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The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning
 
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The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning [Format Kindle]

James Lovelock
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Présentation de l'éditeur

James Lovelock described his previous book, The Revenge of Gaia, as 'a wake-up call for humanity'. Stark though it was in many respects, in The Vanishing Face of Gaia Lovelock says that even though the weather seems cooler and pollution lessens as the recession bites, the environmental problems we will face in the twenty-first century are even more terrifying than he previously realised. The Arctic and Antarctic ice-caps are melting very quickly, and water shortages and natural disasters are more common occurrences than at any time in recent history. The civilisations of many countries will be jeopardised and life as we know it severely disrupted.



Almost all predictions of the likely rate of climate change have been based on estimates which professional observers in the real worldnow show are consistently underestimating the true rate of change. As a global community we continue to be fixated by conventional 'green' ideas which we believe will help save our world. Lovelock argues that only Gaia theory, which he originated over forty years ago, can really help us understand the crisis fully. The root problem is that there are too many people and animals for the Earth to carry. And there is in fact only one possible procedure which might bring a permanent cure for climate change, but we are unlikely to adopt it.



'Our wish to continue business as usual will probably prevent us from saving ourselves' says Lovelock, so we must adapt as best we can and try to ensure that enough of us survive to allow a more capable species to evolve from us. There could hardly be a more important message for humankind. James Lovelock has been an active and accurate observer of the Earth environment since the 1960s and was the first to find CFCs and other gases accumulating in the air. His Gaia theory provides insight into climate change in the coming century.This is his final warning.

Biographie de l'auteur

James Lovelock is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis (now Gaia Theory). He has written three books on the subject: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, The Ages of Gaia and Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine, as well as an autobiography, Homage to Gaia. In 2003 he was made a Companion of Honour by Her Majesty the Queen, and in September 2005 Prospect magazine named him as one of the world's top 100 global public intellectuals. In April 2006 he was awarded the Edinburgh Medal at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

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3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Bouleversant 3 octobre 2009
Par Sevan
Format:Relié
La théorie Gaia, longtemps accaparée par la mouvance New Age qui n'a pas compris ce dont il s'agissait, est une approche scientifique systémique de la Terre. Fondée sur des observations et des mesures, ces prévisions ont été vérifiées à plusieurs reprises. Les dernières observations climatologiques sont mieux décrites par cette théorie que tous les autres modèles ne prenant pas en compte le système (biosphère+géosphère) dans sa globalité.
En lisant ce livre, préparez-vous à changer de point de vue sur le monde et sur certaines propositions 'écologistes' actuellement en vogue.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 étoiles sur 5  53 commentaires
124 internautes sur 130 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 An important book on our planet's future 13 avril 2009
Par Future Watch Writer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
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 The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability What is very interesting is that Speth was the founder of the World Resources Institute, one of the main American establishment environmental groups. What is very interesting is that Speth now also calls for radical change and expresses a deep disillusionment with the kind of moderate solutions he used to advocate.

What is lacking in this book is a clearer message of realistic hope. Today's problems are not hopeless. I would recommend Lester Brown's Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (Substantially Revised) I also have an Amazon Listmania list on my profile (which may be listed below in Listmania lists for this book) which covers other thoughtful books about the future.

Overall, Lovelock is worth reading. I have spent a good part of my life studying the scientific data about the environment. Never before in history has there been a bigger disconnect between science and politics than today. From the destruction of the world's fisheries and rain forests to the poisoning of the air and the water, the warning signs are all there and have been there for a long time.

What's new about today is that things have deteriorated to a point that debt and political and religious delusions can no longer paper over disastrous problems.

Is Lovelock correct in seeing a maximum capacity of two billion people (over four billion below today's population) on our planet? I don't know. What I do feel, however, is that if more people read his book, maybe the world could drum up the political courage to adopt long overdue reforms. If you are looking for sugary happy talk about how a "green economy" can be created by the exact same political and business leaders who created today's global disaster - without a lot of pain and tough choices, this book is not for you. We desperately need a "green economy" but the public needs to know the truth about the cost. We are living in the greatest age of "green washing" in history. I don't agree with all Lovelock says but he is truly prophetic figure who has had the courage of his convictions in dealing with both polluters and other environmental leaders. This book is worth reading.
71 internautes sur 77 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Skeptical View of Climate Change: It Might Be Worse Than You Think 5 mai 2009
Par Justin Ritchie - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
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. And his work on atmospheric, geological and ecological sciences led him to become the first researcher to link the fields, understanding that the earth's life regulates the atmosphere, and that the earth's atmosphere regulates life. How is this so? The original Daisyworld model created by Lovelock (although seemingly common sense to us now but revolutionary for its time) was a convincing demonstration.

