web site hit counter The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth

Availability: Ready to download

The Earth, James Lovelock proposes, behaves as if it were a superorganism, made up from all the living things and from their material environment. When he first sketched out his brilliant Gaia theory in the 1970s, people around the world embraced it; within a short time Gaia has moved from the margins of scientific research to the mainstream. James Lovelock argues that suc The Earth, James Lovelock proposes, behaves as if it were a superorganism, made up from all the living things and from their material environment. When he first sketched out his brilliant Gaia theory in the 1970s, people around the world embraced it; within a short time Gaia has moved from the margins of scientific research to the mainstream. James Lovelock argues that such things as the level of oxygen, the formation of clouds, and the saltiness of the oceans may all be controlled by interacting physical, chemical, and biological processes. He believes that "the self-regulation of climate and chemical composition is a process that emerges from the tightly coupled evolution of rocks, air, and ocean - in addition to that of organisms. Such interlocking self-regulation, while rarely optimal - consider the cold and hot places of the earth, the wet and the dry - nevertheless keeps the Earth a fit place for life." The New York Times Book Review has called his arguments in favor of Gaia "plausible and above all illuminating." Now, in an updated paperback edition, fully revised, the author amplifies his account of how Gaia works with descriptions of new fields of research that have been opened by this pathbreaking concept.


Compare

The Earth, James Lovelock proposes, behaves as if it were a superorganism, made up from all the living things and from their material environment. When he first sketched out his brilliant Gaia theory in the 1970s, people around the world embraced it; within a short time Gaia has moved from the margins of scientific research to the mainstream. James Lovelock argues that suc The Earth, James Lovelock proposes, behaves as if it were a superorganism, made up from all the living things and from their material environment. When he first sketched out his brilliant Gaia theory in the 1970s, people around the world embraced it; within a short time Gaia has moved from the margins of scientific research to the mainstream. James Lovelock argues that such things as the level of oxygen, the formation of clouds, and the saltiness of the oceans may all be controlled by interacting physical, chemical, and biological processes. He believes that "the self-regulation of climate and chemical composition is a process that emerges from the tightly coupled evolution of rocks, air, and ocean - in addition to that of organisms. Such interlocking self-regulation, while rarely optimal - consider the cold and hot places of the earth, the wet and the dry - nevertheless keeps the Earth a fit place for life." The New York Times Book Review has called his arguments in favor of Gaia "plausible and above all illuminating." Now, in an updated paperback edition, fully revised, the author amplifies his account of how Gaia works with descriptions of new fields of research that have been opened by this pathbreaking concept.

30 review for The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth

  1. 5 out of 5

    Adrian G Hilder

    I read an earlier edition of this book sometime in the mid 1990s. A logical, illuminating and sometimes surprising look at how Earth and life on it evolved to what it is today and how it (probably) works as a biosphere. Gaia knows how to preserve life on Earth, but that's not the same thing as preserving the human race on Earth. James Lovelock's analyses of life on Earth was born out of his mission to try and detect life on Mars n the 1960s. While others were building cages to trap insects (I know, I read an earlier edition of this book sometime in the mid 1990s. A logical, illuminating and sometimes surprising look at how Earth and life on it evolved to what it is today and how it (probably) works as a biosphere. Gaia knows how to preserve life on Earth, but that's not the same thing as preserving the human race on Earth. James Lovelock's analyses of life on Earth was born out of his mission to try and detect life on Mars n the 1960s. While others were building cages to trap insects (I know, we can laugh now!) he was busy thinking about the chemistry if the atmosphere. You can credit, or blame, depending on your perspective, James Lovelock for: Microwave ovens Discovering the hole in the ozone layer and what caused it The link between global temperature and carbon dioxide Whatever you think of the perhaps sometimes eccentric idea of Gaia - the biosphere - as a living organism in its own right, I find it a fascinating concept and enjoyed reading about it immensely.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Saski

