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4.3 out of 5 stars53
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on 11 April 2009
This book is a sensible,rational view of the situation that we find ourselves in. Whatever we do,we cannot know the outcome,but it is unlikely to be" business as usual". Knowing the human race, especially the people that run our societies, it is unlikely that we will take the sensible options suggested by James Lovelock. Whatever happens to Homo sapiens ( A poor choice as a specific name ), Gaia will continue in some form. Let us hope that some of our descendants are here to see it.
David Meadows.
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on 17 May 2009
Mr. Lovelock considers it is already too late and advices all of us to prepare for the worst. Mind you, he can have a say for he is the first that understood how Earth works. Our leaders do not seem to do this, nor to react vigorously to abate emissions in case there was a chance to stop right before the wire. It feels like sitting in the Titanic seeing the iceberg approach at full speed, whilst everybody else looks aways from the window and continues to dance at the sound of the orchestra.
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on 28 January 2011
This book is deeply moving and depressing at the same time. It states its already to late and there is very little we can do and why almost everything we are trying to do or might try will be wrong.

Although it seems at times it wanders off and side tracks. Perhaps I question is what is the purpose of this book. A told you so from Lovelock? To insite panic or perparation for this times ahead ? Or just a last chance of expression for a doomed world from a man who say it coming?
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on 3 September 2013
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, oceans and so on all affect each other, and can adjust to small variations to keep the whole thing in balance, up to a point. He holds what many would consider to be extreme views even for an environmental scientist, but this is only because most people know so little about the subject, preferring to bury their heads in the sand rather than to accept that we need to change the way we live, and do it quickly.

Lovelock thinks that we might already have gone too far along the path to self-destruction, with 'global heating' (as he calls it) likely to exceed 4°C in the next few decades, which could well cause the Earth to become inhospitable for the majority of the world's people. He is controversial even amongst the green movement because he says that renewable energy is a waste of time and will never replace the fossil fuels that are responsible for most of this global heating, and that our only realistic hope is to generate most of our electricity from nuclear power.
He also has some controversial suggestions for 'geoengineering', such as building ocean pumps to bring up cooler water from the depths, in order to encourage the growth of 'carbon-eating' algae.

It all makes for a very interesting read, and quite possibly the blurb informing us that this is "the most important book for decades" (attributed to Andrew Marr) is correct. As a book, however, it suffers from a couple of faults, in that it lacks structure, rambling back and forth over the same points, and also Lovelock uses the book to justify himself more than I would have thought necessary, with a certain element of 'I told you so' in respect of some of his ideas that were once disparaged by the scientific community but are now generally accepted.
But these are relatively minor criticisms when the subject matter is so important, and everyone who really cares about the future of civilization should read this book, even if they don't share the author's conclusions. We can't possibly know all the answers, but we surely can't ignore the problem of global warming for much longer.
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on 10 May 2010
This book was fantastic, as I am doing my degree in Geography and Earth Science, I have a rather different take on our planet, its systems, and the influences of climate change than most of the general public. I feel that Lovelock tells it like it really is, warning us of the influences of governmental meddling in true science on many current issues. This book fits in well with my degree, so i recommend it as a core text for anyone studying the Earths physical processes, but i also recommend it to absolutely everyone who has ever been told that we have to do something because of climate change. A refreshing take on life in a regrettably misunderstood world.
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on 29 January 2012
Have read this though a couple of times now, the content is good but i have to say i feel it's slightly marred by the authors strongly opinionated nature which comes across as ever so slightly arrogant and if i was to be honest is slightly annoying.
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on 11 July 2013
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. Almost every prediction Lovelock made in 1979 in 'Gaia - a new look at life on Earth' has come to pass.
The idea of the world being an inter-related system is now accepted by the vast majority of informed scientists. The notion that the atmosphere is being affected by the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and that this is 'man made' by the use of carbon-based energy sources is irrefutable. Production is the cause of this. The increase in energy use as the world population escalates ever onwards is obvious.
This book is realistic - some have called it pessimistic. The message is that we must adapt, and that if we want to given the population we have then the only realistic option is the use of nuclear power. Renewable energy simply can't produce enough. Reluctantly and with the knowledge of the dangers and risks associated with nuclear power, more and more accept this.
The current actions of the Government show that growth is put ahead of tackling climate change. The Chinese are honest about it: we are not. Growth = more energy use = more climate change.
Government policy won't change until either popular will or events force it to change. None of the political parties (including the Greens) have a positive and realistic programme for tackling this. The Tories are avaricious as usual, the Lib Dems valiant but delusional, Labour wanting to fuel more growth on the back of greater debt and therefore, in terms of CO2 production, worse than the Tories - and the Greens, nobly but pathetically, repeat the mantra that the total answer is 'green growth'. Fundamentally they all know that to face an electorate with a programme that faces the truth and lowers our standard of living will lead to political oblivion. All those who have held elected office know this.
The reality is that we have to do something that the human species has never been able to do - and that is design a way of life that reduces the stress on the planet and reduces population, resource use and the production of greenhouse gases. It won't happen until the casualties mount up. We need to get prepared for this.
If civilisation can survive then in a hundred years I am certain this will be commonly accepted. Newton, Darwin, Marx and Freud all laid the basis for Gaia - but Lovelock put it together.
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on 12 January 2013
Having very much enjoyed the original Gaia written by Lovelock in the 70s, I was left very disappointed in this updated effort. Where as the original was packed full of data and real observations to illustrate his central, elegant theory - that the Earth is a single, self-regulating system - this book was sadly lacking in detail and evidence to back up what are some fairly extreme statements.

