The Revenge of Gaia – Book Review

The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet. – Source

Book reviews aren’t usually my thing.  Only because so many other blogs review boRevengeofGaiacoveroks and novels so well.

This is more about my response to reading the overall book.

I was so surprised that my expectation of what I thought I was going to read, was, in reality, far removed from the feelings I took away when I had finished the last page.

As a self-confessed greenie (someone that loves anything to do with planet saving ideas and making the world a better place by protecting it), I thought it about time I picked up a James Lovelock book.  I picked this one because his first book the Gaia theory was well established but now over 30yrs old.  The book I chose was a more up to date.

What we agreed on:

The living Earth as one living, breathing, self-regulating planet.  It makes perfect sense to me.  Tip the balance in any one direction (population, farming, industry), over the course of century’s it’s going to have an effect.  Most of it not in a good way for a planet that is constantly trying to balance itself out.

That our very existence puts pressure on the Earth because (romantically or not) we, as a species, move forward relentlessly without care for anything else, including the soil we stand on.  We pillage and plunder in record times now.  Whether that be land, energy or space.  The more we have the more we want and it’s putting critical stress on our planet.

Climate change is real.  I don’t understand anyone who can seriously deny that the ice-caps are melting, that our air quality is worse than it’s ever been, or that the weather systems locally and internationally are becoming more and more unpredictable and fierce, it’s perishing people.

What we didn’t agree on:

First of all, I wasn’t expecting it to be so opinionated.  I thought it would be full of technical details and complicated theories.  This is both good and bad, after all I’m no scientist so it made the book easy to read but equally, neither did I really want to read Lovelocks personal thoughts on diet or food.

Secondly his support for nuclear power as the main energy supply was astonishing.  I didn’t realise; he doesn’t think of himself as a green because clearly all greens are hippies that want to fill the land with wind turbines.  He spoke of the dangers of nuclear as if there weren’t any that could fill more than a paragraph on a page.    And the waste from nuclear was not a problem either.  His book didn’t actually go into that much detail of where the waste could be stored, although he’s offered to store it under his house, which I thought was nice of him.  I’m sure his neighbours would be exceptionally pleased.

He also spent quite a lot of page space dismissing every available type of green energy.  It either kills people or fills the countryside up apparently.  So after coal and gas you’re only left with nuclear.  Clearly.

I’m a major advocate of green energies.  I’m also a big supporter of fusion energy.  I’d rather have something developed that takes up little space and can cause little injury while supplying bucket loads of energy but it’s not coming fast enough and, agreeing with Lovelock, we’re seriously running out of time to get something sorted before we end up back in the dark ages.

Everyone knows that solar, wind, nor wave will cover our energy consumptions on their own.  You could fill the entire British countryside up with wind turbines and still only generate enough energy for about 25% of the population.  So why not encourage the development and engieering of better green energies that not only create economic gain, but that don’t have the capacity to cause long term damage to either the land (fracking) or the human population (nuclear radiation).

Rather than an either or, why are we not aiming for a win-win?

The ultimate surprise was that Lovelock is happy for people to eat engineered meat, created in a laboratory, rather than suggest people look at their diets and perhaps cut down on meat altogether.  I see, that asking people to compromise on anything is seen as a step backwards in development but this isn’t a compremise.  It’s common sense.

I see nuclear power and engineered food as a pure hellish future.  Lovelock experienced WWII.  He knew first hand about food rationing and perhaps his values are coming from that place?  I don’t know.

All I do know is, I won’t be in a rush to read another one of Lovelock’s books.  I appreciate he’s a brilliant scientist that knows far more than I ever could around environmental chemistry and energies.  And while we agree on the Earth’s severe issues, I’m just not a fan of his solutions.


5 thoughts on “The Revenge of Gaia – Book Review

  1. No, I don’t like the sound of his solutions either.

    Then again, as things stand there doesn’t seem to be a solution, does there? Unless we gave up most of what we enjoy about the modern world….


    1. He wasn’t very inspiring that’s for sure. I’m not sure we have to give up anything, more that we need to be much more aware of our inpact in the world. This blog hopes to document my own personal awareness.


  2. James Lovelock is, if anything, a controversial personality. When one deals with his environmental ideas and ethics, it is important to remember that he is, by profession, a Chemist and earth scientist, not an ecologist. So his ideas come from his training and his life (which includes the 1950-1960 period where most people thought technology could solve any problem).

    Even so, being controversial is not always all together bad. We sometimes need someone to question the dominate paradigm, else we may become suck with dogmatic ideologies that may seem correct, but are fundamentally flawed. To question everything, even ones own personal belief system, is, from time to time, healthy and potentially liberating.

    That being said, I also do not agree with everything Lovelock proposes, but he certainly gives me food for thought. And that fact, in one form and, perhaps bizarre, way, is at least entertaining.


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