Web of Life

Web of Life



The release of this image of earth from space had a profound effect in fostering the understanding that the Earth is a web of life that functions as a self-regulating system. Every part – including rocks, oceans, algae, and atmosphere – works to maintain suitable conditions for life. This understanding, first advanced by James Lovelock as the “Gaia hypothesis” in the 1960’s, is now widely accepted.


As explored in the section on Systems Thinking, contemporary science describes physical reality not as interrelated objects, but rather, as a web of relationships in which patterns can be isolated and described. Fritjof Capra (1996) writes, “Ultimately – as quantum physics showed so dramatically, there are no parts at all. What we call a part is merely a pattern in an inseparable web of relationships…. “ (p. 37).


Understanding the web of life has implications for the design of communities. Capra writes: "The great challenge of our time is to build and nurture sustainable communities – communities that are designed in such a way that their ways of life, businesses, economies, physical structures, and technologies do not interfere with nature's inherent ability to sustain life. The first step in this endeavour is to understand the principles of organization that ecosystems have developed to sustain the web of life. This understanding is what we call ecological literacy.” (Capra, n.d. http://www.edibleschoolyard.org/cla_eco.html#principles)


“Daisyworld” is a model introduced by James Lovelock and Andrew Watson to illustrate the plausibility of the Gaia hypothesis in a paper published in 1983. A simple flash animation explains the Daisyworld model at




Scanning and digitizing visitors’ handlines in various locations around the world


The Web of Life is conceived as a multi-disciplinary project that gives form and expression to the notion of a networked web of life with an interactive art exhibit that is activated by networked “handshakes.” Formulated by the writer Michael Gleich and artist Jeffrey Shaw, “The Web of Life artwork allows people in diverse locations to interactively influence the performance of an audio-visual environment by “imparting to it the unique patterns of their individual hand lines, thus giving symbolic and experiential expression to the action of connecting oneself to an emergent network of relations.” http://www.web-of-life.de/wolsiteNew/intro/introStart.html




Capra, F. (1996) The Web of Life. New York: Anchor Books.



Capra, F. (n.d.) Developing ecoliteracy. Center for Ecoliteracy, http://www.edibleschoolyard.org/cla_eco.html#principles