006 Conference:
This conference was made possible and was a huge success due to the co-sponsorship of the following organizations that helped with funding, in-kind donations of materials and/or time, and publicity.
Main Sponsor: Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority
Arlington County, Virginia
Arlington County Libraries
Arlington Department of Environmental Services
Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
Arlington County Parks and Natural Resources
Arlington Public Schools
Audubon Naturalist Society
George Mason University Department of Environmental Science and Policy
George Mason University Department of Geography
George Mason University Department of Health, Fitness, & Recreation
George Mason University Department of Recreation, Health, & Tourism
My Organic Market
National Association of Biology Teachers
National Council for Science & the Environment
Northern Virginia Conservation Trust
Nuclear Energy Institute
Prince William Wildflower Society
Sierra Club, Virginia Chapter
Skybuilt Power, Inc.
Virginia Cooperative Extension
Virginia Native Plant Society
Virginia Sustainable Building Network
Virginia Tech Department of Science &Technology in Society
Washington Area Academy of Sciences