Years of added complexity later, Daisyworld still stands up as an accurate model of reality and the most definitive link between climate and biology. Unlike the IPCC projections of a gradual climate change, trending towards warmer temperatures is not how the earth or biology acts. Massive leaps are common as demonstrated by several graphs in the book. Disturbingly, the coldest years are prior to the major warming years, giving a false sense of security. Anthony Watts, through his blog, provides quality commentary on scientific information that disputes the IPCC climate change models, however Anthony doubts that global warming is occurring. Lovelock shares similar skepticism but provides evidence that the IPCC models are not severe enough in their projections of the serious lifestyle changes we'll need to make to mitigate a changing climate. Scientists have held up the progress of the world for a long time, with their Cartesian deterministic views, perhaps the eminence of a scientist is measured by the length of time he holds up progress. Lovelock quotes Ogden Nash to demonstrate,

`I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist,
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
`You mean,'he said, `a crocodile.'

Lovelock's perspective is credible and valuable, disputing many claims of the environmental movement, leading me to question some of my own approaches. For one, Lovelock states that nuclear fission is our only hope to avoid poverty and CO2 accumulation. Unfortunately I think we've missed the boat on this because the US couldn't build the political will to dedicate $700 billion dollars for a secure future. Why nuclear? A fission plant has no emissions other than water vapor while in operation. Nuclear waste fades away after 600 years. The yearly output of a 1,000MW station is enough to fill a medium sized car. Compared with the ash from coal that no one seems to think about, the CO2 emitted, or the manufacturing that goes into transporting a wind turbine/PV panel the entire process of nuclear fission energy is by far the cleanest. The issue of nuclear waste is no different than dealing with the issue of defunct PV panels or wind turbine components, only the nuclear waste is much lower in volume while needing greater attention and security. Lovelock goes on to give some excellent examples of how nuclear energy is mis-represented, with 27 people having lost their lives due to the historical operation of nuclear power plants. How does that measure up? On December 3rd, 1984 a pesticde plant accident in Bhopal, India instantly killed 3,800 when a cloud of methyl isocyanate gas leaked into the night air. (And many more in the following weeks.) Yes, nuclear energy isn't perfect but it is as close to perfect as we can get.

Why not renewables? Lovelock argues that the focus on "green" energy is propagated by those seeking to drive new financial bubbles, continuing the manufacturing status quo, and doing little to actually mitigate climate impacts. We always idealize the wind turbine but forget that a combustion turbine has to be run on-site at a wind farm to keep the frequency of the turbines regulated for use on an electric grid. This simple fact has led some studies to conclude that wind farms are greater contributors to CO2 emissions than a coal plant, with wind farms emitting more than 840 pounds of CO2 per MWh vs 8.8 for nuclear power. Photovoltaics are better, but land requirements are devastating, 8 acres per megawatt. Whereas a few hundred acres can house a 2,500MW nuclear plant. We need that land for farming and for return to Gaia so that the earth can do what it does best, self regulate. Where I significantly diverge from Lovelock is through is views on farming. On p. 134 of the book he details how synthesized food may be our only hope. If it is count me out. Real food can't be substituted for and the nutrient model of eating has been proven as flawed.

This book is full of interesting insights and interesting perspectives on how screwed we are. The basis of Lovelock's argument, and reason for writing the book, is that we've outgrown the Earth as a species. Humans must learn to view themselves as equals in the scheme of ecology, not as a domineering species. The massive population we now support is subsidized at the expense of slowly renewing resources like coal and oil and at the cost of a damaged biosphere. As we exceed Gaia's limits, the climate will adjust to fix the problem. This doesn't mean the end of humanity but a severe readjustment to population centers and population numbers. James Lovelock has convinced me of this through his analysis of Gaia theory applied to the Earth. Could we avoid massive global warming? Yes. An unexpected minimum of sunspots like we are currently experiencing. Massive volcanic eruptions. Successful geoengineering efforts(although highly unlikely, as Lovelock states). These could all bring an end to global warming. But they are highly unlikely. Our only plan as a species should be to adapt and realize our intelligence as human beings. Only then can we ensure our duty to survive and to carry on the legacy of the Earth. The relentless critique of the "green movement" and of environmentalism, a field many credit Lovelock for starting, was cause enough for me to find this book valuable. But the scientific discussion within is of far greater importance as we enter a turbulent time in the existence of the human species. This is a challenging read for the climate skeptic and the climate evangelists alike.
35 internautes sur 38 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 One last lecture 6 juin 2009
Par Douglas S. Frink - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
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. Here, he clearly articulates the fallacies supporting of our cultural sacred cows - renewable energy, and the demonized - nuclear energy; reiterating many of the themes from The Revenge of Gaia (2007). Biographical sketches from Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist (2001), The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth (1995), and Gaia: Medicine for an Ailing Planet (1991), flesh out these arguments and provide them with historic context within the evolving Gaia theory. This integration of Lovelock's earlier works makes this an ideal introduction for those new to Gaia. This book is a pleasant reminiscence for those who have followed the debates and growth of Gaia theory, with the last chapter a special bonus. I imagined while reading this last chapter, sitting around the kitchen table listening to one last lecture connecting the many diverse threads that make up, not the author's life, but all of humanity.

