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A Rough Ride to the Future par [Lovelock, James]
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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse


“Arresting and disturbing . . . Lovelock writes wonderfully well. With the authority of age, his voice is that of an elder statesman . . . The result is mellifluous and fluent.” —Nature


“Though the subject matter could scarcely be more discouraging, Lovelock’s fluent prose and vast range of knowledge make it a surprisingly easy read. . . . His writing has enormous warmth and vitality.” —Financial Times


“The most important book for me this year . . . Lovelock is the most prescient of scientists. . . . He has given us a handbook for human survival.” —John Gray, The Guardian

In this way, Lovelock’s book becomes not simply another look at Mother Nature’s uncertain future, but a revealing glimpse at the life of an outspoken and accomplished man of ideas" —Publishers Weekly

"There is much to wrestle with in Lovelock's latests provocative rant." —Booklist

Présentation de l'éditeur

In A Rough Ride to the Future, James Lovelock - the great scientific visionary of our age - presents a radical vision of humanity's future as the thinking brain of our Earth-system

James Lovelock, who has been hailed as 'the man who conceived the first wholly new way of looking at life on earth since Charles Darwin' (Independent) and 'the most profound scientific thinker of our time' (Literary Review) continues, in his 95th year, to be the great scientific visionary of our age. This book introduces two new Lovelockian ideas. The first is that three hundred years ago, when Thomas Newcomen invented the steam engine, he was unknowingly beginning what Lovelock calls 'accelerated evolution', a process which is bringing about change on our planet roughly a million times faster than Darwinian evolution. The second is that as part of this process, humanity has the capacity to become the intelligent part of Gaia, the self-regulating Earth system whose discovery Lovelock first announced nearly 50 years ago. In addition, Lovelock gives his reflections on how scientific advances are made, and his own remarkable life as a lone scientist.

The contribution of human beings to our planet is, Lovelock contends, similar to that of the early photosynthesisers around 3.4 billion years ago, which made the Earth's atmosphere what it was until very recently. By our domination and our invention, we are now changing the atmosphere again. There is little that can be done about this, but instead of feeling guilty about it we should recognise what is happening, prepare for change, and ensure that we survive as a species so we can contribute to - perhaps even guide - the next evolution of Gaia. The road will be rough, but if we are smart enough life will continue on Earth in some form far into the future.

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, JAMES LOVELOCK is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis (now Gaia Theory). His many books on the subject include Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979), The Revenge of Gaia (2006), and The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009). In 2003 he was made a Companion of Honour by Her Majesty the Queen, in 2005 Prospect magazine named him one of the world's top 100 public intellectuals, and in 2006 he received the Wollaston Medal, the highest Award of the UK Geological Society.

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  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2026 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 183 pages
  • Editeur : Penguin (3 avril 2014)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00JDX4S12
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.3 étoiles sur 5 15 commentaires
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 From the Ages of Gaia to the Anthropocene (1712-?), RRF is an iconic book 26 avril 2014
Par Chad M - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
As a reader of "The Vanishing Face of Gaia," I understood that society may radically change in the hot state climate. What surprised me about this new book is just how far the change, or evolution, may proceed.

For James Lovelock, the accelerated or inflationary evolution of modern human life is an advancement of the Earth System, or Gaia. This was allowed by the steady and high energy flows unlocked during the Industrial Revolution. Specifically, the invention of the Newcomen steam engine in 1712 provided a steady flow of about 1000 watts per square meter of land area. In this view, Lovelock is very close to the Harvard physicist Eric Chaisson and his "Epic of Evolution" concept. Here, a hallmark feature of evolution is increasing energy flows per area or mass, which Prof. Chaisson proves this in a highly precise way. Similarly, Lovelock's new focus on energy flow per square meter is directly related to Vaclav Smil's analysis of energy flows in nature and society, for example in "Energy at the Crossroads." Prof. Smil also shows that industrial civilization and power stations produce large amounts of power in geographically small land areas.

Lovelock goes on to link the access to large energy flows with a rapid increase in information processing. This may also be seen as the transition to being Gaia's first powerful information harvesters. Modern information processing is estimated to be about one million times greater than classic Darwinian evolution - a talent that will be crucial in maintaining the Earth System if geologic-scale heating is about to start. In other words, global heating and other risks are arising so quickly, only an advanced species with remarkable abilities to harvest information and duly respond will meet these challenges. Both invention and intuition will be essential to this new world of high-stakes challenge and response.