    I found this book to be a very mixed bag for me. In places funny, in others extremely dry and confusing. Some chapters flow beautifully, while others one has to drag oneself through. Overall, I guess one could think of planet earth as the entity he describes, and if looking at the our planet in this way would help some people to act, vote, talk, behave differently, I am all for it. But otherwise, what's the point? I also wonder about the sources he used, the scientists whose work he references. S I found this book to be a very mixed bag for me. In places funny, in others extremely dry and confusing. Some chapters flow beautifully, while others one has to drag oneself through. Overall, I guess one could think of planet earth as the entity he describes, and if looking at the our planet in this way would help some people to act, vote, talk, behave differently, I am all for it. But otherwise, what's the point? I also wonder about the sources he used, the scientists whose work he references. Some of them I could find no mention of them in all of Google search other than in other works of Lovelock. That lack in addition to no bibliography to speak of (eight 'references', three of them Lovelock's) makes me suspicious of his scientific method, to say the least. However, to Lovelock's credit, I did learn a lot reading/slogging through his book: oxygen, other than in precise measures, is toxic; "homeostasis is a colligative property of life"; the number of bombardments by small planets the earth has suffered; how Earth's origin is connected with a supernova exploding; the effects of radioactive decay on the earth's core; the Archean period; the number of nuclear reactors that ran for millions of years during the Proteronzoic era; why warming a near-frozen animal from the outside kills it; that a certain amount of acid rain occurs naturally; among other things. Something I still don't get: thermodynamics, especially its second law; And finally something I still don't agree with: "As for what seems to be the greatest concern, nuclear radiation, fearful though it is to individual humans is to Gaia a minor affair." (xvi – a minor affair it might be, but it still would be a sin to inflict this particular 'minor' event upon her.) Quotes that caught my eye Scientists are also constrained by the tribal rules of the discipline to which they belong. A physicist would find it hard to do chemistry and a biologist would find physics well-nigh impossible to do. (xiii – I would say it is not only, or even mostly, the tribal rules that causes this separation of the disciplines, but rather the vast knowledge in each, requiring more than a lifetime to acquire fully. The age of the Renaissance man is over, at least until our life spans is hugely increased.) Of all the prizes that come from surviving more than fifty years the best is the freedom to be eccentric. (3 – Oh, we absolutely agree here, Lovelock!) The all-too-common deafness of English speakers to any other language kept from our common knowledge the everyday science of the Russian-speaking world. (11 – so true, at least as much today as it was then.) The arbitrariness of even a chronological division is underlined by the persistence of the Archean boita; their world has never ended, but lives on in our guts. Those bacteria have been with Gaia for nearly four thousand million years, and they still live all over the Earth in muds, sediments, and intestines—wherever they can keep away from that deadly poison, oxygen....In Gaia we are just another species, neither the owners nor the stewards of this planet. Our future depends much more upon a right relationship with Gaia than with the never-ending drama of human interest. (14) This is why we all know intuitively what life is. It is edible, lovable, or lethal. (16) Life is social. It exists in communities and collectives. There is a useful word in physics to describe the properties of collections: colligative. It is needed because there is no way to express or measure the temperature or the pressure of a single molecule. Temperature and pressure, say the physicists, are the colligative properties of a sensible collection of molecules. All collections of living things show properties unexpected from a knowledge of a single one of them. We, and some other animals, keep a constant temperature whatever the temperature of our surroundings. This fact could never have been deduced from the observations of a single cell from a human being....called it homeostasis or the wisdom of the body. Homeostasis is a colligative property of life. (18) Specifically, the Gaia hypothesis said that the temperature, oxidation state, acidity, and certain aspects of the rocks and waters are at any time kept constant, and that this homeostasis is maintained by active feedback processes operated automatically and unconsciously by the biota. ...Life and its environment are so closely coupled that evolution concerns Gaia, not the organisms or the environment taken separately. (19) Ideas are in continuous use as currency in the exchanges between scientists and, like money, can be used to buy many different things. (24) Information, in thermodynamic terms, is a measure of the absence of ignorance.... The less the ignorance, the lower the entropy. (25) Good criticism is like bathing in an ice-cold sea. The sudden chill of immersion in what seems at first a hostile medium soon stirs the blood and sharpens the senses. (31 – Hahahaha, I still dislike both, especially cold water.) From their world of microscopes, how could the 'selfish' interests of living cells be expressed at the distance of a planet? For these competent and dedicated biologist, positing the regulation of the atmosphere by microbial life seemed as absurd as expecting the legislation of some human government to affect the orbit of Jupiter. (32) To many scientists Gaia was a teleological concept, one that required foresight and planning by the biota. [They asked]...How could organisms keep oxygen at 21 percent and the mean temperature at 20 degrees C? (33 -- to which I ask, how does it happen now? Why do bacteria, trees etc, have to have a conference to decide such things? It works because it works? Do your cells in your body conference to keep you at 98.6? I don't think so!) But most would disagree that the biota in any way control the composition of the atmosphere of any of the important variables, such as global temperature and oxygen concentration, which depend on the atmosphere. (34; I still don't see the problem. What if instead of 'control' we used the word 'influence' or 'effect'?) We have been hit by close to thirty small planets, up to 10 miles in diameter and traveling as fast as sixty times the speed of sound. These impacts release about a thousand times as much energy as would be released if all the nuclear powers exploded all the present weapon stocks. Such events do more than make 200-mile craters, they can destroy up to 90 percent of all living organisms from the microscopic to the macroscopic. 'The impacts make the Earth ring like a bell, and the reverberations of the event resonate, metaphorically, throughout the systems of the Earth for maybe a million years or more. (43-44) But disentangling the record is rather like trying to find traces of the identity of a terrorist from the rubble of the building his bomb destroyed. (45) No models drawn from theoretical ecology can account in mathematical terms for the manifest stability of these vast natural system. (51; I wonder, almost 30 years later, if this is still true, with the computers we have now.) This statement doesn't ring true to me either: When these kinds of studies are made, a wide variety of mathematical models suggest that a as a system becomes more complex, in the sense of more species and a more rich structure of interdependence, it becomes more dynamically fragile...Thus, as a mathematical generality, increasing complexity makes for dynamical fragility rather than robustness. An important general conclusion is that large and unprecedented perturbations imposed by man are likely to be more traumatic for complex ecosystems than for simple ones. (51; and those perturbations not imposed by man, i.e., natural ones?) Daisyworld does not have any clearly established goal like a set point; it just settles down, like a cat, to a comfortable position and resists attempts to dislodge it. (61) Just imagine how large a signal would be needed to transmit information about the beginning of the Universe 15 eons ago. This may be why the Big Bang theory that the Universe began by the explosion of a primeval particle in inevitable.... All that now lingers is the faint rumble of the cosmic microwave background radiation. But all other theories of the origin are without evidence. (67) Even exploding an H-bomb would make your point only for a few hundred miles. (67; uh, I don't think so. In 1962 Starfish Prime was exploded and caused an electromagnetic pulse which cause damage in Hawaii, 898 miles away. Hmmm, I suppose '9' could be consider 'few' but not in my book.) How can we be so sure that the Earth's origin was connected with the explosion of a supernova? We are sure because, even today, the Earth is radioactive, and also because the Earth is made of elements like iron and silicon and oxygen that cannot be made in the normal processes of stellar evolution. (68) Powering a star by fusing iron to make uranium is like trying to burn ice in a furnace. (69 – I love this analogy!) But the outer layers of the star cannot escape the pull of gravitation and, when the fuel runs out, it collapses. It is then that the heavy elements are synthesized. Some proportion of them is violently ejected as the outer and still unburnt layers of the star explode. (69) It is the heat generated by the decay of these radioactive elements that keeps the Earth's interior hot and drives the movements of the crust. (70) The Archean, when the environment was full of molecules that donated electrons (that is, reducing agents), did not so much as end as become encapsulated