GAIA, Earth

by Luke Jerram

The mighty sphere of the earth rotates slowly, suspended under the gothic arches of St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne.  Seven metres in diameter and internally lit, it has been created to scale by Luke Jerram from detailed NASA imagery of the earth’s surface. (It is 1.8 million times smaller than the real earth.)

This ‘overview’ of the whole earth is how we would see our home if we were floating in the endless darkness of space.  We have been used to seeing the moon in our sky but, for the earth, this is a new perspective, first seen by astronauts in 1972.  The artwork, developed in 2018 in association with UK science and discovery centres and the Natural Environment Research Council, has been presented in many different ways in different places.  It can be shown outdoors or indoors, and will take on different meanings depending on its context: museum or science centre, parkland or festival, art gallery or cathedral.  The name Gaia comes from the personification of Earth in Greek mythology, the ancestral mother named among the Greek deities.

Gaia has been seen and will be seen in a good number of Anglican cathedrals in the UK; the visionary initiative of St Paul’s in Melbourne has given Australians this extraordinary opportunity to appreciate the beauty and fragility of earth in the context of religious wonder and awe.  The breathtaking scale of the work speaks of the grandeur of God’s creation.  We rethink our place in the world.

How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!  When I see the work of your hands, what are we that you care for us? (from Ps 8).

We are also challenged to rethink our responsibilities in the world.  To see Earth in this way makes human boundaries and conflicts vanish.  We see it as the common home for all of God’s creatures, one that we need to care for and share justly with all.  Reverence for creation is worship of the creator.  Engaging with the gospel of Christ is to participate in the transformative mystery of the incarnation.

Gaia was displayed in St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Melbourne, 22 April – 26 June 2022.

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Tom Elich is Director of Liturgy Brisbane and chairs the NLAAC.