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The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth (Commonwealth Fund Book Program) Paperback – March 17, 1995
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Lovelock hypothesizes that the planet Earth is essentially a living being, whose complex biosphere regulates such things as the chemical makeup of the atmosphere (affecting, in turn, the global climate). He compares the Earth -- with its atmosphere largely comprised of nitrogen and oxygen -- to the carbon-heavy atmospheres of "dead" Venus and at least mostly "dead" Mars.
Since Darwin's time, we've known that the environment causes organisms to evolve. Lovelock argues that the opposite is also true, and he cites many examples to support this idea. Previous mass extinctions, he says, have been the result of calamities (such as asteroids and meteorites) that temporarily threw the biosphere out of control. The current mass extinction event is an anomaly -- an individual species run amok. (Homo sapiens, therefore, are something akin to cancer cells on this giant creature.)
Lovelock's background in chemistry gives him an interesting perspective for the author of a book about ecology. He goes beyond the "this is the food chain" level and delves into the chemical nature of the biosphere and the regulatory effects these chemical changes have on the planet as a whole. Furthermore, Lovelock labels himself a "planetary physician," and urges others to become the same.Read more ›
Is this even possible? To illustrate how it might work, Lovelock postulates a simple model of light and dark colored daisies, called Daisyworld, where populations of daisies increase and decrease according to how much sunlight the planet receives. His argument moves back to the Archean age approximately 3.6 billion years ago where the first bacteria-like rudiments of life appeared. In an explanation which is heavy on the chemistry, and somewhat beyond me, Lovelock explains how our present self-sustaining world balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide used and expelled by plants and animals could develop and adapt to changes in the sun's intensity.
The Ages of Gaia contains a subtle but firm warning that we humans are changing the fabric of life on our planet, and setting the stage for what may well be (for humans and animals of our ilk) a stark uninhabitable world.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A good concise overview of the history of the planet. Helps to put the global crisis of human civilization in perspective. Read morePublished 10 months ago by ariel pereira
The evidence that the Earth's present state owes so much to photosynthesizing bacteria which gradually captured carbon dioxide is a humbling fact. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Chad M
Everyone should be enlightened about the idea of Gaia, the earth and the life on it are all part of one greater living organism. Pretty cool.Published on September 26, 2009 by OChemdogg
Great book-Lays out the importance of Gaia, the living earth and the complementary efforts of all the living plants and animals on the planet in exercising chemical feed back loops... Read morePublished on April 8, 2009 by John P. Gotthold
The Ages of Gaia is not just the story of Gaia and how she was discovered, but also the adventures of an individual scientist vs. Read morePublished on October 9, 2007 by Individual Investor
Lovelock's adventure into the theory of Gaia is an interesting experience that is worth the read. I found his ideas to be well constructed and factually backed up. Read morePublished on September 10, 2003 by Ben T. Jeffreys