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on 3 August 2015
Simultaneously astonishing for its novelty when published (without Lovelock whole genres of ecology and earth science would be virtually unpopulated), it is also hopelessly dated now, as many of its era are, not just in terms of recent knowledge but also the tone which is of an earlier age. I still recommend it though to see how the Gaia movement started, showing that it is based on scientific enquiry rather than empty-headed New Age garbage which followed.
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on 20 April 2013
Lovelock's Gaia theory was written in the 1970s, but by now has become one of the most iconic environmental and scientific hypotheses, and for that reason alone, it is worth a read. Almost every debate on global warming, pollution and damage to biodiversity references this idea at some point, and with good reason, as it is an interesting idea that certainly has some valid scientific, as well as intuitive, basis. While a passing knowledge of biology and chemistry is useful for some of the more scientific chapters, it is not necessary in order to understand the ideas, and the text is well written and easy to read. It is a book that everyone could and should read, but that doesn't mean that it is without flaws.

Firstly, there is a difference between a hypothesis and a theory - a hypothesis is a proposed explanation, and only becomes a theory when its' arguments and anticipated effects are backed up by evidence. What this book contains is a hypothesis with some strong scientific evidence in parts, and some heavy speculation in other parts. The argument that the presence of life has maintained a different balance of elements and a different climate to what would occur without the existence of life is well explained and backed up with evidence, as are some specific examples around how certain systems regulate conditions such as the salinity of the ocean. However, in pursuit of the overall idea, I find that Lovelock starts to go a bit far, especially with the idea that life has in some way evolved to benefit the regulation of the planet. There is little evidence presented for this beyond the fact that it backs up his theory, and ideas such as the concept of corals building themselves into coral reefs to create evaporation lagoons with the intention of regulating the salt in the sea seem a bit too far-fetched.

This book should be praised for raising awareness of how inter-related life on earth is, and the indirect effects of our actions, but you may be surprised at some of the opinions on environmental issues in here. For example, Lovelock dismisses the threat to the ozone layer from CFCs as being insignificant (albeit partly due to the over-the-top doom-mongering at the time, rather than the modern worry that it will merely increase the chances of skin cancer).

Overall, it is a must-read, for the interesting ideas and for its' significance in modern thinking about the critical topics of the environment, but be warned that it is more of an expression of an idea than a fully explained thesis (I believe his book, 'The Ages of Gaia' provides a more scientific approach)
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on 5 January 2015
Even now this is a really interesting book. I'm in my 3rd of 4 years of a chemistry degree, and so decided to pick it up to give me some background about the environment of the earth, as well as how the way the earth's atmosphere has been changing in recent years.

The book is a fairly easy read (I am not just saying this because I am scientifically minded, Lovelock has a real talent for explaining very complex concepts in relatively simple language), and I never found it excessively heavy, even poetic at times. Lovelock, I believe, was one of the pioneers of Earth Systems science, and I think this was the book that catalysed the creation o that science, so from that point of view it's an incredibly important work.

Perhaps my one complaint (something that is amply dealt with in the introduction) is the way Lovelock seems to be hinting during the book at the fact that Gaia may be intelligent in herself. Obviously this isn't actually the case, but his use of language does sometimes make his intent ambiguous. If you can forgive this, it is a genuinely great (though fairly brief) read, I assure you.

Though I haven't read them, I am told his later books are somewhat more suitable for the more scientifically minded, but I really appreciate what lovelock has done here in creating an explanation of an incredibly complex topic, in a way that is both interesting and easy to understand! A wonderful read. Any questions, please ask!
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on 16 April 2010
This is a book well worth reading. It is intended for the non-scientist although not lacking in the scientific approach. I was at first expecting to see a wishy washy argument given the large amount of bad press this book has received. I found the opposite in fact, the book deals with the possibility that the entire biosphere of the planet is regulated through its living components in order to continue to sustain life within it. This is based on the ideas first developed to study feedback systems in engineering e.g. +ve and -ve feedback. These notions arose in the science of control systems where the input from one sensor can alter the output of a control e.g. a thermostat in an oven.

It takes this idea much further to a planetwide scale. The entire book firstly explains the ideas behind this hypothesis and then spends the remainder of the book considering possible evidence to support it. It ranges over all forms of life from algae, bacteria and other plant and animal life and how it influences the planet through the concentration of gases in the atmosphere for example or how excessive amounts of carbon are "sinked" and so on.

A fascinating book and remarkable especially for its time. In a sense it has defined the time as well and much of his ideas have preoccupied scientists from all walks of life.
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on 18 November 2013
I was encouraged to read this 18(!) years ago as an undergraduate - but never quite got around to it until now. What a mistake. This is an _incredible_ book that has the power to really change the way you see & understand the world. I wonder whether I would have made different academic or career choices had I read it earlier?

Of course, it is a book of its time - and some of the ideas/concerns seem a little dated to a present day reader - but the core idea remains - and will stand the test of time.
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on 29 April 2018
An indispensable read for all who care for this beautiful but now much-abused planet - the only one we've got!
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on 25 January 2018
Good product
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on 28 December 2012
I enjoyed this book very much, although I'm still not sure if Gaia is alive. Gaia exhibits local entropy reduction which is a character of life, but so does the galaxy with star formation in the spiral arms. The book is thought provoking and has been updated well in this edition, although the importance of chaos theory to support the Gaia theory is not adequately explored. Deep Simplicity Deep Simplicity: Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life (Penguin Press Science) expanded on this and I would recommend it.
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on 1 February 2014
I have always been one that signs up to the Gaia theory. If you are new to the idea it is worth looking in to. If you are already convinced and don't have one of James Lovelocks books - buy it.
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on 5 March 2018
A must read book!
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