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The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning [Paperback]

James Lovelock
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Jan 2010

James Lovelock's The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning is a prophetic message for mankind from one of the most influential scientists of our age.

James Lovelock's Gaia theory, the idea that our planet is a living, self-regulating system, has transformed the way we see our planet and what is now happening to it.

In this book he distils a lifetime's wisdom and observation of the Earth to reveal the rate at which our climate is altering, how conventional 'green' measures are not working, and how life as we know it is going to change forever. Only Gaia, he shows, can help us fully understand this, and prepare us for the future.

'The most influential scientist and writer since Charles Darwin'
  Irish Times

'Supremely life-affirming ... The definitive statement of the Gaia theory and its implications for the future'
  John Gray, Literary Review

'Exhilarating ... Lovelock is the closest thing we have to an Old Testament prophet'
  John Carey, Sunday Times

'Gripping, convincing and indeed terrifying'
  Michael McCarthy, Independent

'Lovelock's writing has enormous warmth and vitality ... we need scientists such as him'
  Fiona Harvey, Financial Times

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 September 2005 Prospect magazine named him as one of the world's top 100 global public intellectuals.


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The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning + Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth + The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity
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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (28 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141039256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141039251
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,045 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.

Product Description

Amazon Review

About Jim Lovelock


(Photo Credit: Sandy Lovelock)

Jim Lovelock is an iconic figure in British science, a prophet whose prophecies are coming true. Lovelock is best known as the 'father' of Gaia theory, which is now established as the most useful way of understanding the dramatic changes happening to the environment of the Earth. Yet, throughout his life - as a student, independent scientist and writer - Lovelock has met with disagreement and disparagement. His drive came from personal belief, curiosity and conviction. He has been right for all his working life and, although it is frightening for us to believe the scenario he describes in The Vanishing Face of Gaia, he is right again.

The Vanishing Face of Gaia is James Lovelock's final word on the terrifying environmental problems we will confront in the twenty-first century. The earth as we know it is vanishing. It is moving inexorably to a new, hot state. The idea that we can "save the planet" by reducing carbon emissions is, Lovelock writes, nothing but a sales pitch. The earth, as it always has done, will save itself. It is up to us to save the human race.

As he approaches his 90th birthday, James Lovelock looks forward to what he describes as "a hell of an upgrade", as Richard Branson is sending him into space with Virgin Galactic, so he can, for the first time, see the face of Gaia.

"James Lovelock is one of the greatest scientists of his own generation and has inspired further generations of scientists to see the world as a single system operating in feedback and behaving as a single living organism. His vision of the planet as Gaia and subsequent Gaia Theory are the bedrocks of modern environmental science and his work on the role of CFCs in the depletion of Ozone in the atmosphere was truly ground breaking. There could be no more fitting tribute to the father of Gaia Theory than to let him see Gaia's beauty from space, something he has dreamed of doing all of his life." 
-         Sir Richard Branson, 8 February 2009

"I feel I cannot possibly disagree with Lovelock, or with the overwhelming body of scientists who attest to the reality of climate change.
If Lovelock is only half-right, then we must have an immediate programme to pastoralise the global economy and reduce emissions. The paradox is that he is completely right, there is not a lot we can do, and we might as well enjoy our beautiful planet while we can."

-         Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson, 2 February 2006

"Generally, one tries not to boost books or writers who come on to programmes beyond the fact that they're there. James Lovelock, however, has to be an exception... Lovelock deserves to stir up a Galileo-sized political storm."

-         Daily Telegraph, Andrew Marr, 1 February 2006.


"He is the most important and original scientific thinker in the world today."

-         John Gray, Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics.

"Its conclusion can be best summed up in the words of Dad's Army's Private Frazer: 'We're doomed'."

-         The Tablet, Russell Sparks, 3 February 2007.

"Lovelock writes with the lovely naivety of the successful maverick"

-         The Sunday Times (Culture), February 28 2007.


"The Revenge of Gaia is a riveting and troubling work by a true 'scientific visionary'."

-         The Week, Saturday 4 February 2006.


"Lovelock has done his part by saying what nobody else dares."

-         Newsweek, William Underhill, 24 April 2006.


