About Earth

Earth

is the third planet from our Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. About 29% of Earth’s surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 71% is covered with water, mostly by oceans but also by lakes, rivers, and other fresh water, which together constitute the hydrosphere. Much of Earth’s polar regions are covered in ice. Earth’s outer layer is divided into several rigid tectonic plates that migrate across the surface over many millions of years. Earth’s interior remains active with a solid iron inner core, a liquid outer core that generates Earth’s magnetic field, and a convecting mantle that drives plate tectonics.

According to radiometric dating estimation and other evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Within the first billion years of Earth’s history, life appeared in the oceans and began to affect Earth’s atmosphere and surface, leading to the proliferation of anaerobic and, later, aerobic organisms. Some geological evidence indicates that life may have arisen as early as 4.1 billion years ago. Since then, the combination of Earth’s distance from the Sun, physical properties and geological history have allowed life to evolve and thrive. In the history of life on Earth, biodiversity has gone through long periods of expansion, occasionally punctuated by mass extinctions. Over 99% of all species that ever lived on Earth are extinct. Almost 8 billion humans live on Earth and depend on its biosphere and natural resources for their survival. Humans increasingly impact Earth’s hydrology, atmospheric processes and other life.

Earth’s atmosphere consists mostly of nitrogen and oxygen. More solar energy is received by tropical regions than polar regions, and is redistributed by atmospheric and ocean circulation. Greenhouse gases also play an important role in regulating the surface temperature. A region’s climate is not only determined by latitude, but also by elevation, and by proximity to moderating oceans, among other factors. Extreme weather, such as tropical cyclones and heat waves, occurs in most areas and has a large impact on life.

Earth’s gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, which is Earth’s only natural satellite. Earth orbits around the Sun in about 365.25 days. Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted with respect to its orbital plane, producing seasons on Earth. The gravitational interaction between Earth and the Moon causes tides, stabilizes Earth’s orientation on its axis, and gradually slows its rotation. Earth is the densest planet in the Solar System and the largest and most massive of the four rocky planets.

 

Gaian hypotheses

suggest that organisms co-evolve with their environment: that is, they “influence their abiotic environment, and that environment in turn influences the biota by Darwinian process”. Lovelock (1995) gave evidence of this in his second book, showing the evolution from the world of the early thermo-acido-philic and methanogenic bacteria towards the oxygen-enriched atmosphere today that supports more complex life.

A reduced version of the hypothesis has been called “influential Gaia”[11] in “Directed Evolution of the Biosphere: Biogeochemical Selection or Gaia?” by Andrei G. Lapenis, which states the biota influence certain aspects of the abiotic world, e.g. temperature and atmosphere. This is not the work of an individual but a collective of Russian scientific research that was combined into this peer reviewed publication. It states the coevolution of life and the environment through “micro-forces”[11] and biogeochemical processes. An example is how the activity of photosynthetic bacteria during Precambrian times completely modified the Earth atmosphere to turn it aerobic, and thus supports the evolution of life (in particular eukaryotic life).

Since barriers existed throughout the twentieth century between Russia and the rest of the world, it is only relatively recently that the early Russian scientists who introduced concepts overlapping the Gaia paradigm have become better known to the Western scientific community.[11] These scientists include Piotr Alekseevich Kropotkin (1842–1921) (although he spent much of his professional life outside Russia), Rafail Vasil’evich Rizpolozhensky (1862 – c. 1922), Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky (1863–1945), and Vladimir Alexandrovich Kostitzin (1886–1963).

Biologists and Earth scientists usually view the factors that stabilize the characteristics of a period as an undirected emergent property or entelechy of the system; as each individual species pursues its own self-interest, for example, their combined actions may have counterbalancing effects on environmental change. Opponents of this view sometimes reference examples of events that resulted in dramatic change rather than stable equilibrium, such as the conversion of the Earth’s atmosphere from a reducing environment to an oxygen-rich one at the end of the Archaean and the beginning of the Proterozoic periods.

Less accepted versions of the hypothesis claim that changes in the biosphere are brought about through the coordination of living organisms and maintain those conditions through homeostasis. In some versions of Gaia philosophy, all lifeforms are considered part of one single living planetary being called Gaia. In this view, the atmosphere, the seas and the terrestrial crust would be results of interventions carried out by Gaia through the coevolving diversity of living organisms.

The Gaia paradigm was an influence on the deep ecology movement