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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth Subsequent Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192862181
ISBN-10: 0192862189
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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Oxford Landmark Science)
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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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Subsequent edition (November 23, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192862189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192862181
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.4 x 4.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #291,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME on May 17, 2000
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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Format: 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.
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