"His appetite for life remains gargantuan."

-         Saturday Guardian, Review, Andrew Brown, 31 December 2005.


"He is an unexpected ecological Jeremiah... The man who changed our thinking about the world and its living beings may also have profoundly altered the way it will fight the battle against environmental mayhem."

-         The Observer, Energy, Robin McKie, 11 October 2006.


"With Earth in the future looking set to become a dramatically different place, these are radical ideas that we may just have to accept."

-         BBC Focus, Jheni Osman, May 2006.


"Unlike science bores, Lovelock talks in the vivid lingo of the science-fictionalist."

-         The Week, Saturday, Jasper Gerard, 11 February 2006.


"He is not just scaremongering. He is reflecting the views of a growing body of climatologists."

-         The Times, Magnus Linklater, Wednesday 19 April 2006.


"Lovelock is a fascinating figure, and a scientist of long and impeccable degree."

-         FT Magazine, Fiona Harvey, January 28/29 2006.


"Lovelock is the most profound scientific thinker of our time, and - though I admit in the present climate this is not saying much - the greatest living Englishman."

-         Literary Review, Bryan Appleyard, Wednesday 1 March 2006.


"Lovelock"s vast learning, crisp and energetic writing, and original thinking mean that every disagreement is a prompt to become better informed and clearer thinking about climate change."

-         The Independent on Sunday, John Whitfield, 12 February 2006.


"Gaia is becoming as accepted as relativity."

-         New Scientist, F. David Peat, Saturday 18 March 2006.


 "The most important book ever to be published on the environmental crisis."

-          The Independent, John Gray, when? (cf. Yorkshire Post, Michael Meadowcroft, 26 April 2006.)


"This is a hugely serious book. You will rarely read anything more serious. More humane, more humbling, more passionate, more scientific, more spiritual, more important or, in its way, more lyrical - certainly not in 160 pages."

-          BBC Focus, Fred Pearce, Wednesday, 1 March 2006.


"Lovelock's fame and notoriety as well as the book's contents ensure it"s already a classic work of science."

-          Royal Meteorological Society. Edward Hanna, April 2006.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Climate Bankers 23 April 2009
Format:Hardcover
Earth Day, celebrated each year on April 22nd, is almost over in my time zone. It was established in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson, a US senator with a view to encouraging awareness and appreciation of the Earth's environment. It is a day that I have been vaguely aware of like lots of other celebratory days for different causes, but this year I seem to be stumbling upon it at every turn. The reason is a 90-year old scientist called James Lovelock. His latest book The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning has just blown me away.

Gaia essentially casts the Earth as a self-regulating, living organism that is still evolving. Its goal is optimal conditions for its own survival and the survival of life - though not necessarily human life.

Over this past week I have learned a remarkable amount about the current state of the planet, the disagreement among and between scientists and politicians about this; and the vast array of plans and suggestions on how to deal with it.