Page one of the book seems to explain the formal appositive clause in the title. James Lovelock, scientist, inventor, naturalist, and Gaian Physiologist, now at the age of 90 years does not plan to write any more books. Instead he wants to go into space and look down upon the face of Gaia. I want to just say thank you to the author who has inspired and challenged much of my own thinking as an earth scientist. Enjoy the trip.
17 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Doomer's Bible 1 mai 2009
Par James L. Scott - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Essential reading for everyone concerned about the survival of family and progeny as this century progresses and the disasters of food production failure, energy depletion and materials shortages unfold. Also, all politicians and policy makers planetwide need to know from this book that the collapse is nearly inevitable. Lovelock contends that the continuation of advanced civilization is at stake, not to mention most of the biota on the planet. Controlled shrinkage of economies (as opposed to the mantra of "growth") should be the first order of business to lessen the number of billions who will die of war, famine, genocide and disease, and to salvage as much as possible of the human cultures over the globe.
11 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Not as informative as I hoped, but well worth reading 14 septembre 2009
Par WiltDurkey - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I read this because Lovelock is one of the grandees of environmental science. And also because he's come out swinging against the traditional green establishment, by supporting nuclear power and geo-engineering among other things.

I found Vanishing interesting and sometimes downright alarming. Basically, he posits that we might very well be on the edge of, or past, a point of no return. The planet might move to another equilibrium point where it is hotter and will be difficult to cool off. Of concerns are things like methane release, CO2 proper, acidification of the ocean. Given that, Mr. Lovelock suggests that governments should start thinking in terms of saving "their" people. Notice the possessive. He believes the UK to be better placed, being on the ocean, than most inland areas, and puts its max population limit around 100 million. He does not really explain how the extra 40 or so million residents would be chosen from the large numbers of refugee candidates. There is an underlying sense of lifeboats on the Titanic and perhaps a bit of Brit nationalism as well.

But the book also falls somewhat short at times. He is pro-nuclear. Fine, that is an opinion I share as well. However his dismissal of nuclear fears is glib, artless and barely articulated. He calls radiation natural, which it is. But higher levels of radiation do cause damage to humans, so being concerned about them is not irrational. I expected a better defense of what he considers a very very necessary change in our way of thinking.

Likewise, he dismisses many of the upcoming green technologies as being driven by business-as-usual lobbies looking to cash in government and consumer spending. True, perhaps, but there are degrees within that. First generation bio-fuels, and especially their large farm subsidies, are a classic example of lobbies over reason. Can we say the same about all other climate-driven changes to our technologies and consumption? How does he propose we discern between bogus, greed-driven, proposals and useful ones? Again, he doesn't argue this point much, except for a very interesting snipe at the economic and logistical difficulties of getting anywhere with large scale wind power. I mostly like wind power, and assumed it made sense, in terms of scalability and expenditures. He says it doesn't and I will pay more attention to its critics.

He scathingly dismisses the science-by-consensus approach of the IPCC. Yet, while the actual physics of climate change is not governed by human opinion, I expect that its interpretation and, more importantly, what to do about it, would be subject of debate and negotiation. Nevertheless, if his dismissal seems a bit abrupt, it is useful to remember that just because our countries' representatives agree to say that a 2 degree C change limits risk to acceptable levels, that may not necessarily be true in practice. It might. Or not. I happen to think that public opinion has come a long way in a short time, though it might not be enough in the end.

On Gaia theory itself, I was surprised that he scorns the green mysticism surrounding it. He sees his work as scientific in nature. But, this being my first real exposure to the author, I had a hard time figuring out if he considers the planet in a solely utilitarian light or whether he attributes some special qualities to keeping it "alive" and protected. Some parts of the book made me think he does, some don't.

This book is definitely well worth reading, but left me somewhat frustrated in that it seems he bit off too much to cover. Large passages are biographical or contemplative in nature, leaving relatively little space to what I wanted to read about - hard information on how he sees the future unfolding and what he thinks we should do.
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the exhalations of breath and other gaseous emissions by the nearly 7 billion people on Earth, their pets and their livestock are responsible for 23 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions? &quote;
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It is not simply too much carbon dioxide in the air or the loss of biodiversity as forests are cleared; the root cause is too many people, their pets and their livestock  more than the Earth can carry. &quote;
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Nuclear energy is by far the most effective way to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, &quote;
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