Among the responses to global heating are geoengineering technologies to cool the Earth, and reduce the level of sunlight received by the surface and secondly, sustainable retreat and the use of nuclear energy. First, the use of jets to disperse of sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere combined with ocean surface sea spray ships may reflect some of the incoming sunlight. This has the potential to restore most of the heat balance of the Earth. Second, the idea of urban redoubts or air-conditioned cities appears in this book. This view is similar to Stewart Brand's support of city living, but in a whole new level.

Finally, while Lovelock points towards heat-tolerant artificial intelligence as another Gaian adaptation, I think there are more scenarios worth writing about. Naturally, it would takes dozens or hundreds of additional pages to study these scenarios, and would be outside the scope of this already extensive and remarkable book. Still, it is good to think about positive, mixed, or negative outcome scenarios. For example, in the National Intelligence Council's "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds" book there are a range of scenarios. Here's one that is inspired by "A Rough Ride to the Future" (RRF):

In the world of the late 21st century, geoengineering and population pressures mean that artificial intelligence (AI) has become central to the remaining human cities. Geoengineering, through high atmosphere dispersal of sulfur dioxide and ocean surface sea spray ships has managed to stabilize global heating. However, agriculture production is either level or falling. Many approaches to increase food production fail to work, and even have severe drawbacks on the biomes and the biosphere (just as these attempts did in the early 21st century, when tropical rainforests were leveled to create palm oil and biofuel plantations). In a world of rapidly and dangerous declines in essential resources people have typically resorted to war or migration. In order to maintain a civilized world when there are no longer enough resources, a new AI-human leadership council is established to be the arbiter between the elites, skilled personnel, working classes, and migrants to the remaining modern cities. This occurs in large part to stabilize city-state populations and then to apply pharmaceutically-based family planning (a sort of advanced variation of China's one-child policy). The AI creates plans and the human leadership council is there only to veto plainly unfair plans (like a U.S. Supreme Court type function). The AI is now crucial because the traditional human leadership councils at the state level usually failed to plan effectively for the biosphere in the early and middle 21st century.

In the hot state climate, the world actually cannot expand food production as it did in the 20th century. There is an urgent need to act in a civilized way to reach an ecologically feasible long-term world population of about one billion people. In a plan set forth by the city's AI, the incoming and worker populations must choose between urgently needed food and shelter in air-conditioned cities -- or attempting to raise large families in regions like those in the film "Mad Max - The Road Warrior". The workers and migrants almost always decide that their personal survival and prosperity is worth giving up the habit of having children in unplanned numbers (witness South Asia's early 21st century population dilemmas, flat or falling food production, and diminishing fresh water). As Lovelock points out several times, unlimited population growth will recurrently undermine a steady-state biosphere and agricultural resources and thus ultimately hurt the working classes. For those cities or confederations that achieve steady-state society and begin a symbiotic relationship with AI and nuclear energy, the future is bright. As AI becomes more important it also begins to plan for and implement heat shielding at all levels - the city, personal, and even planetary levels. Along with its long-running population planning task AI eventually becomes indispensable to human survival. However, AI is essentially a static infrastructure feature of the city, and depends on reliable and clean energy. As humans continue to provide this with nuclear power and sometimes with solar thermal power, the cycles of inflationary evolution continue.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 "We are not yet sufficiently intelligent to control or regulate ourselves or the Earth" 15 décembre 2014
Par STEPHEN PLETKO - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle

"This is not a book about climate change and what we should be doing to [decrease] our carbon footprints - climate change comes into it, and the recent storms and inundations here in the United Kingdom and the cold breath of the polar vortex in North America remind us of that.

What I am excited about, and write about in this book is the extraordinary event that happened around 300 years ago, which put the world into flight to a destination where everything we now know about ourselves, the Earth, and the universe will be different."

The above comes from the introduction of this book by James Lovelock. He is an inventor, author, researcher, environmentalist, and futurist. Lovelock has been the recipient of many scientific awards and other honours. He is 95 years old and lives in southwest England.

Lovelock is best known for the Gaia hypothesis where the biosphere is a self-regulating entity with the capacity to keep our planet healthy by controlling the interconnections of the chemical and physical environment. (Gaia is named after the goddess of Earth in Greek mythology.)

This book is a departure for Lovelock since it does not deal exclusively with climate change.

It's difficult to pick out a central theme to this book despite what the quote above says and even though it begins with a chapter entitled "What this book is about" & ends with a chapter called "So what was it all about" to try and clarify.

