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The Ant and the Steam Engine

Peter Godfrey-Smith: James Lovelock

19 February 2015
A Rough Ride to the Future 
by James Lovelock.
Allen Lane, 184 pp., £16.99, April 2014, 978 0 241 00476 0
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... that keeps us alive is maintained by other living things. How should we think about this? What sort of account should be given of the shaping of the conditions of life by life itself? In the 1970s JamesLovelock, independent scientist and inventor, proposed the Gaia hypothesis. He argued that the Earth regulates itself, and responds to change, in the same sort of way that a single living organism ...

Short Cuts

Jonathan Meades: This Thing Called the Future

7 September 2016
... A solar-oriented, pyramidal headquarters in a field for Northamptonshire County Council. Why not? A floating town off the Norfolk coast. UEA’s neighbouring ziggurats. Space colonies. Arctic cities. James Stirling’s particularly daft proposal to link Derby’s new civic centre to the town’s past by propping up the façade of the old Assembly Rooms at 45 degrees. Every week brought forth a blinding ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Erratic Weather

11 April 2013
... on. He senses that the struggle to slow down global warming is already lost; and though he counsels against pessimism he is sceptical about massive geo-engineering schemes of the kind put forward by JamesLovelock and the eccentric Stewart Brand. Can-do projects on a grand scale have been dreamed up before: draining the Mediterranean into the Sahara, for instance, or diverting warm Pacific water into ...

Warmer, Warmer

John Lanchester: Global Warming, Global Hot Air

22 March 2007
The Revenge of Gaia 
by James Lovelock.
Allen Lane, 222 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 0 14 102597 1
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Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policymakers: Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
IPCC, February 2007Show More
Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning 
by George Monbiot.
Allen Lane, 277 pp., £17.99, September 2006, 0 7139 9923 3
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The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies 
by Richard Heinberg.
Clairview, 320 pp., £12.99, October 2005, 1 905570 00 7
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The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review 
by Nicholas Stern.
Cambridge, 692 pp., £29.99, January 2007, 978 0 521 70080 1
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... way as church fêtes and county swimming championships. I suspect we’re reluctant to think about it because we’re worried that if we start we will have no choice but to think about nothing else. JamesLovelock, in his powerful and extremely depressing book The Revenge of Gaia, says this: I am old enough to notice a marked similarity between attitudes over sixty years ago towards the threat of war ...
28 May 1992
Understanding the present: Science and the Soul of Modern Man 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Picador, 272 pp., £14.95, May 1992, 0 330 32012 2
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... worthwhile. That would not be enough to make it excellent ‘popular’ writing. There is a great contrast between Appleyard and two men who say kind things in the advance publicity for the book: JamesLovelock and Oliver Sacks. Be as cynical as you please about Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis or Sacks’s romanticised neurology – they are writers whose best books deserve their enormous readership ...
17 February 2011
Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Simon and Schuster, 438 pp., £20, June 2010, 978 1 84737 798 2
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... heroes, Richard Jefferies, Victorian polymath, nature writer, campaigner against the exploitation of agricultural labourers, fantasist and (in Mount’s semi-serious conceit) a 19th-century avatar of JamesLovelock and his Gaia hypothesis. One of Jefferies’s favourite haunts was Liddington Hill (now within the official town boundary of Swindon), with its remains of an Iron Age hill-fort and famous ...
8 March 2007
... which makes some patch of water, crucial for the poor Gulf Stream’s cycle, too hot. Or too cold. Of how polar bears drown, hundreds of miles from land, as ice floes under them melt. I think of JamesLovelock’s face, after he’d given his lecture explaining that most of this planet, fifty years from now, will be underwater beginning with Bangladesh, at the top of the Bay of Bengal. Those ...

What is the rational response?

Malcolm Bull: Climate Change Ethics

24 May 2012
A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change 
by Stephen Gardiner.
Oxford, 512 pp., £22.50, July 2011, 978 0 19 537944 0
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... that it will bring disaster on a global scale, and it is precisely because its impact is long deferred that we must act decisively now. Are these demands reasonable? They might be if – as James Hansen, one of the founders of climate science, has claimed – it is ‘our last chance to save humanity’. But is it? Any change in temperature will inevitably benefit some species and harm others ...
5 June 1997
Imagined Worlds 
by Freeman Dyson.
Harvard, 216 pp., £14.50, May 1997, 0 674 53908 7
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... humans survive even the next five centuries? Might not, say, depletion of the ozone layer, our planet’s shield against ultraviolet light, be quite as dangerous as hydrogen bombs? Dyson points to JamesLovelock’s Gaia, the notion that ‘the chemistry and ecology of Earth are linked in a single system that keeps the environment of the planet within limits tolerable to life.’ ‘I find the Gaia ...

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