as a separate region that exist whenever oxygen is absent. The submission of the anoxic ecosystems to domination by the oxic was somewhat like the Norman conquest with the Archean Saxons driven to a subservient underground position—the lower classes—from which, it is often said, they have never escaped. (100) The difference between the Archean air and the Proterozoic air was not a simple matter of the presence of absence of oxygen, it was in the net tendency. In the Proterozoic, a discarded bicycle left in shallow water would have rusted away to form insoluble ferric oxide which settled on the sea floor; in the Archean, it would have slowly dissolved as water-soluble ferrous iron, and left no trace. (101) They [salt-tolerant bacteria] are limited to their remote and rare niche, and depend upon the rest of life to keep the Earth comfortable for them. They are like those eccentrics of our own society whose survival depends upon the sustenance that we can spare but who could barely survive alone. (108) ...the vast mass of the oceans, some ten thousand times larger [than the atmosphere] (109 – So hard to imagine) Before these lagoons can form, barriers are needed at their seaward boundary. Could this activity be part of the tightly coupled evolution of life and the rocks, or is it just the result of chance? (110 – uh, chance?) At first the reef building would have only a local effect, but over time the sheer mass of the limestone would begin to affect the plastic crust of the Earth's surface, depressing it and so extending the size of the lagoon. (111) Is all this a grand, unplanned civil engineering enterprise by Gaia? The steps, from the individual lowering of calcium ions within the cells of a living organism to the movement of the plates, are all those that tend to improve the environment for the organisms responsible. (113) The results of warfare, however, are rarely genocide; instead war can lead to a peaceful coexistence mutually beneficial to the victim and the aggressor. (114 – What!?!) Quite literally, it [water] is frozen out; and the upper atmosphere contains only a few parts per million of water vapor. The present rate of escape of hydrogen to space is limited by the dryness of the upper air and is only 300,000 tons a year. This is equivalent to just under 3 million tons of water, and would leave behind an excess of 2.5 million tons of oxygen. It sounds a lot, but a loss of water of that rate would have removed less than one percent of the oceans in the age of the Earth. (116) For the Cambrian there are just catalogs of species and rocks. They give some insight into the life of the Earth, but only in the abbreviated way that a telephone book does about the private lives and the economy of a town. (127) From the beginning the producers, the photosynthesizers, have had a love-hate relationship with the consumers. Producers do not care to be eaten, but the presence of the consumers is essential for their health and that of the larger organism they constitute. When plants and animals appeared, the fine details of this constructive aggression became visible. The plants were seen to possess poisons, spines, and stings; and the animals and microorganisms were obliged to develop mew techniques for grazing. A balance is always struck because, without the consumers, the survival of the plants and algae would be threatened. There is only a few years' supply of carbon dioxide in the air. The removal of consumers from the scene would be disastrous for plants, and within a short time span. Not only would there be too little carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, but there would be major climate changes as the gases of the atmosphere and the albedo of the Earth responded to the demise of the plants. Not least, the intricate recycling of nutrients and gardening of the soil would cease. On a human scale the coexistence of consumers and producers could be compared with the long peace that has reigned between the hostile yet mutually dependent superpowers. (128) A smaller animal, the mouse , can survive the complete saturation of its blood with carbon monoxide. It survives the poison because enough oxygen can diffuse to its tissues from the skin and from the surface of the lungs. (129) We are so accustomed to think of oxygen as life-saving and essential that we ignore its potent toxicity. (129) However it happened, the reactions of this free oxygen with other elements such as carbon and sulfur would release acids into the air, and these would increase the weathering of crustal rocks so that more nutrients were released, leading to a greater abundance of living organisms. The positive feedback on the growth of oxygen would continue until the disadvantages of its presence overcame the benefits. Rather like the growth of car populations in come cities, it continues until movement is choked by its presence. (131) This [exposure to radiation] is frightening stuff, but we can keep our cool by remembering that these carcinogenic consequences are no different from those of breathing oxygen, which is also a carcinogen. Breathing oxygen may be what sets a limit to the life span of most animals, but not breathing it is even more rapidly lethal. There is a right level of oxygen, namely 21 percent; more of less than this can be harmful. To set a level of zero for oxygen in the interests of preventing cancer would be most unwise. (168) Let's look at his proposition: "Suppose that the biological effects of exposure to nuclear radiation are no different from those of breathing oxygen." ...This is now conventional scientific wisdom; the novel insight from Dr. Thomas was to remind us that these same destructive chemicals are being made all the time, in the absence of radiation, by small inefficiencies in the normal process of oxidative metabolism. In other words, so far as our cells are concerned, damage by nuclear radiation and damage by breathing oxygen are almost indistinguishable. (175) ...it seems likely that the life span of most animals is set by a fixed upper limit of the quantity of oxygen that their cells can use before suffering irreversible damage. Small animals such as mice have a specific rate of metabolism much greater than we do; that is why they live only a year or so even if protected from predation and disease. Oxygen kills just as nuclear radiation does, by destroying the instructions within our cells about reproduction and repair. Oxygen is thus a mutagen and a carcinogen, and breathing is sets the limit of our life span. (176) The maladies of Gaia do not last long in terms of her life span. Anything that makes the world uncomfortable to live in tends to induce the evolution of those species that can achieve a new and more comfortable environment. It follows that, if the world is made unfit by what we do, there is the probability of a change in regime to one that will be better for life but not necessarily better for us. In the past, changes of this kind, like the jump from a glaciation to an interglacial, have tended to revolutionary punctuations rather than gradual evolutions. (178) We want to be free to drive into the country or the wilderness without polluting it in so doing: to have our cake and eat it. Human and understandable such striving may be, but it is illogical. Our humanist concerns about the poor of the inner cities or the Third World, and our near-obscene obsession with death, suffering, and pain as if these were evil in themselves—these thoughts divert the mind from our gross and excessive domination of the natural world. Poverty and suffering are not sent; they are the consequences of what we do. Pain and death are normal and natural; we could not long survive without them. Science, it is true, assisted at the birth of technology. But when we drive our cars and listen to the radio bringing news of acid rain, we need to remind ourselves that we, personally, are the polluters. We, not some white-coated devil figure, buy the cars, drive them, and foul the air. We are therefore accountable, personally, for the destruction of the trees by photochemical smog and acid rain. We are responsible for the silent spring that Rachel Carson predicted. There are many ways to keep in touch with Gaia. Individual humans are densely populated cellular and endosymbiont collectives, but clearly also identities. Individuals interact with Gaia in the cycling of the elements and in the control of the climate, just like a cell does in the body. You also interact individually in a spiritual manner through a sense of wonder about the natural world and from feeling a part of it. In some ways this interaction in not unlike the tight coupling between the state of the mind and the body. Another connection is through the powerful infrastructures of human communication and mass transfer. We as a species now move a greater mass of some materials around the Earth than did all the biota of Gaia before we appeared. Our chattering is so loud that it can be heard to the depths of the Universe. Always, as with other and earlier species within Gaia, the entire development arises from the activity of a few individuals. The urban nests, the agricultural ecosystems, good and bad, are all the consequences of rapid positive feedback starting from the action of an inspired individual. ….Gaia, as I see her, is no doting mother tolerant of misdemeanors, nor is she some fragile and delicate damsel in danger from brutal mankind. She is stern and tough, always keeping the world warm and comfortable for those who obey the rules, but ruthless in her destruction of those who transgress. Her unconscious goal is a planet fit for life. If humans stand in the way of this, we shall be eliminated with as little pit as would be shown by the micro-brain of an intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile in full flight to its target. ….I have tried to show that God and Gaia, theology and science, even physics and biology are not separate but a single way of thought.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Weibull

