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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth [Paperback]

James Lovelock
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Sep 2000
In this classic work that continues to inspire its many readers, Jim Lovelock puts forward his idea that life on earth functions as a single organism. Written for non-scientists, Gaia is a journey through time and space in search of evidence with which to support a new and radically different model of our planet. In contrast to conventional belief that living matter is passive in the face of threats to its existence, the book explores the hypothesis that the earth's living matter air, ocean, and land surfaces forms a complex system that has the capacity to keep the Earth a fit place for life.

Since Gaia was first published, many of Jim Lovelock's predictions have come true and his theory has become a hotly argued topic in scientific circles. In a new Preface to this reissued title, he outlines his present state of the debate.

Frequently Bought Together

Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth + The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning + The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity
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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: 19.7 x 13 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,735 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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First Sentence
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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Way to View the Earth! 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Problem with intent 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
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 in creating 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.
The other thing you will learn is the weakness of scientific work that fails to develop enough field data and to connect enough with other disciplines.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Gala - A new Look at Life on Earth
Book read with interest and have now passed this on to friends to read. I await their comments with interest.
Published 2 months ago by Mrs J Brine
4.0 out of 5 stars James lovelock - good
I have always been one that signs up to the Gaia theory. If you are new to the idea it is worth looking in to. Read more
Published 6 months ago by trelissa
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
I was encouraged to read this 18(!) years ago as an undergraduate - but never quite got around to it until now. What a mistake. Read more
Published 8 months ago by B. Hockley
5.0 out of 5 stars Fundamental reading
Necessary reading for all those aware of the environmental crises that now beset us on all fronts - and written in a very readable style.
Published 10 months ago by John S
5.0 out of 5 stars Perspective changing
Perspective changing - this should be compulsory reading for everyone. Can't recommend this book enough - it is quite simply enthralling.
Published 12 months ago by CS
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
I enjoyed Gaia, it was thought provoking and written well, although I was still left wanting. I haven't read the Gaia books following this so hopefully they will fill in the gaps. Read more
Published 14 months ago by S. Bell
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read, but it is only a hypothesis
Lovelock's Gaia theory was written in the 1970s, but by now has become one of the most iconic environmental and scientific hypotheses, and for that reason alone, it is worth a... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mr. A. Milne
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I've always wanted to read James Lovelock's books on Gaia and i wish all of them were available on Kindle
Published 18 months ago by Stéphanie Desnoyer
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting theory
I enjoyed this book very much, although I'm still not sure if Gaia is alive. Gaia exhibits local entropy reduction which is a character of life, but so does the galaxy with star... Read more
Published 19 months ago by MartinC
4.0 out of 5 stars The origin of the Gaia metaphor for Earth's living systems
Gaia: A new look at life on Earth, by James E. Lovelock, Oxford University Press, 1979, 176 ff

This was the first book on the subject that Lovelock wrote presenting the... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Dr. H. A. Jones
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