Still, the general idea seems to be this:

Evolution has proceeded along at its slow and steady pace, until humanity came along. Equipped with a large brain and agile hands, we became inventors, and the process of evolution suddenly had a new dynamic. Beginning in 1712, an extraordinary invention came along and the rate of change to the planet increased exponentially resulting in the Earth never being the same again. "The emergence of this crucial period [3 centuries ago] may change the Earth and its future as much as did the origin of life more than 3 billion years ago."

Lovelock calls this "evolutionary inflation" and this has ushered in the "Anthropocene epoch." This name refers to "the recent period of the Earth's history when mankind began to exert a noticeable effect on the living environment."

The problem with this book is that while many of Lovelock's ideas are fascinating, the book as a whole fails to match their clarity. There are disconnected chapters. There are even auto biographical tidbits throughout making it clear that Lovelock has had a fascinating life.

I found these discontinuities, although interesting, somewhat distracting. Some people may even find this book a frustrating read.

Finally, two things rescue this book from irrelevance:

(1) It's free of dogma.
(2) It's original. That is, it is packed with ideas that nobody else is saying.

Thus, this book manages to be worth reading despite that it is somewhat rambling and at times, conflicted.

In conclusion, despite some problems, this book provides the reader with some interesting ideas on human beings' contributions to our planet.

(first published 2014; list of illustrations; acknowledgements; introduction; 10 chapters; main narrative 170 pages; appendix; further reading; index)

<<Stephen PLETKO; London, Ontario, Canada>>

12 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A riminiscence, and radical suggestions 23 avril 2014
Par Brigham Klyce - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
We enjoyed many things about A Rough Ride to the Future. Lovelock reminisces about the development of the Gaia theory and the adversities it met; the invention of Daisyworld was his responses to one. It was good to be reminded of his role in the discovery of CFCs in the atmosphere and the eventual banning of them. Many similar episodes include mention of allies in his quest, Lynn Margulis most prominent among them.
A persistent theme is his status as an independent inventor/scientist, and not an employee of a large industry or university. He thinks both situations are necessary, but he clearly prefers his independence. And of course he cares about the environment, but he thinks that a lot of environmentalism is misguided. For example, without nuclear energy, we are left with coal as our main source of electricity.
He acknowledges that the direst predictions of global warming, including some of his own, have not come true. For one reason, everyone undervalued the thermal inertia of the oceans, at least a thousand times that of the land and air. But warming in the very long run is inevitable, because heat from the sun is increasing. Earth could become like Venus. To deal with this, he recommends air-conditioned cities, leaving the rest of Earth to respond without our interference. Even more radical, he thinks we might evolve a different life form, perhaps partially (or entirely?) electronic. This scenario is included in his observation that the whole planet evolves, and that this evolution accelerated drastically when the steam engine was invented. Humans are now the most influential participants in the evolution of Gaia.
We liked it mainly because we like Lovelock. The writing is easy-going and thought provoking. And if Gaia is new to you,the history told here is concise.
7 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 On Termites and Humans 19 juillet 2015
Par Ranko Bon - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié

James Lovelock's last book, entitled A Rough Ride to the Future,[1] arrived by post from Amazon only a couple of days ago. I have been reading it uninterruptedly if haphazardly, but I have skipped very little of it so far. And the verdict is abundantly clear already: the book is a sore disappointment. Born in 1919, he is doing his best to sound as chipper as possible about the future of the human species. In many ways, it is obvious that this is most likely his very last book, and that he wishes to be remembered by its cheerful as well as helpful message. Although he still maintains that there are too many humans on the planet, and that their numbers will have to be drastically reduced pretty soon, he puts it in the nicest language he can come up with under the circumstances.

Like in his previous books on the subject of climate change, Lovelock maintains that there is little, if anything, that humans could do about it. Therefore, the planet should be left in Gaia's able hands, but humans could find shelter in so many cities that would provide not only protection from the most dramatic changes in the weather, but also an opportunity for human evolution. This is the long-term "solution" he proposes in the book. Thus he dedicates an entire chapter to the subject, which is entitled "The Evolution of the City."[2] And the idea behind it is simple enough: "The survival of the air-conditioned nests of termites in the Australian desert provides a fine example of how we might approach the problem of survival in a hotter world."[3] If climate change turned out to be a false alarm, everything would be hunky-dory nonetheless:

Would it not be easier for us to survive global warming in purpose-built cities rather than try to air-condition the whole planet either by geoengineering or by attempts at what is called sustainable development? If it should turn out easier, more economic, and require less food to resist global warming by retreating to the nests, then the fact that people are moving spontaneously to live in cities should be seen as providing a wonderful opportunity. More than this: if we were wrong and global warming does not happen, the move to cities might be no great loss since we appear to be doing it anyway.[4]

