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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth [Paperback]

by James Lovelock
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 23, 2000 0192862189 978-0192862181 Subsequent
In this classic work that continues to inspire its many readers, James Lovelock deftly explains his idea that life on earth functions as a single organism. Written for the non-scientist, Gaia is a journey through time and space in search of evidence with which to support a new and radically different model of our planet. In contrast to conventional belief that living matter is passive in the face of threats to its existence, the book explores the hypothesis that the earth's living matter-air, ocean, and land surfaces-forms a complex system that has the capacity to keep the Earth a fit place for life.
Since Gaia was first published, many of Jim Lovelock's predictions have come true, and his theory has become a hotly argued topic in scientific circles. Here, in a new Preface, Lovelock outlines his present state of the debate.

Frequently Bought Together

Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth + The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning + The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate Crisis & The Fate of Humanity
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Editorial Reviews


"This may turn out to be one of the epochal insights of the 20th century."--CoEvolution Quarterly

"The most fascinating book that I have read for a long time....Both original and well-written."--New Scientist

"Places a daring hypothesis before the general reader....[His book] is the exciting and personal argument of an original thinker caught up in wonder."--Philip Morrison, Scientific American

"A book that I have read with immense pleasure."--René Dubos, Nature

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. One of his inventions is the electron capture detector, which was important in the development of environmental awareness. It revealed for the first time the ubiquitous distribution of pesticide residues. He co-operated with NASA and some of his inventions were adopted in their programme of planetary exploration.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; Subsequent edition (November 23, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192862189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192862181
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
James Lovelock has created a powerful and interesting argument in this book that will keep scientists busy for centuries. He notices that there is an ability for the Earth to maintain relatively constant conditions in temperature, atmosphere, salinity and pH of the oceans, and reductions in pollutants that defies the simple observations of what "should" happen. From this, he concludes that there is a complex of physical, chemical and biological interrelationships that work like a living organism, which he defines as the Gaia Hypothesis. For defining that concept and providing some of the measurements to establish its premises, he deserves a 7 star rating.
Unfortunately, the argument is expressed in overlong and convoluted fashion. He deliberately limits himself to a nonscientific explanation in this book. The scientific version of the argument is in The Ages of Gaia. Although the book is not long, it certainly could have been condensed into a longish article for Scientific American or The Atlantic Monthly. My second quibble is that the editor was nowhere in sight on the organization of the book. The key point is often buried in the third sentence of the last paragraph in a chapter. The argument in between wanders into all kinds of places where it doesn't need to go. For organization and editing, I give this book a one star rating.
So the average is a 4 star rating. The writing itself is pleasant enough. Don't let the lack of organization and editing put you off, for it is worth your while to read this book. It will remind you of the benefits of the sort of sytems thinking that Peter Senge talks about in The Fifth Discipline.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to change your outlook September 10, 1997
Although parts of the text are confusing and too deep for a mere mortal like myself, this book changed the whole way I look at the earth and my own role upon it, not to mention the part my species is taking. Reading and re-reading yields great rewards, the arguments, whether agreed with or not, are cogent and thought provoking, and will provide for many a night spent in those deep discussions with friends
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Guide to Mother Earth January 2, 2005
By Cybele
Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth is an overall good read. J.E. Lovelock gives valuable insight into the Gaia theory and supports it with convincing evidence of a surprisingly large variety. Proving that the life in Earth's biosphere may sound like a dauntingly complex task, but this little book presents information in a way that even the less scientifically minded can understand; high school and college students everywhere will applaud the lack of a dictionary in this particular reading experience. The analogies used throughout the book are creative and sometimes odd, but help immensely with the reader's understanding of the subject.

The content of this book is fascinating and highly credible. Even better, the chapters are well organized for a comprehensible read. Lovelock, while mostly concerned with explaining the Gaia theory itself, also endeavors to address questions the contemporary reader would present, such as what processes are a part of Gaia, what effect pollution has on Gaia, and what human population Gaia can sustain. He also hypothesizes on how Gaia came to be, what could injure Gaia on a global scale, and how humans can harmonize with Gaia.

