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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 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 24 March 2015
Excellent book
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on 18 May 2017
Love this book - so interesting
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on 1 May 2017
That is a great book, very interesting, and it may suggest some possibilities that were hidden during the time it was written. The author implies that our fauna and flora is somehow self regulating towards the situations and challenges who do appear. The self regulating acts in a manner that would benefit all or most, in order to keep a balance or a sustainable situation, that means that the microbes who are the main actors in this play are somehow intelligent and work towards the best possible out come, as everything had a soul. It probably implies in a teleological proposition, that even non intelligent beings work toward an specific outcome, or that in second thoughts, that microbes and part of the biosphere are some sort of programmed AI used in the terraformation of our own planet, and would be ideal for our own planning to terraform other planets, using microbes who would regulate the gases on the atmosphere. Very clever, very interesting book.
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on 25 August 2008
I read this book sometime ago and is impacted me significantly as it has with many others. I enjoyed the explanation of the huge organism (Earth) that is self- regulating. I also enjoyed that Lovelock points out that we humans are part of the environment and belong here. We will produce waste.

Having said that, any system can overload. Thus, we need to be good stewards of our planet.

As the astronauts left the earth in the 1960's and headed towards the moon they looked back at our planet and did not see borders or countries. They saw the earth as a single unit...beautiful and fragile. It rotated on an invisible string in the blackness of night. It affected many of the astronauts profoundly.

The book has already helped many more people see the earth as a single unit. If it can continue to do that, hopefully we will find a way to live more harmoniously with the environment on our planet.

Gaia is a great read and a way of looking at things that is both fascination and enlightening!

The Re-Discovery of Common Sense: A Guide To: The Lost Art of Critical Thinking
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on 6 November 2007
It didn't have the direct and dramatic impact of Newton's Principia - a book that radically changed the world, nevertheless James Lovelock's book Gaia - a New Look at Life on Earth, did have a more subtle influence on our world - particularly that of science. In a sense the Gaia Hypothesis prefigured - culturally and symbolically - the evolution of pure science from that classical, mechanistic world view inspired by the uncanny genius of Newton, to a less linear, more holistic awareness of the irreducible relationships (`gestalts') that permeate apparently discreet phenomena. Indeed this kind of more `organic' approach is radically renewing the scope of Science.

What this unique book may also prove to have done is act as a pivotal stepping stone in time: a step back into our most atavistic, indigenous roots, a time when we lived in harmony with the Earth - talk to any Inuit, Aborigine, or Sioux elder and they retain that deeply intuitive and spiritual connection; but just as significantly, a step into the future - towards a re-newed awareness of our responsibility and acute vulnerability as part of the Earth's 'living' ecology. Climate change is the moment that latter reality is returned home to us with the harshest and most dangerous of lessons. And in a sense, climate change was the mighty prediction James Lovelock issued with his Gaia Hypothesis.

More recently he's said his hope lies "in that powerful force that takes over our lives when we sense that our tribe or nation is threatened from outside". However, he's also said "I do think it will take a disaster to wake us up''. Let's hope, on that score at least, and for all our sakes, he's wrong.
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James Lovelock has created a powerful and interesting argument in this book that will keep scientists busy for centuries. He notices that there is an ability for the Earth to maintain relatively constant conditions in temperature, atmosphere, salinity and pH of the oceans, and reductions in pollutants that defies the simple observations of what "should" happen. From this, he concludes that there is a complex of physical, chemical and biological interrelationships that work like a living organism, which he defines as the Gaia Hypothesis. For defining that concept and providing some of the measurements to establish its premises, he deserves a 7 star rating.
Unfortunately, the argument is expressed in overlong and convoluted fashion. He deliberately limits himself to a nonscientific explanation in this book. The scientific version of the argument is in The Ages of Gaia. Although the book is not long, it certainly could have been condensed into a longish article for Scientific American or The Atlantic Monthly. My second quibble is that the editor was nowhere in sight in creating the organization of the book. The key point is often buried in the third sentence of the last paragraph in a chapter. The argument in between wanders into all kinds of places where it doesn't need to go. For organization and editing, I give this book a one star rating.
So the average is a 4 star rating. The writing itself is pleasant enough. Don't let the lack of organization and editing put you off, for it is worth your while to read this book. It will remind you of the benefits of the sort of sytems thinking that Peter Senge talks about in The Fifth Discipline.
The other thing you will learn is the weakness of scientific work that fails to develop enough field data and to connect enough with other disciplines. I was struck by the same observations recently while visiting environmental scientists at the Smithsonian Institution. The basics in many of these areas have yet to be measured and evaluated. This book will point countless generations forward in understanding how our plant maintains its environment that permits life to flourish. Clearly, it is a stallbusting effort to replace "stalled" thinking about the history and future of the Earth. I found the key questions (such as why doesn't the ocean become more saline?) to be irresistible. I think you will, too. Enjoy and think!
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on 31 July 2002
The idea that the planet is a self-balancing system is clearly presented for non-scientists. Fully explained, this model is in fact complementary to other enviromental models rather than contradictory. I think that this book usefully fills a gap between economics, biology and physics, and it is a sobering message that if we do not take sufficient care, we could tip the planet into a new equilibrium (but without the human race).
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on 23 May 2010
After hearing James Lovelock discussing his ideas and his central theme; the Gaia hypothesis, so eloquently on the recent BBC4 series; 'Beautiful Minds', I decided to pursue my interest in the idea with the purchase of this book. I was not disappointed.

This text elucidates in a clear and easy to understand manner the central tenets of Lovelock's 'philosophy', namely that the earth and all life upon and within it represents a single, self regulating system. To me, this idea seems remarkably intuitive and almost logical. However, I think that Lovelock does himself no favours and ,indeed, leaves himself open to attack from evolutionary biologists with the choice of language used in this book. To talk of the purpose of substances produced by life forms brings with it connotations of 'Mother Nature' and her maternal ways that offer an easy route for detractors to criticise what is otherwise an excellent and lucid book.
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