Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 10, No 2 (2014)

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Between 'Biosphere' and 'Gaia'. Earth as a Living Organism in Soviet Geo-Ecology

Giulia Rispoli

Abstract


This paper focuses on some aspects of Russian naturalism that were crucial to the development of a systemic and cybernetic approach to earth sciences in the Soviet Union. The author seeks to connect Soviet perspectives to the wider context of global ecology by examining three main topics: the intersection between environmentalism and research addressing holistic ecology; the attempt at a unification of biology and geology, encouraged by V. I. Vernadskij's "pre-Gaian" concept of Biosphere as a living organism; and, the emergence of Cybernetics which accompanied the rise of a systems ecology with its implicit global understanding of environmental problems. By discussing genuine differences in styles of thinking among Russian scientists compared to Western scientists, the article is an attempt to argue that Russian science is better situated to develop an appreciation of holistic phenomena and is more conducive to interdisciplinary work than Western science, and consequently has been the source of some of the most original ideas in ecology.


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