Essentially Lovelock wants us to believe that 1000 of the world's top scientists who make up the IPCC (and all the scientists whose work goes into their reports) are wrong about climate change and he is right. Lovelock's assertion is that it is already too late, there is nothing we can do to prevent catastrophic climate change and we should instead concentrate on doing our best to deal with the consequences - in short, just to survive as a species.

Now in support of this fairly extreme position, you would expect Lovelock to have large amounts of data, a substantial body of evidence to show how Gaia has gone beyond the point of no return and is now entering the "hot phase" he claims. But no, we are presented with three graphs that show how the IPCC has underestimated some warming factors in the past, one of which was only a slight underestimation.

He then proceeds to viciously attack climate models as being inaccurate, preferring to rely on observational data. But then do we get some of this observational data? No, sadly we do not.

The most compelling argument he makes in the book concerns how Gaia moves from different states and that these do not tend to occur in a steady, gradual way, but in sudden, dramatic leaps, of say 5 degrees C at a time and that the Earth makes over-compensations, or feedbacks, in the move to these new states. A very interesting idea - but alas it only covers about two pages, with very little evidence to back up the theory.

So the remainder of the book is made up primarily of Lovelock's extreme and at times frankly bizarre solutions: massive investment in nuclear power, the complete abandonment of renewables, the fortification of the UK's boarders as one of the last "lifeboats" on the planet, planet-wide bioengineering projects (which he acknowledges may not work and could have disastrous consequences themselves), amongst others.

The analysis of overpopulation is particularly simplistic, with Lovelock simply stating that the world cannot possibly support upwards of 7 billion people. However, there is not even an acknowledgement of the huge differences in per capita carbon emissions between the developed, developing and third worlds, and that population growth is coming almost entirely from the latter two areas.

Sadly if Lovelock wants us to take up his extreme solutions rather than those suggested by the IPCC and other climate policy specialists, he is going to have to do much better. I was left completely unconvinced by his arguments and disappointed at the paucity of evidence, particularly for a renowned scientist. Perhaps he could write an update with the evidence included, although I suspect given he is in his nineties, it may be too late, much as he seems to think it is for the planet itself.
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on 24 February 2010
When are the politicians going to use the concise , truthful , common sense language that James Lovelock uses in his brilliant books ?
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on 15 April 2014
It gets 5 stars just becuase it is a must read book if we are to survive and truly love our children.

It is so dam obvious, only greed and greed and comfort drive us to kill or children. Which is basically what this book sums up. If we cared then we would All act, including those we elect as Government.

Time has run out. By 2050 there will 9,000,000,000 Billion of us trying to survive. Now consider house (simple shelter) prices in the UK, space, food production, economic migration of populations that is happening now and in the future together with environmental population migration..... where will al these people go when the own envronemnts are destroyed (as now)....they will be coming Here!!!!

Which is why this book and the principles of Earth's myriad of self balancing eco systems that drive to eradicate the damaging elements to ensure Earths survival must be taught alongside work and paying taxes...... !!
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