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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful, if meandering, suggestion for our response to climate change, 3 April 2014
By 
B. M. Clegg "Brian Clegg" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Rough Ride to the Future (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. He derides the effort to develop renewable energy, despises the way the Blair government chickened out of nuclear power (and is very heavy on the Germans and Italians for their panic reaction after the Japanese tsunami) and makes it clear that from his viewpoint, our whole approach to climate change is idiotic.

With the starting point that the whole system is far too complex to allow any decent modelling, or to be sure what any attempts at geoengineering could achieve, Lovelock suggests that the answer is to let Gaia get on with sorting itself out, and instead of worrying about trying to manage carbon emissions in our current situation, we should instead put our efforts into adapting the way we live to cope with changes in the climate. He points out, the kind of climate we had before the industrial revolution (or accelerated evolution, as he believes it to be) was not the typical climate of the Earth either, which would be more like its state in the grips of an Ice Age.

Rather that trying to somehow get it back to an imaginary utopian state, he argues we should be looking at new ways to live that will enable us to manage despite what the climate throws at us. He points out, for instance, that in our fears of the impact of 2 to 6 degrees of warming we miss that Singapore manages perfectly well in an environment that is 12.5 degrees above the global average. Of course, you might argue that we couldn’t sustain that way of life for 7 billion people – and Lovelock is sanguine about this. He doesn’t expect humans to carry on at that kind of population level, as part of the adaptation.

What’s fascinating is that while reading the book I also read an article by that most demonised of environmental figures, Bjorn Lomborg, and it was remarkable how much similarity there was in their views of the approach we should take, though coming at the problem from very different directions and with very different predicted outcomes.

A final thrust of the book is perhaps less convincing. Lovelock, looking 100 million years or more into the future, suggests that the best way our descendants can survive to keep Gaia going is in electronic form, as it would be possible to live on for many more millions of years despite the Earth warming, due to the Sun’s gradual increase of output, to a stage where it is uninhabitable by biological life. At the same time he dismisses terraforming Mars (and doesn’t even consider starships) as a mechanism for keeping a future humanity alive. This seems a bit of an stance and dilutes, rather than helps the central message of what we should do about climate change and human existence on Earth.

As I mentioned earlier on, you may well find the book a frustrating read because of all the repetition, but this is a book that will really get you thinking about our approach to climate change, and whether we’ve got it all terribly wrong. Read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do not be put off by the ego go for it, 16 May 2014
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you need to read it all. Then think about the underlying message then read again. Strong logic and insight into the future.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 14 July 2014
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This review is from: A Rough Ride to the Future (Hardcover)
A book that everyone should read-especially the Green supporters though they might not agree with his conclusions-but I do.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 4 July 2014
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This review is from: A Rough Ride to the Future (Hardcover)
Up to expectations and a very good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars James Lovelock has a wonderful way of thinking and writing- and he is now ..., 27 Jun 2014
By 
WES "wh" (Devon England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Rough Ride to the Future (Hardcover)
James Lovelock has a wonderful way of thinking and writing- and he is now an official exhibit at the Science Museum- so I hope this is not his last book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative, thought-provoking stuff, 15 Jun 2014
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 11 Jun 2014
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This review is from: A Rough Ride to the Future (Hardcover)
If you are looking for a slightly different view of how climate change is measured, then this book provides some interesting insights to chew on. It will make you think and some sections will make your blood boil. A stimulating well written book that is readable without a huge amount of scientific know how required. Well worth a look.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Will we survive global warming if it exists?, 11 Jun 2014
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What I like about this author is that he writes in a manner which does not mean that you have to have a degree to understand him. I have read one of his previous books and I find it refreshing that he doesn't stick rigidly to a theory as some scientists do but instead reacts and adapts to the changing information that the years bring us in evidence - which every good scientist should.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Insights!, 1 Jun 2014
This review is from: A Rough Ride to the Future (Hardcover)
The beginning of Rough Ride to the future seemed to drag a bit, as Lovelock talked a lot about his personal life and experiences without tightening to the future of the Gaia, which was my initial expectation. I actually put the book down for a few days. However, past the first few pages, I started to see that his experiences have everything to do with the past history of the green movement and potential implications for the future. Yes, some pieces seemed to be a bit repetitive, but he would change the topic and connect it to something else. I have heard many of his arguments before about climate change, ozone, pollution - you name it. But this time they were all tied together, which presented me a whole different story, with unique reflections. His main point is that humanity have been approaching climate change inefficiently, and that we should focus way more on adaptation because there are pretty challenging years to come.

I recommend it to anyone who is interested on James Lovelock's almost centenary experience and wisdom - a unique perspective the brilliant inventor in the environmental field, who has seen a lot and has plenty of insights to share.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I hope I am as thoughtprovoking and lucid at 91., 26 May 2014
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M. Hillmann "miles" (leicester, england) - See all my reviews
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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. The system is far too complex to model and sensibly predict the consequences. “Foolishly, politicians across Europe have excited to ejaculate prematurely a set of laws that hamper our ability to cope with the consequences of climate change. Huge sums that should have gone of sensible adaptation have been squandered on renewable energy sources, regardless of their inefficiency or environmental objections, and on pointless attempts to achieve that ultimate oxymoron, sustainable development”. We should be strengthening our defences and making a sustainable retreat rather than trying to “save the planet”.
The book is enlivened by the description of his own inventions, first had encounters and is littered with aphorisms. For example his description of a pedagogue - when Professor Trust was told his wife had been eaten by an alligator he is reputed to have replied “a crocodile you mean”.

A thought provoking, at times meandering, book.
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A Rough Ride to the Future
A Rough Ride to the Future by James Lovelock (Hardcover - 3 April 2014)
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