    The classic work by James Lovelock introduces us to the Gaia hypothesis that our planet earth is a coherent system of life, self-regulating and shifting, an almost independent living organism.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    A couple of years I ago I read James Lovelock's first book on Gaia (originally published in the late 1970s), and this is the follow up, coming about a decade later. I would say Ages of Gaia is a stronger book the the original by a considerable margin. The concept behind Gaia as imagined by Lovelock is that the earth's biosphere can collectively function in such a way as to preserve more favorable conditions for the flourishing of life. My main take away after the first book was extreme confusion A couple of years I ago I read James Lovelock's first book on Gaia (originally published in the late 1970s), and this is the follow up, coming about a decade later. I would say Ages of Gaia is a stronger book the the original by a considerable margin. The concept behind Gaia as imagined by Lovelock is that the earth's biosphere can collectively function in such a way as to preserve more favorable conditions for the flourishing of life. My main take away after the first book was extreme confusion and general skepticism. It was hard for me understand how Lovelock could avoid giving teleological motivations to microscopic organisms, plants, and animals under his scheme. The language he uses in the first book blurred these lines in ways I didn't like. He clarifies a lot in Ages of Gaia, and brings me a lot closer to finding his hypothesis plausible. His model of "Daisy World" is very simple but very useful in terms of helping a layperson understand what he's talking about. The model demonstrates how, without any intentional efforts, a planet consisting only of daisies could regulate variable temperatures from a nearby star to help preserve conditions that allow for their life on the planet. I won't go into the details here, but you can read about it in the book if it interests you. I found it quite illuminating. Be forewarned that there is a fair amount of jargon in the book, so be prepared to wade through some level of difficulty. But if Lovelock is correct, and our biosphere can function as essentially one enormous organism that is able to regulate environmental factors, it would be a big change in our understanding of how life on our planet works. It's an exciting idea and I look forward to reading further from Lovelock on the topic.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John Szalasny