Though this little layman's guide is very interesting and well-written, this high school student thinks that going a bit more in-depth and focusing instances of conjecture more if possible, though these suggestions may well have been addressed since the 1989 version. I'm sure there is much more information and support for the Gaia theory since then, and the recent edition even has a spiffy new cover.

I give this book a three for the fluency with which it presents an obscure theory to the masses, and the convincing evidence actually used.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine an organism as big as Earth! June 8, 2003
Reading Edward Wilson's "The Future of Life" served as the spark to pick up and read this book. And its true, good things do come in small packages. The book is all of 140 pages, and is written in a lean, but not glossed-over style. Robert Lovelock (to my knowledge) is the contemporary father of the study of the earth as a complete living system.
Lovelock readily admits that the book serves more to promote the dialog about our planet as a living, breathing whole and to share key discoveries that support his concept. (He states in the Preface that his follow-on book, "The Ages of Gaia" aims to build the scientific argument to the Gaia theory.)

By no means, does Lovelock detour around the science that supports his case. With the scope of the topic requiring knowledge of both physical and biological science, and the small number of pages, he manages to instruct and create a sense of awe in a short amount of time.
The 3 major principles he brings to light about Gaia are:
1. Gaia exhibits a tendency to keep conditions (e.g., temperature, air quality) constant for all terrestrial life.
2. Like other living systems, Gaia has vital organs at the core, and expandable or redundant ones on the periphery.
3. Under the worse conditions, Gaia responses similar to other cybernetic systems (i.e., where time constant and loop gain are important)
The material is far reaching in both its scope and in shaping our understanding of where we stand. Put in the context of Gaia, we have straddled ourselves to the largest of all known living and breathing creatures.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Foundation Work
This book is for those who care to understand the history of what they believe about the earth. It is also a book for those who like to collect (and hopefully lend) classic works. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Andrew Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story given with great breath
This is one of the most enjoyable books I've read about life on our planet. Lovelock demonstrates great vision and courage in the presentation of his Gaia hypothesis. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dr. A. B. ONEILL
3.0 out of 5 stars technical, but worth the effort.
While this book is no easy read, if you really want to get a basic idea of how everything we do and have done on this planet has a knock on effect, give it a read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Daryl C.
5.0 out of 5 stars A exelent explenation ( and accessible ;) ) of the Gaïa hypothesis !
First of all, even my mom read it and she got it somehow ( she's not into sciences... ) Second, coupled with a big badass microbio book, this book is a great tool to reach an... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Martin Carnel
5.0 out of 5 stars Another way to think about nature
Being Catholic I was raised to believe that God created heaven and earth, this book will get you thinking things all over again.
Published 10 months ago by Mikkita
5.0 out of 5 stars A valuable macro view of planet Earth
An intriguing new look at our planet. Lovelock extols the need for a more holistic approach to science after its centuries of moving towards ever more specialization and... Read more
Published 16 months ago by sedgewick
4.0 out of 5 stars The origin of the Gaia metaphor for Earth's living systems
Gaia: A new look at life on Earth, by James E. Lovelock, Oxford University Press, 1979, 176 ff

This was the first book on the subject that Lovelock wrote presenting the... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Dr. H. A. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Nature
This is not a new book or a new topic but the source of an essential concept. At this point, the notion that the planet Earth is a living, breathing bio-system seems obvious; but... Read more
Published 20 months ago by adel
5.0 out of 5 stars should be required of every human on earth
This is probably my favorite book. Maybe a little intense and cerebral for some. I have purchased several copies over the years to give to family and friends. Read more
Published on March 29, 2012 by wolflady
1.0 out of 5 stars Outdated science, poor proof
This book was written more than 30 years ago, and the author announced in the preface that he acknowledged that he made some fatal errors in it, but he would rather not make any... Read more
Published on January 28, 2012 by svampfru
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