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Gaia Paperback – January 18, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: GAIA
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195216741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195216745
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 7.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"This is the most accessible of Lovelock's three Gaia books...Lovelock is a brilliant writer."--New Scientist


"Brightly illustrated with color...on nearly every page, to appeal to the general reader, armchair ecoterrorist, and science fiction fan."--Book News, Inc.


About the Author


James Lovelock is an independent scientist, inventor, and author. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, and in 1990 was awarded the first Amsterdam Prize for the Environment by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By lloyd on July 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
We are all well aware of the world-wide problems concerning humans harming the environment, such as ozone depletants and cars causing global warming. We are a great deal less aware, however, of the real damage done to the earth and whether or not the planet can recover.
In this revolutionary book Lovelock describes his profound new theory of planetary ecology. The Gaia theory views the earth as a living, self-regulatory organism in which the evolution of life is closely coupled with the evolution of the climate. The theory accounts for the remarkable ability of the biosphere to recover from planetary disasters such as the impact that killed the dinosaurs, and many other previously unexplained features of life on earth.
The book should be on the shelf of anyone interested in the planetary maladies mankind has inflicted upon the earth. In easy to understand language with the minimum of jargon. Lovelock eloquently explains his theory and suggests sensible and empirical remedies for an ailing Gaia.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Lloyd on July 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
The other review on this page was written by me (Lloyd) a few years ago. I am writing this review as a second look at the book now that I am older and (hopefully) more critical - i.e. less willing to be persuaded (!). Whilst I still think that the Gaia hypothesis is a fascinating idea and that Lovelock's book is well worth reading, I am now much more sceptical about the actual evidence for the hypothesis -- empirical evidence is, after all, the final and absolute test of a hypothesis in science.
Lovelock's writing can be very poetic. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, but in some cases -- such as the description of the earth as being an `organism' -- clarity and scientific precision seems to be sacrificed in favour of emotion. In the review `Reviewing Lovelock's second book on the Gaia Hypothesis' of `The Ages of Gaia' someone explains Lovelock's ideas about the earth as an organism more eloquently than I can. I find this view much less likely (and therefore not as good as a scientific hypothesis) than the more down to earth -- if you will forgive the pun! -- statement that living things sometimes modify their environment in a way that keeps conditions favourable for life.
Which brings me back to the all-important question of whether the earth is `self regulating'. It seems to me that this would be quite a difficult thing to demonstrate experimentally or by observation (although Lovelock does give examples of observations that support his hypothesis). I don't know what the current evidence amounts to (I am not a scientist!) but it seems to me that the current consensus is not with Lovelock.
In summary, I would recommend people to read the book but to bear in mind that Gaia is not a well-established theory. In particular, it might be good to also read some books about more mainstream evolutionary theory by authors such as Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould (which are, in my opinion, brilliant books) first.
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Format: Paperback
James Lovelock worked as an independent scientist, not answering to a corporate or academic boss. As such, he could pursue studies where ever they led him. As a result, he has many patents, originated the Gaia law, invented a device that discovered the reason for the ozone hole, then helped solve that issue (temporarily, it turns out). He's worked for NASA and JPL.

He was reported to have backed away from earlier, severe predictions about man's fate due to global warming. This retreat, if it was reported accurately, is a deep mystery. If he was wrong, it was in being too conservative.

California and the American west are in the solid grip of a deep, global warming caused drought. We are pretty much on the bottoms of reservoirs and on ground water, also being pumped furiously to feed our No. 1 agricultural status. There has been nearly no rain fall in three + years. This looks like the start of what Lovelock predicted would come to pass.

Ten years ago, other scientists predicted melting of snow and Arctic Sea ice would lead to severe drought, especially in California. It has arrived on schedule. The Governor and State dither, talking about "flushing less." But maybe Governor Brown gets it when he said, "You can't manufacture more water."

Read this book. Its the best I've seen on climate. Easy to read, clear, understandable to the layman. In many fields you can tell when an author is the real thing and fully understands his subject. You won't see convoluted, stilted, pseudo scientific writing as with lesser lights.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book back in college. ~1998-99. It must have been republished with an updated forward or similar, given the publication date listed here. My memory is, admittedly, less that perfect but we did spend a lot of time on the book.

The big question for readers should be; exactly how strong a suggestion is Lovelock making here? How testable is it? "How does plant life impact its environment" is an interesting question, but this book is weak on supporting general rules from individual cases.

The book argues that life impacts its environment, that the earth's temperature stability in the face of vastly differing solar output was due to the presence of life, and that extra terrestrial bodies can be shown to have life based on the presence of unstable compounds which life produces.

Plant life emits tons of IR radiation, granted, so plant growth would cool hot regions. If you've ever done IR photography, the plants turn out as white because they're so radiant in the IR. Normal substances don't do that. Also, the earth seems to show a more stable temperature than would be expected given changes in solar output over earth's history.

Also, the notion that unstable compounds in the atmosphere are charicteristic of life seems interesting since the notion, combined with other work, would suggest life on Mars.

"What was obvious to him, after measuring reactive gases of biological origin such as ammonia, methane, and nitrogen and sulfur oxides, was that the air was loaded with exudates of life.

These gases were accompanied by many other detectable trace compounds such as terpenes (piny essences), volatile amines (garbage smells), and methyl bromide (seaweed odor).
Read more ›
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