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The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning Paperback – 28 Jan 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning
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  • The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity
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  • Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Oxford Landmark Science)
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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: 12.7 x 1.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 the Hardcover edition.


Los Angeles Times
“Lovelock is a plain and simple writer, and his prose has a natural grace that makes this book a pleasure to read despite its depressing thesis.”

“[The Vanishing Face of Gaia] seems to arise from frustration that society hasn’t been roused by the wake-up call of [The Revenge of Gaia]…. [It] has an elevated sense of urgency – stimulated in part by observations that anthropogenic influence and Earth’s response are accelerating at a pace that exceeds the projections of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.”

Leonardo Reviews (International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology)
“Almost everyone today has glimpsed the abyss of extinction, but few have gazed into it as unflinchingly as Lovelock.… [He] gathers the knowledge of a lifetime to transcend the bounds of scientific discourse and sound a warning about matters of the greatest urgency.”

The New York Review of Books
“[An] idiosyncratic book…. James Lovelock has told it as he sees it…and at ninety he has nothing to lose, while readers, however skeptical, have much to gain.”

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

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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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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