Gaia’s Web Dr. Karen Bakker’s final book published

We celebrate Dr. Karen Bakker’s final book Gaia’s Web: How Digital Environmentalism Can Combat Climate Change, Restore Biodiversity, Cultivate Empathy, and Regenerate the Earth. This is a bittersweet moment for her many friends and colleagues as Karen passed away last summer, but her writings will endure. This final publication of Karen’s delves deeper into her research on digital environmentalism and our interwoven multispecies future. 

Published by MIT Press at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the book is described as “…a riveting exploration of one of the most important dilemmas of our time: will digital technology accelerate environmental degradation, or could it play a role in ecological regeneration?

At the uncanny edge of the scientific frontier, Gaia’s Web explores the promise and pitfalls the Digital Age holds for the future of our planet. Instead of the Internet of Things, environmental scientist and tech entrepreneur Karen Bakker asks, why not consider the Internet of Living Things? At the surprising and inspiring confluence of our digital and ecological futures, Bakker explores how the tools of the Digital Age could be mobilized to address our most pressing environmental challenges, from climate change to biodiversity loss. Interspersed with ten elegiac, enigmatic parables, each of which is based on an existing technology, Gaia’s Web evokes the conundrums we face as the World Wide Web intertwines with the Web of Life.  

A new generation of innovators is deploying digital technology to come to the aid of the planet, using spy satellites to track down environmental criminals, inviting animals to the Metaverse, and biohacking Frankenstein-like biobots as environmental sentinels. But will they end up doing more harm than good? In an engaging take on conservation technology, Bakker looks at the digital tech applications to environmental issues from predatory harvesting of environmental data to human bycatch and eco-surveillance capitalism. If we address these issues and mobilize digitally mediated forms of citizen science, she argues, digital tech could help reverse environmental harms and advance environmental sustainability. And in the process, Big Tech might be transformed for the better. 

With its uniquely broad scope—combining insights from computer science, ecology, engineering, environmental science, and environmental law—Gaia’s Web introduces profoundly novel ways of addressing our most pressing environmental challenges—mitigating climate change, protecting endangered species—and creating new possibilities for ecological justice by empowering nonhumans to participate in environmental regulation.” 

Praise for Karen’s last publication from fellow writers, thinkers and colleagues calls the book “a visionary work” with deep intelligence, compassion and optimism. 

“While remaining clear-eyed about the risks of more digitalization in our era of mass surveillance and concentrated capital and grappling deeply with thorny ethical challenges, Bakker nonetheless chooses an inspiring path of hope. Her enthusiasm about the life-enhancing potential of a ‘digital green agenda’ is contagious, even for a techno-skeptic like me. This posthumously published text is a bittersweet gift, a reminder that our discipline lost a true visionary.”
– Naomi Klein, author of Doppelganger, The Shock Doctrine, and This Changes Everything 

“From the opening discussion of ‘an Internet of Earthlings,’ Karen Bakker’s final book captivates the reader, seamlessly and lyrically weaving together a joyous trifecta of nature, technology, and language.”
– Gary Marcus, author of Rebooting AI and Guitar Zero 

Learn more about Gaia’s Web here