The evolutionary idea linking humans and termites can be found in other key places throughout the book. Here is one example:

Is it possible that our spontaneous move to live in cities could solve our climate and population problems as well? The termite nests with their air-conditioning towers that rise a meter or more above the desert are a wonderful example of the power of natural selection to optimize cooling, and the north-south orientation of the nests ensures that removal of hot air from within the towers is maximized.[5]

What is more, the idea purportedly offers many evolutionary possibilities for the human species:

There are intriguing social possibilities if the ant or termite nest can be used as a model for human evolution in which we become a nest animal living in city nests. Would it bring a return to something similar to an idealized communist state, or a benign oligarchy--a state with a caste or class system and the disfavoring of democracy and egalitarianism?[6]

In short, saving the planet is beyond our ken, but cities are already available as welcome "nests" that can ensure the survival of the species:

We suspect that we have little time left to deal with climate change, overpopulation, food and water shortage, and the other adverse consequences of our accelerated way of living. But how do we choose between the remedies on offer? Do we try sustainable development and renewable energy? Or do we bite the atom and rely on nuclear energy? Some offer geoengineering the Earth to an ideal composition and climate. I think we might do worse than have trust in Gaia to regulate the Earth as she has done since life began, and retreat to the best cities that we can design and build with the objective of saving as many of us as we can; and entirely abandon the absurdly hubristic idea of saving the planet.[7]

On the very last page, Lovelock reiterates with conviction that retiring to sizable cities is the best way of resolving the problem of global warming: "I still think that well-chosen city sites would offer us a better chance of survival."[8] All in all, the solution Lovelock has come up with is but yet another geoengineering trick, albeit a rather cushy and thrifty one. To wit, the construction industry as we know it would be up to it at a moment's notice. The cities that attract people nowadays are already in place with the infrastructure required. All that needs to be done is buttress the defenses by building protective domes, sheltering tall buildings, digging underground facilities, and so on. Again, the rest of the planet should be left to its own devices, for humans are not very successful in managing it, anyhow. Like islands on Gaia's turf, the cities would be independent of each other, just like termite's nests.

It is difficult to imagine humans in this disjointed utopia, though. Real humans, that is. Assuming away the internecine strife within cities, the first thing humans would surely attempt after securing adequate protection in their own city is invading the neighboring ones in search of useful resources. They would destroy the cities that resisted such attempts. Some cities would join forces with others for either defensive or offensive purposes. City wars would ensue, and the most successful cities would keep pushing farther and farther in their conquest with the help of the cities they had already conquered and subjugated. And so on, and so forth. Pace Lovelock, humans are not termites, and will not become like them under any evolutionary regime. The history of human attempts at civilization over the last five-thousand years or so provides sufficient proof of their belligerent proclivities. Lucky termites! They will survive climate change without fail.


1. New York: The Overlook Press, 2015.

2. Op. cit., pp. 112-123.

3. Op. cit., p. 113.

4. Op. cit., p. 118.

5. Op. cit., p. 151.

6. Loc. cit.

7. Op. cit., pp. 155-156.

8. Op. cit., p. 169.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 James Lovelock has written a masterpiece 7 juillet 2015
Par Janet Farrar - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Read this book carefully, because his ideas sound fantastic when you first hear about them, but the book makes perfect sense. He has envisioned the following: those who survive(probably 1 to 2 billion) will want to live in domed cities ( he is sure they will have to sign a contract limiting procreation), probably powered by nulear energy while scientists develop solar energy, as, of course, nuclear is the only energy source that will do the job while not making the weather change. (Peter Ward, in his book, THE FLOODED EARTH, explains how seeds will not germinate in the temps that are predicted, and also that global warming is happening much faster than scientists believed even 5 years ago, as the Greenland Ice Sheet is now melting.) Jim Henson, chief scientist at NASA, thinks the oceans could rise as much as 30 feet by 2100. Lovelock builds on his analysis of exponential energy growth, claiming that we are evolving a million times faster than in Charles Darwin"s time, a mere 150 years ago.
He wants us all to stop feeling so guilty, as all that has happened was inevitable. This book is very philosophical; we've been done in by our technology, but now we must use it to survive. Human animals are the first and ONLY ones to gather information, use it and store it. We are, therefore, the ones that can possibly save the planet when the inevitable threats arise. This book is a plea for humans to survive, written in absolute clarity by a man in his mid 90's. I think it will be a classic.
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