Friday, May 08, 2009

The Vanishing Face of [Mother] Gaia: A Final Warning

A few tidbits from a review of James Lovelock's new book The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning:

THE GIST OF THE BOOK: "‘The Earth, in its but not our interests, may be forced to a hot epoch, one where it can survive, although in a diminished and less habitable state. If, as is likely, this happens, we will have been the cause… too many people, their pets and their livestock - more than the Earth can carry.’

WHO IS LOVELOCK?: "... creator of the ‘Gaia hypothesis’. Back in 1974 ... Lovelock wrote cheerfully: ‘Assuming the present per capita use of energy, we can guess that at less than 10,000 million we should still be in a Gaian world. But somewhere beyond this figure, especially if the consumption of energy increases, lies the final choice of permanent enslavement on the prison hulk of the spaceship Earth, or gigadeath to enable the survivors to restore a Gaian world.’

"[Lovelock is] an intelligent man who developed highly sensitive scientific instruments for NASA, ... a free thinker who could be selectively quoted to provide succour to an enormous range of views, from the failings of climate science to the benefits of nuclear power.

WHY DOES THE REVIEWER THINK LOVELOCK IS DANGEROUS?: " ... his writings ... throw up the possibility of a world in which Nature is placed before humanity, with irrational and reactionary consequences.

WHAT IS THE GAIA HYPOTHESIS?: "For Lovelock, the Earth is a self-regulating, living system. He was initially struck by just how precisely the Earth’s atmosphere suited the maintenance of life compared with that of Mars, and concluded that this could not have simply been some geophysical accident; he argued that a web of complex feedbacks helped to ensure that the proportions of different gases were closely maintained.

"Lovelock is certainly in no doubt that the Earth is alive, though he is not really sure what that means. ‘Why do you keep on talking about the Earth as alive? This is a good question, and there is no rational answer; indeed to some of my friends my suggestion that the whole planet is alive is not “scientifically incorrect”, it is absurd. In reply, I say that science has not yet formulated a full definition of life.'"

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