A radical shift in thinking about climate change from Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia theory.
Readers who devoured The Revenge of Gaia (2006) or The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009) are familiar with the scientist/inventor who posited that Earth, or Gaia, is a closed, self-sustaining system whose balance has been disrupted. Where the outlook of his last book was decidedly gloomy, in this book, Lovelock takes a neutral, or even optimistic, look at climate change as part of Earth’s constant and accelerating evolution. As gifted as ever at making complex scientific explanations understandable, the author can also turn an exquisite phrase. While he decries our collective “planetary diabetes,” for instance, he also wonders if we aren’t entering a time of evolutionary inflation, much like “a flute that changes its pitch when blown harder.” However, in Lovelock’s view, this isn’t necessarily bad news. In fact, he suggests, the accelerating rate of invention that began with the steam engine and the accompanying, unprecedented flux of energy planetwide could cause humans to evolve into as-yet-unimagined life forms based on electronics. Some of the material here seems to be the stuff of science fiction, a genre Lovelock indeed credits for its inventiveness, yet the nonagenarian scientist has the experience and acumen to make a provocative case. He does wax overly nostalgic at times—a chapter devoted to his early career and many inventions could easily be expanded to a full autobiography and contributes only marginally to his present argument—but mostly, he’s actively considering the future and how Earth, with or without humans, will cope with the changes to come. “Now is a critical moment in Gaia’s history,” writes the author. “It is a time of ending, but also a time of new beginnings.”
For those so inclined, this book is like getting Mother Earth News and Wired magazines in the mail on the same day.