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53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Hypothesis in Somewhat Convoluted Form
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"...
Published on May 17, 2000 by Donald Mitchell

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Guide to Mother Earth
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...
Published on January 2, 2005 by Cybele


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53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Hypothesis in Somewhat Convoluted Form, May 17, 2000
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Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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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.
The other thing you will learn is the weakness of scientific work that fails to develop enough field data and to connect enough with other disciplines. I was struck by the same observations recently while visiting environmental scientists at the Smithsonian Institution. The basics in many of these areas have yet to be measured and evaluated. This book will point countless generations forward in understanding how our plant maintains its environment that permits life to flourish. Clearly, it is a stallbusting effort to replace "stalled" thinking about the history and future of the Earth. I found the key questions (such as why doesn't the ocean become more saline?) to be irresistible. I think you will, too. Enjoy and think!
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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
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This review is from: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Paperback)
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. There is, however, room for more information, and sometimes it is unclear what is conjecture, what is known fact, and where some speculations fall in between. If you have an interest in the Gaia theory or just want to find out more about how you and fit into the world, or how the world fits in with you, I recommend Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth for an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
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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
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This review is from: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Paperback)
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gaia: A Libertarian Manifesto, April 29, 2005
This review is from: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Paperback)
James Lovelock's book "Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth" reads like a libertarian manifesto. No doubt, many well-intentioned liberal environmentalists will be turned off by his laissez-faire approach to polution, as he believes that Gaia (the Earth-organism) can, and has handled much worse than our man-made pollution of the present day. Likewise, self-absorbed capitalists and fiscal conservatives may feel redeemed by some of Lovelock's claims, and may quote passages of this book to their liberal family members to score points in some future debate.

However, it would be wrong to interpret Lovelock as condoning pollution and the misdeeds of mankind. Lovelock instead implores us to participate in Gaia from a Taoist perspective, by learning to work with, rather than against the ways of the Earth. He believes (as do I) that we can only do this when we fully understand how the Earth has changed throughout history (including the environmental holocausts that the Earth has already endured), and how it presently changes to maintain a global homeostasis.

After reading this book I felt encouraged by the strength and mother Earth, and impressed by her ability to adapt to a wide range of near-cataclysmic events. My only critique of the book is that Lovelock sometimes makes certain leaps in his explanations, which at times left me (a lay scientist) confused as I was reading through them.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant hypothesis, poorly presented, October 26, 2005
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Mr. C. Doyle (St. George's, Grenada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Paperback)
In essence, Lovelock says that since evolution started eons ago, all forms of life evolved together resulting not only in balance among themselves and their surroundings, but also in such a way that they regulate the environment, controlling the atmosphere, the salinity of the seas and the temperature. This complex eco-system is presumably an inevitable consequence of the algorithm of evolution running successfully. Want to know if there is life on another planet? Easy, look at the atmosphere.

This comes out in the book, but it is a bit bizarre. Lovelock seems to go from anthropomorphism (the world learning to breath and making decisions) to using scientific terms that the average non-science reader will have to look up. He presents a table on page 63 that I think is incomprehensible unless you understood the work that went into it, which is not presented. He finishes with a plea not to hunt whales, which seems like a strange non-sequester to the book as whole.

As a consequence of this he seems to have appealed to crystal-swinging, horoscope-reading new age wo-wos rather than hard scientists. This is a shame, because the idea is brilliant (thus 4-stars), and could result in decades of research, added to which Gaia is a great name. It seems self-evident that we are part of and completely dependent upon the environment around us. Lovelock has such faith in the self-regulating mechanisms, he rather pooh poohs our ability to mess with it too much. However, it seems to me that evolution and balance takes time - we do things incredibly fast - our ability to warm the globe has only been for a couple of hundred years. We could easily give Gaia a fever, by overcoming her ability to make gentle regulations. If this happens, we do not know what the results will be, but we almost certainly will not benefit from them. As they say; "nature bats last".

Everyone should read this book and, despite its faults, it is readable.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Listening to the sound of the world....., April 7, 2001
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This review is from: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Paperback)
Simply written, mythically convincing, and conveying an idea--Gaia--so evident to the intuitive feel of life here that it's hard even to summon the will to question it.
Lovelock treads difficult ground. Apparently unaware of depth psychology's amplifications of the "anima mundi," the World Soul described by Plato and so many aboriginal socities, Lovelock seeks to move the proof into the realm of science without sounding--in this book--overly scientific.
One could wish he'd dreamed into the Gaia image more deeply and less literally. At the same time, empirical research could go a long way toward establishing the systemic, globe-regulating processes he envisions in this book. Whether such science would convince those who benefit financially from colonizing and exploiting the world's resources is open to question.
While I don't share the author's optimistic belief in Gaia's capacity to regulate herself despite our ever-increasing power to disrupt her systems, I admire the attempt to give current form to an ancient idea...an idea with tremendous archetypal punch and relevancy.
If you buy this book, use it as a point of departure--into biology, ecology, or ecopsychology, perhaps. Or into that state of humility that pauses to wonder what the world is thinking and feeling.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We need to be good stewards of our planet!, June 15, 2008
This review is from: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Paperback)
I read this book sometime ago and is impacted me significantly as it has with many others. I enjoyed the explanation of the huge organism (Earth) that is self- regulating. I also enjoyed that Lovelock points out that we humans are part of the environment and belong here. We will produce waste.

Having said that, any system can overload. Thus, we need to be good stewards of our planet.

As the astronauts left the earth in the 1960's and headed towards the moon they looked back at our planet and did not see borders or countries. They saw the earth as a single unit...beautiful and fragile. It rotated on an invisible string in the blackness of night. It affected many of the astronauts profoundly.

The book has already helped many more people see the earth as a single unit. If it can continue to do that, hopefully we will find a way to live more harmoniously with the environment on our planet.

Gaia is a great read and a way of looking at things that is both fascination and enlightening!

The Re-Discovery of Common Sense: A Guide to: The Lost Art of Critical Thinking
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Other Books, September 3, 2007
This review is from: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Paperback)
A really interesting book, and hypothesis. I first noticed this theory, funnily enough, after watching the excellent miniseries 'Edge of Darkness' and some of the writing involved with talking about that show. Well worth a look. The Earth as 'living' in the sense of a being a system, where life and the planet exist in a relationship. This is definitely a thought provoking piece of work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars technical, but worth the effort., January 7, 2014
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This review is from: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Paperback)
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. I have not finished it entirely but even so appreciate the knowledge gained on how the earth changes itself to adapt, but slowly.
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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth
Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth by James Lovelock (Paperback - November 23, 2000)
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