    My daughter had this as a secondary reading source for an environmental science class. But for the most part, there is no environmentalist agenda in the book, and the lack of footnotes makes even the science suspect. I agree with many of the previous reviews of this classic book. It is very hard to read for most of the book. Some sections flow for the common reader, but the limited reference list makes it unsuitable as a rigidly scientific text. This edition is an update from the original text. M My daughter had this as a secondary reading source for an environmental science class. But for the most part, there is no environmentalist agenda in the book, and the lack of footnotes makes even the science suspect. I agree with many of the previous reviews of this classic book. It is very hard to read for most of the book. Some sections flow for the common reader, but the limited reference list makes it unsuitable as a rigidly scientific text. This edition is an update from the original text. Maybe this is why it seems so uneven, almost like the author was trying to dumb it down after criticism (which he acknowledges) from his scientific peers. The theory is interesting, but the author doesn't make a compelling argument for a "living" earth beyond the interconnectivity between life sources (plant, animal, microbial) that have been made by other scientists without the need for the planet to have a life force of its own.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julian Sanchez

    This is a good reference for who wants to research an interesting theory about the life of the planet and to learn Her history and the differents way whose makes possible the life.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    The "science" of gods and how they can treat humanity if their whims are not obeyed. Strangely this all powerful gods need mouthpieces like Lovelock to threaten the humans. The "science" of gods and how they can treat humanity if their whims are not obeyed. Strangely this all powerful gods need mouthpieces like Lovelock to threaten the humans.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Seminal text

