Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop All Amazon Fashion Summer Savings Up to 25% Off Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Oasis Listen in Prime Learn more

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars53
4.3 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 23 April 2009
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. In short I'm a bit of a swot, but it is only since reading about Gaia that I have sat up and really paid attention to what is actually going on around us.

James Lovelock is convinced that it is too late. The damage we've done to the planet since industrialisation has passed its tipping point and from now on things are going to accelerate ever more quickly. There is no going back. Gaia, will take care of itself, adapting to the effects of ever-increasing CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases by getting hotter. It will continue without us, well without most of us anyway. He estimates that only a small proportion of the 7 billion currently occupying the planet will survive the 21st century.

Not everyone agrees. There was an article in the Irish Times last week after he made an appearance at University College Dublin. The headline referred to him as the Genial Prophet of Climate Doom. And he is a doomsayer. His claims place him in direct opposition to the general scientific and political consensus as established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

He dismisses their predictions on global warming and rising sea levels agreed at their most recent convention in 2007. Specifically he dismisses their estimated time frame. His view is that rising temperatures and sea-levels are proceeding much more quickly than they anticipated. He criticises them for being so pre-occupied trying to reach consensus that they missed the opportunity to recognise the extent of the problem and to take action.

The IPCC are not the only ones to come under fire. He is scathing about the Green movement in general claiming they are phaffing about the place with wind farms and solar energy, while the only real long-term solution to our energy requirements that will keep carbon emissions at a reasonable level is nuclear.

He laughs dismissively at the whole notion of carbon offsets likening them to the indulgences once sold by the Catholic Church as a sort of "Get out of Purgatory" card.

His message, his final warning, is an appeal to humanity to shift the focus from reducing carbon emissions to preparing for the inevitable. This includes the preparation on this island (Ireland) and our neighbouring island (Britain), his home, for a huge population influx over the coming decades. Temperate islands like ours and New Zealand along with Scandinavia are among the areas most likely to remain habitable in his scenario. We should be concentrating on becoming self-sufficient in food and energy. We should be drawing up policies on how to process climate refugees, because they will surely come and there will be many of them from continental Europe and beyond.

Early on he uses an analogy with the economy. Climate change, like the economy he says, is not a neat linear process; there will always be stops and starts, highs and lows.

I'd take the economy/climate analogy even further to ask what on earth were our leaders and bankers thinking during the latter years of the property boom. They must have known the walls would come tumbling down. Why didn't they take evasive action? Are the global "climate bankers" avoiding looking at the inevitable future?

At 90 James Lovelock is unlikely to witness the catastrophe he's predicted, nor perhaps will you or I, but our children and grand-children will if we are to believe even half of what he's saying.

I don't know enough yet to say I agree with some or all or any of what he says, but he has certainly given me a wake-up call and lots of food for thought. I can only hope that our "climate bankers" hear his warning too.

If you read nothing else in 2009, read this book!
22 comments|59 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 23 April 2009
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. His clear presentation of the facts combined with his independence from the 'nuclear lobby' and from any green pressure group lend authority to his statements.

Lovelock also examines the prospects for various geo-engineering options though accepts that none are likely to be able to reverse global heating, and that none are risk-free. He identifies the burial of elemental carbon ('bio-char') as by far the most promising - but like all else, it will not happen unless there is a serious commitment and concerted effort. Similarly, the industrial synthesis of food and fuel from inorganic ingredients (mainly CO2 and water), using nuclear power as an energy source, would have added benefits of reducing our demand for agricultural land and taking CO2 out of the system.

This is a book not only to be read but to be acted upon. Although private individuals can and should do whatever they can, many actions can be taken only at governmental level. Business, driven by short-term profit motives, cannot be expected to do anything without appropriate carrot-and-stick measures. It is vital, therefore, that our decision-makers read, understand, and accept the obligation that is theirs to ensure a long term future for humankind as an important component of our living planet. Procrastination or lip-service are nothing but death sentences for humanity.
0Comment|19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 March 2009
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.
0Comment|40 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 26 February 2009
James delivers one final warning before he blasts into space. He pulls no punches as he lays into politicians, environmentalists, scientists, the EU, wind-turbines and Tony Blair, to name but a few. Gaia is moving to a new hotter state and she has no intention of taking us with her. In the UK our small and overpopulated island will struggle, as it becomes one of the last lifeboats of civilisation. It's James' hope that a new Churchill will arise and take the tiller. Democracy will take a backseat as our military prepare to repel boarders while our engineers build nuclear power stations and compact cities. Life as we have know it for the past 50 years will change forever as we move towards a better and self-sufficient future. A truly inspirational read.
22 comments|78 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 27 April 2010
Even though Siobhan Walls set out my feelings so well, I feel bound to add my piece.

