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A Rough Ride to the Future Hardcover – 3 Apr 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

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  • Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (3 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241004764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241004760
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.1 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 198,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

James Lovelock, who was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, 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.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
James Lovelock is unique, both as a scientist and as a writer. He may be most famous for his Gaia hypothesis that the Earth acts as if it were a self-regulating living entity, but has done so much more in a 94 year life to date.

Rough Ride (not to be confused with Jon Turney’s Rough Guide to the Future) is an important book, but it is also flawed, and I wanted to get those flaws out of the way, as I’ve awarded it four stars for the significance of its content, rather than its well-written nature. It is, frankly, distinctly irritating to read – meandering, highly repetitive and rather too full of admiration for Lovelock’s achievements. But I am not giving the book a top rating as a ‘well done for being so old’ award – far from it. Instead it’s because Lovelock has some very powerful things to say about climate change. I’ve been labelled a green heretic in the past, and there is no doubt that Lovelock deserves this accolade far more, as he tears into the naivety of much green thinking and green politics.

He begins, though, by taking on the scientific establishment, pointing out the limitations of modern, peer reviewed, team-oriented science in the way that it blocks the individual and creative scientific thinker – the kind of person who has come up with most of our good scientific ideas and inventions over the centuries. He does this primarily to establish that he is worth listening to, rather than being some lone voice spouting nonsense. I’m not sure he needs to do this – I think there are few who wouldn’t respect Lovelock and give him an ear, but it’s a good point and significant that he feels it necessary.

The main thrust of the book is to suggest that our politicians (almost universally ignorant of science) are taking the wrong approach to climate change.
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My first impression - the obscure, philosophical anecdotes of a 91 year old geriatric? I put the book down. In a fit of book deprivation I picked it up again. It turned out to be a fascinating, compelling, incredibly informative book by a lucid, scientist/inventor.

His authority as a world class scientist / inventor was established by his identification and measurement of CFC’s in the atmosphere and the linkage he made to the hole in the ozone layer. He subsequently mobilised international cooperation to ban CFC’s despite the resistance of a huge industry with heavy investment in repellent spray cans. The result was the successful prevention of the destruction of the ozone layer.

Lovelock has a proven record as an inventor / scientist. His Gaia theory of the universe established him as a philosopher.

In this book, Lovelock takes a very broad look at the sweep of history of life on earth, looking at the environment billions of years ago and the future of our planet. The book argues that there was a huge discontinuity that began at the start of the eighteenth century that made the evolution of our artefacts accelerate to a pace far beyond the capabilities of natural selection. In the last 300 years there has been an exponential growth in artefacts through invention inspired by necessity. He forecasts exponential growth will decelerate due to the rising cost of energy.

As an environmentalist with his background and a supporter of the Kyoto Agreement, you would expect him to be predicting dire consequences of the climate change brought about by industry through rising concentrations of CO2. He argues the case for adaptation to climate change rather than visionary attempts to save the planet.
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I can remember being captivated by Gaia when Lovelock published his original ideas. I found it fitted closely with my own academic experiences as a Geography undergrad. In later years I tried to introduce a lot of the ideas into my teaching...difficult in crappy UK geography teaching curricula at GCSE and A level. Lovelock explains why...we don't get enough good training in basic scientific method and that inevitably leaves us with difficulties when communicating the basics. This latest or (last) pop at the whole thing is excellent. Lovelock never forgets his scientific roots so all claims he makes are backed up by his training, background or experience, which makes this a very rich reading experience. These days I teach ecology based subjects and I found Lovelock's ideas and observations are absolutely perfect for bringing into wider discussions about the problems the world faces. As I said, a rich read and much of it merits re-reading, reflection and note taking so it's a beautiful compendium of earth science. As always, he has his opinions which are strong, well-argued and backed up with experience and further reading lists so this book is a good start for anyone wishing to learn. I was very entertained by his opinions of politicians and government officials. ..which is basically poorly educated and muddled...which is exactly how I have found them (and I get to see more than most). The detail here suggests optimism for the planet although a less clear outcome for human occupation. He is probably right... as I write this I see my neighbour out on his massive billiard table lawn with a machine for cutting grass, a machine for burning weeds, a machine for poisoning weeds, a load of traps to collect magpies to kill for his gun dogs, and a shed festooned with the skulls of animals he has been proud to kill. Once you have read this go and read Stephen Emmott's 'Ten Billion' and maybe you will conclude that we don't really deserve to live here in the first place!!
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