  9. 4 out of 5

    Belle Meade School

    575.01

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Stolte

    I found that the mix of science & literature did not elucidate the hypothesis.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Coates

    Having read Lovelock's "Gaia, a New Look at Life on Earth" a few years prior, I read this and while I also enjoyed it, my recollection is that it didn't add as much to the first book as I was hoping. Having read Lovelock's "Gaia, a New Look at Life on Earth" a few years prior, I read this and while I also enjoyed it, my recollection is that it didn't add as much to the first book as I was hoping.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dimitris Hall

    It took me many months to finally finish The Ages of Gaia. I suppose it's because a lot of it was dry in the way scientific writing is dry to people who are not scientists but wish they could understand what scientists say. Daisyworld, for example, is an interesting supposition and thought experiment on how planetary phenomena influence and are influenced by life on a smaller scale --- an idea that today seems typically banal but was novel at the time it was brought forward. I understand it intu It took me many months to finally finish The Ages of Gaia. I suppose it's because a lot of it was dry in the way scientific writing is dry to people who are not scientists but wish they could understand what scientists say. Daisyworld, for example, is an interesting supposition and thought experiment on how planetary phenomena influence and are influenced by life on a smaller scale --- an idea that today seems typically banal but was novel at the time it was brought forward. I understand it intuitively, but the relevant science flew over my head, along with a great part of what else made this book important, I'm sure. Where Lovelock's writing was more approachable, I found it profound and enjoyable to read. I particularly enjoy how some of it could easily be divisive among ecologists and could be used to spark discussion, for instance his careful (and in my humble opinion, very balanced) examination of nuclear power, or the suggestion that anything alive is by definition a polluter to its environment, helping some species thrive and others wither away in a delicate eternal dance (or war, if you prefer that analogy). The chapter "The Contemporary Environment" is a must-read for anyone who's interested in big-picture ecology and where it fits today... or where it used to fit 20 years ago and more. Even his early approach to geoengineering, long before it was an unwelcome reality, is enlightening to read: "So that's what the scientists were thinking before the big shots took control of global climatic planning." Generally speaking, Mr. Lovelock displays great wisdom on a number of different subjects, the discussion of which is seldom characterised by either lucidity or farsightedness (widesightedness?). However, looking at his views today, which show that in his very old age he's somewhere between trying to be pragmatic and being resigned, they are even more difficult to digest. Has he gone off his rocker, is he paid or is he just that big of a visionary? Google him and you'll see why I'm asking these questions in particular. To end with his hypothesis: will Gaia "do" anything (to the limit of her proactiveness) to preserve life on her surface, much in the same way our body would react to anything which could harm the microscopic (our cells and tissues) as well as the macroscopic life -- us? Are we really a terminal threat to life on Earth, or could it be that: "Looked at from the time scale of our own brief lives, environmental change must seem haphazard, even malign. From the long Gaian view, the evolution of the environment is characterized by periods of stasis punctuated by abrupt and sudden change. The environment has never been so uncomfortable as to threaten the extinction of life on Earth, but during those abrupt changes the resident species suffered catastrophe whose scale was such as to make a total nuclear war seem, by comparison, as trivial as is a summer breeze to a hurricane. We are ourselves a product of one such catastrophe, the extinction of many species 65 million years ago. Could it be that we are unwittingly precipitating another punctuation that will alter our environment to suit our successors?"

