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The Revenge of Gaia Hardcover – July 3, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The end is all but nigh for Mother Earth's inhabitants unless drastic measures are soon taken: that's the rueful prognostication delivered by Lovelock (Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth), intuitive originator of the theory that the world is a self-regulating system that, over the eons, has been able to sustain an equilibrium between hot and cold so as to support life. Now, propelled by global warming, Lovelock says, a tipping point has almost been reached beyond which the Earth will not recover sufficiently to sustain human life comfortably. Lovelock dismisses biomass fuels, wind farms, solar energy and fuel cell innovations as technologies unlikely to mitigate greenhouse gases in time to save the planet. Instead he sees nuclear energy as the only energy source that can meet our needs in time to prevent catastrophe. Chernobyl was a calamity, he notes, but nuclear power's danger is "insignificant compared with the real threat of intolerable and lethal heatwaves" and rising sea levels that could "threaten every coastal city of the world." Lovelock's pro-nuke enthusiasm, unexpected from one of the mid-20th century's most ardent environmental thinkers, is the well-reasoned core of this urgent call for braking at the brink of global catastrophe. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

British geophysicist Lovelock introduced the Gaia theory in the early 1970s, envisioning the biosphere as "an active, adaptive control system able to maintain the earth in homeostasis." Since then, Lovelock has expanded the Gaia concept to embrace "physical, chemical, biological, and human components," recognizing that organisms do change the environment, none more radically than humanity. Lovelock now describes Gaia as fighting for its very existence as a rapidly increasing human population threatens to upset the precise balance of forces the make the earth conducive to life. Lovelock looks beyond biodiversity (see E. O. Wilson's The Creation, p.19) to elucidate the functions of the polar ice caps, Amazon rain forests, and ocean currents, and then explains the causes and consequences of global warming. This is solid science, a practice Lovelock seems to abandon in his strangely irresponsible arguments for nuclear energy and against sustainable energy sources (see Helen Caldicott, p.15). In spite of its flaws, Lovelock's tough-minded presentation is a valuable contribution to the urgent debate over humankind's future. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Printing edition (July 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046504168X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465041688
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,249,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on August 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It's common knowledge that our planet's in trouble. The number of books and articles testifying to this condition are almost beyond counting. Lovelock himself acknowledges that there will be dismay at the appearance of "another book on global warming". Lovelock's approach, however, is a departure from the other offerings on this topic. Having postulated the Earth as an organic whole, he can address the problem as a physician. There will be diagnosis and analysis of symptoms. There will also be some suggested therapy. Like many medicines, his prescriptions will be unpalatable to many.

Lovelock diagnoses the Earth as suffering from a fever. Its atmospheric and oceanic temperatures are rising. The infecting agent is a complex organism that has emerged only recently in Earth's history, although it spread rapidly. It's Homo sapiens - ourselves. Humans have usurped woods and prairies, cutting down forests and turning rangeland into farms for our sustainance. Although we declare these transformations are necessary to our survival, the changes have fatally disrupted the Earth's fine balance among land, sea and air. To Lovelock, that balance is a natural system. He's named the system "Gaia" from ancient Greek mythology. Although the "Gaia" concept has its critics, from doubtful to severe, Lovelock has convinced most scientists that the interaction of many elements must be viewed as tightly integrated. What affects one part will surely influence another - or many. And the effect is incalcuable. In this case the effect appears to be terminal. Which means if "Gaia" dies, the living things on this world will go with it. That means us. Gaia's revenge will be to exterminate her affliction.

Lovelock's aim is to protect Gaia.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Dave Johnson on July 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
One might complain about the reletively small amount of supporting detail, but, for a concise, readable introduction to the key problem, this book is very, very hard to ignore. And doubly so if one is aware of Lovelock's long history of sheer brilliance.

For me the heart of the book was the set of three maps comparing the state of the world as it is now, as it was when average temperatures were five degrees Celsius colder (i.e. the last ice age), and what is likely if the world becomes five degrees warmer. These do not sound like big differences, but on a global scale such temperature changes make huge differences, and Lovelock's maps show just how massive the changes really are. Never mind a picture being worth a thousand words, these maps save a couple of million words. Looking at them will leave you wondering about real estate prices in Labrador.

Lovelock also does a good job of explaining concisely the nature of positive feedback loops that are starting to come into play in the global climate changes. I happen to be fortunate in that I am an engineer with much previous experience dealing with control systems and feedback loops, so I was in a position to follow his argument fairly comfortably in the first place. Naturally, not every reader will have such a convenient background, but I encourage everyone who does read the book not to skip over these sections, since they explain why the climate change may be both much worse and much quickeer than one might expect.

To use more ordinary terms, when Lovelock talks about "positive feedback" he is talking about a "vicious circle", in which each change for the worse makes it easier for the next change to make things even worse.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Grover on January 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book after reading a long story about Lovelock and his recent predictions of catastrophic global warming in the Washington Post. What was amazing about the Post story was that it was in the "Style" section. It seems like such an urgent message would not be in the entertainment section of the paper. I am not an environmentalist and never took global warming all that seriously until I read this book. The most frightening part about his studies is that he predicts untold catastrophes in my lifetime (and I'm over 50) and that there is very little we can do about it. His analysis is that in the end only a few hundred million people (out of 6 billion + people) will survive and will need to flee to artic regions. A serious scientist, he iseems to have credibility since he is the one who discovered the hole in the ozone and designed many of the tests that the U.S. used in our Mars mission to analyze if there is life on Mars. He has gotten my attention.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Fox in Socks on December 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
I ordered this book because I read a Rolling Stone article on Lovelock and I was interested to read more about this "gloomier" version of what is going to happen to the Earth.

I didn't find it that dark or gloomy--certainly there is something hopeful about his writing style. It's a bit scary if you aren't familiar with global warming and all the reactions it will cause across the globe, but ultimately what I got out of it personally, was that global warming is going to happen and as a human race we will adapt as best we can. It may wipe out a big chunk of us, but we are overpopulated as a race anyway.

More and more I see us as the cancer on the skin of Gaia. Looks like global warming and the potentially billions of deaths it may cause, will help the earth develop a culture and lifestyle that *lives in harmony* with nature instead of constantly battling against it. The crisis we will be forced into within the next 100 years will teach us a lesson that we will never learn through mass consumerism no matter how successful it has been in allowing our race to overpopulate.

This book is a must read for any human, especially if you have kids and or are planning to have kids. Even if you disagree with much of the book, it will make you stop and think and maybe help prepare you for a future you weren't expecting.
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