Like many people these days I have had some interest in climate change and global warming, but can't say I've followed it in great detail. I dutifully wash and squash every plastic container and milk carton and collect every scrap of used paper in my house to fill my green bin. I use a compost bin and minimise anything going to landfill. I own a car, but use public transport to travel to work. I've tut tutted at people jetting off to Spain and New York with no good reason and no thought of carbon footprint. I repeat a mantra to my children about switching off TV's and computers and lights. I even signed up for the electricity company's smart meter trial last week.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And So St Will Be 20 Mar 2009
Format:Hardcover
We're in serious trouble according to Professor James Lovelock, in fact, a dire emergency. Global heating (he no longer calls it 'warming') is upon us, leading inevitably to catastrophic climate change. Commitments by our leaders to 'tackle climate change' or 'to create green economic growth' merely demonstrate their lack of understanding. Biofuels, windfarms, carbon trading and the rest are not just wasted effort, they make matters worse. One brief example: The felling of pristine forest to grow biofuel crops is not only not green, it's criminally insane. The underlying cause of our dilemma, the disasterous thing that we can do nothing about, is seven billion people increasing by a hundred and fifty every minute, plus an equally bloated biomass of livestock and pets. Soon, possibly in decades rather than centuries, there will be a huge cull of humankind brought about by sea-level rise, flood, storm, drought and desertification triggering various humanitarian crises: societal collapse, crop failure, famine, mass migration, war for exisiting resources and so on. No longer should we be talking senselessly about saving the planet, says Lovelock. The planet doesn't need our help to survive, it's had far worse things than us happen to it in its long history. Life on planet Earth is pretty well guaranteed to continue, it's we who are in danger. We need to be planning our own survival.
When apocalyptic forecasts are being made by great scientists we should all be taking notice, but is he right? And that brings us to the scariest thing of all, because Lovelock is far from alone, many thousands of leading scientists around the world, to a greater or lesser extent, agree with him about the seriousness of the situation, if not the detail. Despite the grimness it's an entertaining read, with offered solutions for local survival, a glimmer of optimism and surprises, not least that Lovelock is a famous advocate of nuclear power.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading: a book to read and acted upon 23 April 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is without doubt the most frightening book that I have ever read. Not because the author is peddling green propaganda - but because he isn't. It is written in a very urbane and personal style, and Lovelock almost goes out of his way to avoid sensationalism. However, his stark message is that global heating is happening, that the cause is unequivocally humankind, and there's virtually nothing we can now do to stop it. We are on an ever steeper slippery slope. The primary cause is simply that there are too many people on the planet (about half of all human-generated greenhouse gas emission is caused simply by our existence - our breathing, eating, and other biological activity, plus those of our pets and livestock). This makes nonsense of any long range emission reduction targets for 2020 or 2050 which are unachievable without drastic reduction in the total numbers of people.

Lovelock points out that observational data show the world is heating up faster than the most pessimistic scenario from the IPCC models. He makes it crystal clear why the IPCC, even though it includes many excellent individual scientists among its membership, is incapable of presenting a model which actually bears any relationship with what is really happening. Consensus reached through a fundamentally political process is not a mechanism that will ever achieve scientific truth.

The message is not wholly pessimistic, though. There are actions that we can take - and urgently should take - to slow this headlong rush to catastrophe even if we cannot halt or reverse it. Wholesale transition from fossil fuels to other sources of energy is necessary but not sufficient. He argues well the folly of wind power as even a partial solution, while enthusiastically supporting nuclear power.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
For anyone who has read Lovelock's earlier books, an essential read. If you have not, and you are interested in finding out about the Gaia Principle try one of his earlier books... Read more
Published 3 months ago by M. Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be part of the national school curriculum
It gets 5 stars just becuase it is a must read book if we are to survive and truly love our children. Read more
Published 3 months ago by A. Baker
2.0 out of 5 stars The Vanishing face of Gaia
Not really my 'cup of tea'. Depressing. I bought it for someone else, so I'm not the best judge, anyway
Published 6 months ago by D. Matthews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but controversial
James Lovelock is now well known for his Gaia books and theories, which are based on the idea that the Earth is a self-regulating 'living' organism in which the biosphere, climate,... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Phil O'Sofa
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovelock is right
I read this book as soon as it was published 3 years ago, and have recently read it again - and am familiar with all of Lovelocks books and Gaia theory. Read more
Published 12 months ago by jw
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
Amazing and worrying! Everyone should read this!

It really is an eye and mind opener and will make you think of everything in a completely different way...
Published 12 months ago by CS
5.0 out of 5 stars Like new condition of this great book to add to my collection
Am sure Lovelock will appreciate the recycling of his book which I wanted as a reference book in my collection. This one received with dust cover and book in perfect state. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Borders Lynn
3.0 out of 5 stars Vanishing face of Gaia. A seminal book at the time.
Important at the time but some recanted now I believe. Not an easy read but JL must be one of the greatest influences on modern mans thinking about climate and earths resources.
Published 18 months ago by Dr. Peter Barbor
1.0 out of 5 stars A lot of hot air
Having very much enjoyed the original Gaia written by Lovelock in the 70s, I was left very disappointed in this updated effort. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Dan the Man
5.0 out of 5 stars Please read and speak up!
Everyone should read this book written by a scientist with knowledge and insight into the problems facing us all if we want to continue living on this planet and avoid the false... Read more
Published on 10 Jun 2012 by Keith Burdett
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