  13. 4 out of 5

    Faye

    Initially Lovelock recounts the story of how he came up with the Gaia principle. He is in his fifties and working on instruments that will study the environments of Venus and Mars. His attention is turned toward the Earth and its ability to promote biological life as we know it. Cyanobacteria were the first producers to use sunlight and replicate themselves. Are we recreating the conditions under which they thrived initially in the shallow waters of Lake Champlain? He talks about the successful Initially Lovelock recounts the story of how he came up with the Gaia principle. He is in his fifties and working on instruments that will study the environments of Venus and Mars. His attention is turned toward the Earth and its ability to promote biological life as we know it. Cyanobacteria were the first producers to use sunlight and replicate themselves. Are we recreating the conditions under which they thrived initially in the shallow waters of Lake Champlain? He talks about the successful inventions of evolution and then this quote about semiconductors "Consider how the simple semi conducting crystal of those first radio receivers in the 1920s has evolved to become in a grand eutrophication, the ubiquitous silicon devices of today." He works with a very large number of scientists on his theories for how life began on Earth. He points out that Gaia, the cooperation of all biological life to promote conditions supporting life, came about after bacteria evolved. Eventually oxygen became part of the atmosphere and then a giant new niche of organisms that could use oxygen and organic material evolved. Anaerobic ecosystems would have dominated at one point, then aerobic ecosystems took over but anaerobic ecosystems remain but as a minority. Carbon dioxide is a focus and he covers climate change. "Carbon dioxide for Gaia is like salt for us. We cannot live without it, but too much is a poison." Lovelock promoted nuclear power, he likes to point out that sunlight is produced via nuclear reactions and that some level of nuclear reactions are going on all the time at a certain level in our environment. He ends with a philosophical discussion about whether Gaia is a religious principle or not.

  14. 5 out of 5

    R.Z.

    I was introduced to Lovelock's Gaia theory many years ago, and although I went on to thinking about many other theories of life on earth, I never forgot Gaia. So, when doing research for writing my next novel, I went back to studying further the writings of James Lovelock's many books. Beginning with The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of our Living Earth, I felt that this would be the place to begin. I was not disappointed. Lovelock tells us what is known and what is not known, and why we need not co I was introduced to Lovelock's Gaia theory many years ago, and although I went on to thinking about many other theories of life on earth, I never forgot Gaia. So, when doing research for writing my next novel, I went back to studying further the writings of James Lovelock's many books. Beginning with The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of our Living Earth, I felt that this would be the place to begin. I was not disappointed. Lovelock tells us what is known and what is not known, and why we need not concern ourselves with the origin of life on earth. Although scientists can determine some facts about the earliest times of our planet, much is speculation based on mathematical and other models of what might have happened. As a reader of Scientific American and other such publications, I know that much has been discovered since 1988 when The Ages of Gaia was published, Nevertheless since James Lovelock does not hesitate to separate speculation from modeling from facts, this is an excellent primer for those readers just beginning their quest to discover whether the earth may, itself, be a living organism capable of changing and evolving to keep itself alive. Clearly, this planet has gone through massive changes during its lifetime, and in spite of the current over-population of humans, the destruction of natural habitats, and the rise of agriculture, the depletion of fresh water sources, and so much more, the earth may be adjusting itself once again.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Drum

    James Lovelock’s The Ages of Gaia, a Biography of the Living Earth, fleshes out his idea that all of life on Earth—including the rocks--is in fact one living self-regulating organism. Is this even possible? To illustrate how it might work, Lovelock postulates a simple model of light and dark colored daisies, called Daisyworld, where populations of daisies increase and decrease according to how much sunlight the planet receives. His argument moves back to the Archean age approximately 3.6 billion James Lovelock’s The Ages of Gaia, a Biography of the Living Earth, fleshes out his idea that all of life on Earth—including the rocks--is in fact one living self-regulating organism. Is this even possible? To illustrate how it might work, Lovelock postulates a simple model of light and dark colored daisies, called Daisyworld, where populations of daisies increase and decrease according to how much sunlight the planet receives. His argument moves back to the Archean age approximately 3.6 billion years ago where the first bacteria-like rudiments of life appeared. In an explanation which is heavy on the chemistry, and somewhat beyond me, he explains how our present self-sustaining world balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide used and expelled by plants and animals could develop. The Ages of Gaia contains a subtle but firm warning that we humans are changing the fabric of life on our planet, and setting the stage for what may well be (for humans and animals of our ilk) a stark uninhabitable world.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This is the second book written by Lovelock and the Gaia hypothesis and I enjoyed them both. Even after reading two books on the topic I still have trouble explaining to others just what it is. I do believe that the idea of a living Earth is a extremely beneficial of observing the planet and to me that is what this idea is all about. The books starts with a lot of rather in depth questioning and speculating on how life has effected the Earth, particularity it's atmosphere over geologic time. It This is the second book written by Lovelock and the Gaia hypothesis and I enjoyed them both. Even after reading two books on the topic I still have trouble explaining to others just what it is. I do believe that the idea of a living Earth is a extremely beneficial of observing the planet and to me that is what this idea is all about. The books starts with a lot of rather in depth questioning and speculating on how life has effected the Earth, particularity it's atmosphere over geologic time. It was a lot of info. Near the end the book focuses on more on people and Gaia as well as the role of science in society. It made for a great combination and I respect Lovelock efforts to making this a personal and meaningful concern for people of any background. I not sure if I will read about more an this idea anytime soon, but in no way do i intend to forget it's value.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Fasching-Gray