Whether you believe everything this man says, there is an underlying commonsense to his views that, despite how unnerving, strike a chord in the way I have watched "humanity" and our values develop in only 50 ish years. We are wasteful and inconsiderate of the wider and longer term effects of what we do but, as can be seen by the politicians jumping on the Green bandwagon and the image of the wind turbine being devalued, we don't have the balls to stand up and say change happens now, suspend democracy and all the "civilising rules" this stuff is too important to discuss anymore, just do it.

I read the first 3-4 pages of chapter 9 "to the next world" a couple of times as they resonated with something deep down that I have always known about us. We, as a whole, are not designed to stop what we are doing, but perhaps in a few there are "bee" genes that favour huanity rather than the human (me)....there must be.

I gently let my doctor, scientificly minded 25 year old step-daughter into some of this stuff last night, but all her science & thirst for knowledge went out the window as she said, "so there's no hope for me then" before moving the subject on. Unfortunately it will take a devestating event to open people's eyes to the possibility that JL is right, let's hope it's 200 - 300 years rather than 100.
0Comment|5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 March 2009
I read an extract from this in the Sunday Times and bought it on the strength of that article. This brilliant scientist not only makes it clear that the coming climate change catastrophe may occur much sooner than we expect, he also provides (at least for the layperson) a clear and scientific underpinning for his views. His honesty is refreshing but terrifying in its implications. I'd urge anyone to read this book and make their own minds up -- otherwise, as has occurred with the financial crisis, you may be fed BS from those with vested interest.

You don't want to believe he may be right. But we need to prepare.

Please forgive a shameless plug: why not check out my novel Diary of a Ghost if you need some light entertainment after reading this.
0Comment|17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 March 2009
This is the seventh book by the independent and interdisciplinary scientist, James Lovelock, on the subject of Gaia and probably the most terrifying. Lovelock's concept of Gaia - the idea that the Earth & biosphere act together as a self-regulating system - was derided by conventional scientists initially but is now generally accepted.
Lovelock now believes that human activities are destabilising climates which has accelerated since the Industrial Revolution and will lead ultimately to pockets of humanity surviving on "lifeboats" in the northern hemisphere.
Now in his 90th year, James Lovelock, writes with immense authority on the state of the Earth but may not be right about everything - he's very pro-nuclear power and anti-wind farms, for example. However, this book deserves to be taken seriously although it's unlikely to convert the 'Jeremy Clarksons' of this world.
0Comment|31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 21 April 2010
this book along with George Orwell's 1984 should be statutory reading for every human being- this a chilling statement of what mankind has done to earth and the potential(probable) consequences - conventional scientific thinking bankrolled by academia and vested (commercial and political) interests has misled mankind for too long- the damaging blinkered 20th century views of science must be superseded by Lovelock's 21st century vision - that James Lovelock has never been awarded a Nobel prize debases and devalues that particular institution
0Comment|4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 2 April 2009
James Lovelock has come up with a thought-provoking, if scary, view of the future of the Planet, following up on his previous works. This is an easy-to-understand explanation of what faces the Human Race, without any frills. The book should be on the library shelves of every school.
Mike O'R
0Comment|5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 June 2010
I have to admit to feeling a bit stupid. I had always been interested in green issues but I had never understood why it was such a big problem. Sea levels would rise and some places would flood but we would be able to manage this with technology, right ? How wrong could I be !

This one small book explains everything in a very practical way. James Lovelock is unique in having a genuine open mind, the ability to analyse information in incredible detail and amazing vision to recognise new concepts. He also demonstrates a remarkably good understanding of human psychology and understands why this is such a big problem.

Most people in this field, including the green party, start off with a conclusion and then look for information to support it and ignore any information that discredits it. This is just bad science. Lovelock is completely different he examines every criticism in detail and genuinely searches for the truth.

The only problem is the obvious conclusions are horrific and we have to accept that there is little we can do about it. He clearly explains that climate change is subject to positive and negative feedback systems (Chaos theory) hence we can not predict when the major changes will occur but they could occur extreemley rapidly in the very near future.

If you read this one small book I am sure you will be far far more informed than 99.99999999999999999999999% of the population
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)