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The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning Hardcover – April 14, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lovelock (The Revenge of Gaia) presents evidence of a dire future for our planet. The controversial originator of Gaia theory (which views Earth as a self-regulating, evolving system made of organisms, the surface rocks, the ocean and the atmosphere with the goal always to be as favorable for contemporary life as possible) proposes an even more inconvenient truth than Al Gore's. No voluntary human act can reduce our numbers fast enough even to slow climate change. Nevertheless, human civilization has a duty to survive in the few safe havens—the far north and south, islands like Great Britain and Tasmania—free from the drought that will overtake most of the Earth. While Lovelock's propensity to ramble is disconcerting, his predictions are persuasive—although some readers will be appalled by his contention that democracy may need to be abandoned to appropriately confront the challenge. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

In his sixth book on Gaia, the eminent 91-year-old British scientist who originated the Gaia Theory to explain the interconnectedness between our planet's climate and life takes an elegiac tone and cosmic perspective in predicting our near future. Challenging the scientific consensus of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he believes it is too late to reverse global warming. We must accept that Earth is moving inexorably into a long-term "hot state." Most humans will die off, and we must prepare havens like northern Canada, where some climate refugees can survive. Lovelock rejects the results of climate computer modeling when they clash with scientific observation. For example, he points out that sea levels are rising significantly faster than models predicted. Lovelock advocates solar thermal and nuclear power as the best substitutes for burning fossil fuels, and he suggests emergency global geoengineering projects that might cool the planet. But Lovelock also avows today's ecological efforts are futile. This is a somber prophecy written with an authority that cannot be dismissed. Recommended for all academic and public libraries.—David Conn, Surrey P.L., B.C.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465015492
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465015498
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #806,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lovelock merits our attention because he has been proven right in predicting grim events. Indeed, Lovelock's grim views have in some ways been too optimistic in light of the speed with which the global environmental situation has been declining.

I think his views in this book are too pessimistic but Lovelock is a creative original thinker about science who does not fit into neat categories. He has infuriated a lot of his fellow environmentalists with his advocacy of nuclear power. He does so because he sees the huge size of the gap between what is needed and what exists. For example, President Obama has promised to "double" the percentage of renewable energy America uses in a few years. It sounds great..... until you realize renewable energy is less than one percent of America's energy now. (Meanwhile, renewable energy is being very badly hurt by the global economic crisis.) Optimistic predictions about a "boom" in renewable energy over the past 20 years by various environmental advocates have turned out to be pie in the sky. It hasn't happened. Hopefully, it will happen now. However, according to predictions of the International Energy Agency, the share of the world's energy coming from coal, the worst form of energy, is going to go up, not down by 2020. This is why Lovelock also supports research on making coal less disastrous although it's never going to be "clean" as claimed by the coal industry and its millions of dollars in advertising. (Some environmental purists have also attacked him for this.)

Lovelock's book should be read in conjunction with a new book by Gus Speth
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Vanishing Face of Gaia is my first exposure to James Lovelock's work and is my first in-depth reading of a work about Gaia theory, the idea that the Earth is a self-regulating organism. Environmentalists and New Age movements speak of the earth being alive and this perspective is often misrepresented, being lumped in Lovelock's ideas. The origination of Gaia in the 1960's didn't win any skeptics over either. Sadly, mainstream science has sidelined Lovelock's ideas for the last 30 years, gaining acceptance only recently as predictions from the theory have been proven true time after time. In fact, 8 out of the ten major predictions (table of predictions on p.177) of Gaia theory have been proven or generally accepted, including:

1. Oxygen has not varied by more than 5% from 21% for the past 200 million years (confirmed through studying ice-core and sedimentary analysis)

2. Boreal and tropical forests are part of global climate regulation (generally accepted)

3. The biological transfer of selenium from the ocean to the land as dimethly selenide (confirmed through direct measurements)

4. Climate regulation through cloud albedo control linked to algal gas emissions (many tests indicate high probability, pollution interferes)

That's a much better hit rate than string theory, an idea receiving magnitudes of greater funding. Unfortunately the decades of widespread skepticism has prevented many leading bodies of science and policy groups to ignore the dire implications of a living Earth, most specifically in relation to climate.

Lovelock was the first scientist to invent instrumentation that could accurately demonstrate the accumulation of CFCs in the atmosphere, leading to international action on the hole in the ozone layer.
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Format: Hardcover
Since the 1970's Lovelock has written extensively on the Gaia Theory; the incredibly simple but contentious idea that the planet Earth is a self-organizing system. More than a rock floating in space inhabited by carbon based life-forms, the Earth is a 4.5 billion year old dynamic system whose components, rocks, soil, bacteria, fungi, plants, animals, waters, and atmosphere, interact to maintain a fit environment within which life survives and evolves along with the evolving environment. The core elements of this idea are not new to earth science. James Hutton (1787), the father of Earth sciences, considered the planet to be a macro-organism. Vladimir Vernadsky (1926), the pioneer of biogeochemistry considered the Earth's crust so entwined with biology that it's study through traditional mineralogy a mistake. The biophysiologist, Lawrence Henderson (1913), understood that Darwinian Evolution, the survival of the fittest, could only take place in an environment that was itself fit for habitation. Still the cloistered disciplines within the academy balk at the interdisciplinary requirements of Gaia theory and the teleological nature of many of its hypotheses.

The Vanishing Face of Gaia is in many ways a review of Lovelock's earlier works updated and focused on the question of how we (globally) as a people need to think about how we will adapt to climate change - not how do we think we might avoid climate change. He argues that many of the spokes-people for the present Green movement are advancing a self-serving political and economic agenda, and like the Sirens, threaten to lead humanity onto rocky shoals.
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