    This book was okay. It got me interested in the beginnings of life on earth, and now I have a whole stack of books about that next to my bed, so that is good. Lovelock is a bit of a nut, though. I'm not a scientist so the Gaia idea doesn't threaten some deep need to keep my discipline separate from some other discipline. It's ironic that environmentalists are into his Gaia trip, when he's all into nuclear power and keeps referring to CFCs as harmless. I love the chapter on Mars though. Lately, I This book was okay. It got me interested in the beginnings of life on earth, and now I have a whole stack of books about that next to my bed, so that is good. Lovelock is a bit of a nut, though. I'm not a scientist so the Gaia idea doesn't threaten some deep need to keep my discipline separate from some other discipline. It's ironic that environmentalists are into his Gaia trip, when he's all into nuclear power and keeps referring to CFCs as harmless. I love the chapter on Mars though. Lately, I love everything about Mars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mason

    Fairly complex in its scientific jargon but very illuminating if you like revolutionary ideas. Most scientists will dismiss you immediately when you bring up Gaia but the ideas are just as well based on evidence as the foundations of geology, climatology, or physics. This brings all of those together and that is what needs to happen. To much science is carried out in isolated disciplines which don't know what eacho ther are talking about. Great read but surprisingly difficult. Fairly complex in its scientific jargon but very illuminating if you like revolutionary ideas. Most scientists will dismiss you immediately when you bring up Gaia but the ideas are just as well based on evidence as the foundations of geology, climatology, or physics. This brings all of those together and that is what needs to happen. To much science is carried out in isolated disciplines which don't know what eacho ther are talking about. Great read but surprisingly difficult.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I viewed the 'save the planet' bandwagon differently since reading this. The planet will protect itself, it is mankind that will disappear if it continues to use up all that is needed for its survival. But Daisyworld itself will self heal and continue long after our species have self destructed. I will file this under 'science' but it does raise many philosophical questions too. I viewed the 'save the planet' bandwagon differently since reading this. The planet will protect itself, it is mankind that will disappear if it continues to use up all that is needed for its survival. But Daisyworld itself will self heal and continue long after our species have self destructed. I will file this under 'science' but it does raise many philosophical questions too.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Lovelock tries to make a stronger case for the Earth as a living system (Gaia Hypothesis) with the use of the, e.g., computer 'Daisy' model. Also includes an interesting chapter near the end of the book on how one might seed or tera-form Mars. Lovelock tries to make a stronger case for the Earth as a living system (Gaia Hypothesis) with the use of the, e.g., computer 'Daisy' model. Also includes an interesting chapter near the end of the book on how one might seed or tera-form Mars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    http://www.fromseedtobloom.com/2011/0... http://www.fromseedtobloom.com/2011/0...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dereck

    This was an amazing eye opener. You'll read this, and you'll either think the guy is an absolute nut, or you'll be amazed and never look at the earth the same again. This was an amazing eye opener. You'll read this, and you'll either think the guy is an absolute nut, or you'll be amazed and never look at the earth the same again.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Saroya

    Excellent look at the environmental changes of planet Earth from pre-history to the late 20th century.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Brilliant.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mateo

    I was a philosophy student. I read this and Dune. I switched to Environmental Geology.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    New perspective on Mother Earth -- truly insightful for those who are unfamiliar with Gaia.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rianna

    not the book I thought it would be, interesting topic though

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Gendron

    The book was a very good introduction to GAIA and how it has changed over the eons. Lots of food for thought sprinkled throughout the book along with a good dose of science.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lauchlin

    0

  30. 4 out of 5

    Monica Ferreira da Costa

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.