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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth Paperback – 28 Sep 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Ed edition (28 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192862189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192862181
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 1 x 12.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Lovelock is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis (now Gaia Theory). He has written four 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. His most recent was The Revenge of Gaia (Allen Lane, 2006). 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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Review

"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."--Rene 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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As I write, two Viking spacecraft are circling our fellow planet Mars, awaiting landfall instructions from the Earth. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. Clayton on 25 Aug 2008
Format: Paperback
I read this book sometime ago and is impacted me significantly as it has with many others. I enjoyed the explanation of the huge organism (Earth) that is self- regulating. I also enjoyed that Lovelock points out that we humans are part of the environment and belong here. We will produce waste.

Having said that, any system can overload. Thus, we need to be good stewards of our planet.

As the astronauts left the earth in the 1960's and headed towards the moon they looked back at our planet and did not see borders or countries. They saw the earth as a single unit...beautiful and fragile. It rotated on an invisible string in the blackness of night. It affected many of the astronauts profoundly.

The book has already helped many more people see the earth as a single unit. If it can continue to do that, hopefully we will find a way to live more harmoniously with the environment on our planet.

Gaia is a great read and a way of looking at things that is both fascination and enlightening!

The Re-Discovery of Common Sense: A Guide To: The Lost Art of Critical Thinking
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By barry rhodes on 22 Mar 2006
Format: Paperback
Firstly I will say this, if you are considering buying this book then do so. If nothing else it will make you think and thats always a worthwhile thing in a publication. That being said I have issues with the text.
The data is thought provoking, the hypothesis, that the planet can be modelled by thinking of it in terms of a homeostatic (Self regulating) organism is certainly supported byy the evidence presented and the top-down look at the world makes a refreshing and worthwile change from the 'standard' reductionist approach. Now for the 'but';
Lovelock makes the common, unfortunate and in this book serial mistake (to my mind at least)of confusing effect with intent. For example he cites the chemically unstable composition of the atmosphere, maintained by life, as evidence that Gaia - the world organism - is self regulating for the benefit of life. His argument runs that if this atmospheric balance was not maintained life would die out, therefore Gaia must have lifes best interests at heart and work for the benefit and propagation of life.
This is an all too common confusion accidentaly propagted by many, the underpinning science is engaging, interesting and enlightening but the unfortunate phrasing in terms of the planets intent irritates throughout the book. Just because we can interpret things more easily by considering the planet in terms of an organism does not mean it thinks and feels as a human psyche. Conversly it also doesn't mean it doesn't think like us, it may, but I would prefer this isn't assumed when there is no evidence to support it.
Overall, well worth reading but beware the anthromorphic phrasing. I'm interested to see how his more science orientated book turns out. In the post as I type.
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Format: Paperback
It didn't have the direct and dramatic impact of Newton's Principia - a book that radically changed the world, nevertheless James Lovelock's book Gaia - a New Look at Life on Earth, did have a more subtle influence on our world - particularly that of science. In a sense the Gaia Hypothesis prefigured - culturally and symbolically - the evolution of pure science from that classical, mechanistic world view inspired by the uncanny genius of Newton, to a less linear, more holistic awareness of the irreducible relationships (`gestalts') that permeate apparently discreet phenomena. Indeed this kind of more `organic' approach is radically renewing the scope of Science.

What this unique book may also prove to have done is act as a pivotal stepping stone in time: a step back into our most atavistic, indigenous roots, a time when we lived in harmony with the Earth - talk to any Inuit, Aborigine, or Sioux elder and they retain that deeply intuitive and spiritual connection; but just as significantly, a step into the future - towards a re-newed awareness of our responsibility and acute vulnerability as part of the Earth's 'living' ecology. Climate change is the moment that latter reality is returned home to us with the harshest and most dangerous of lessons. And in a sense, climate change was the mighty prediction James Lovelock issued with his Gaia Hypothesis.

More recently he's said his hope lies "in that powerful force that takes over our lives when we sense that our tribe or nation is threatened from outside". However, he's also said "I do think it will take a disaster to wake us up''. Let's hope, on that score at least, and for all our sakes, he's wrong.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Meadows on 25 Mar 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It has to be noted, first of all that this book is now 30 years old. Much has changed since it was written and to that end the author has included a new preface which acknowledges this. He also acknowledges that there are some factual errors within the book but that he would rather the original text be preserved as it was originally written, rather than constantly be revised.

The starting question is this: how could we identify if there is life on another planet? In other words, what are the signatures that distinguish life from non-life? The answer is not that straightforward, though Lovelock, with some acknowledgement given to some other scientists, comes up with a working definition for what characterises that which is living. But what Lovelock then does is to apply these criteria to the whole of planet earth and comes to the startling conclusion that the earth (or at least the biosphere) is a living thing; not just that it contains living things, but rather that it is itself a living entity, which has then been dubbed Gaia, after the greek goddess of the earth.

From here, Lovelock then looks at various aspects of biology and chemistry on earth and seeks evidence for this claim. His central argument is that of homeostasis: that the earth is self-regulating in order to maintain the conditions needed for life.

The book is characterised by two different personalities, so to speak. On the one hand, there is a quite reasonable scientific discourse (mostly focused on chemistry) about the make up and balances within the atmosphere and oceans, while on the other hand there is an impassioned environmental polemic on what mankind has done to harm the planet.
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