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Vanishing Face Of Gaia, The [Hardcover]

James Lovelock
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 17 2009

Why would a ninety year old man choose to defy his most trusted physician? Because in an act of splendid generosity Sir Richard Branson offered him the chance to fly into space, to share that transcendental feeling known only to astronauts - that our home is the Earth itself, not the house or the street or the nation where we live - which for a scientist who has spent a lifetime studying the way our planet works was irresistible.

As climate change develops and poses new problems James Lovelock will offer a view of our and the Earth's possible future in light of this trip differing from that of most scientists and the science of the IPCC. We are trying already to undo some of the harm we have done and will try harder, even desperately, but until we see that the Earth is more than a mere ball of rock we are unlikely to remedy the cause of the change. The root problem is that there are too many people, pets and livestock for the Earth to carry.

The Face of Gaia will tell us why it matters that we see and feel the earth as a living organism. The cost of our neglect of Gaia could soon cause the greatest human tragedy in living memory, because the Earth, in its but not our interests, is now moving into a new hot epoch, one where it can more easily continue to keep the planet habitable. If we are to have any chance to avoiding global catastrophe his words should be heeded.

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About the Author

James Lovelock is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis (now Gaia Theory). He has written three books on the subject: Gaia: a new look at life on Earth; The Ages of Gaia; Gaia: the practical science of planetary medicine; and an autobiography, Homage to Gaia. He has received many honorary degrees as well as being made Companion of Honour by the Queen in 2003. He has held posts at numerous universities both in the UK and the US and since 1994 has been an Honorary Visiting Fellow of Green College, University of Oxford.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Stephen Pletko TOP 50 REVIEWER


A view of the Earth introduced in the 1980s that sees it as a self-regulating system made up from the totality of organisms, the surface rocks, the oceans, and the atmosphere tightly coupled as an evolving system. The theory sees the system as having a goal--the regulation of surface conditions so as always to be favourable for contemporary life as possible. It is based on observations and theoretical models; it...has made eight successful predictions."

The above comes from the glossary of the engrossing and slim book by James Lovelock (who is 90 years old). He is an independent scientist, inventor, author, researcher, environmentalist, and futurist who lives in southwest England. Lovelock is the recipient of many scientific awards and other honours. Given his stature, this writing (as well as his other writings) deserve close attention.

GAIA (named after the Goddess of Earth in Greek mythology) which essentially views the Earth as kind of a super organism has overcome its main critics to become part of a distinguished historical tradition of serious (if not controversial) science. Lovelock and his proponents regard GAIA as a scientific theory since (as stated above) it has passed predictive tests.

Generally, Lovelock, being an independent scientist, lacks confidence in mainstream science climate models. He makes the case that it's too late to prevent global warming (which he calls "global heating"). Thus we must think about how to adapt and act fast. The best chapters (at least for me) concern survival strategies, such as energy and food options.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still vanishing... April 18 2013
Just by looking at the titles 'The Vanishing Face of...' and the 'The Revenge of...' it becomes quickly clear which of the two is the shriller book. 'Vanishing Face' is somewhat of an update on the earlier one, consequently it covers a lot of the same ground. Its narrative appears more poetic though, which suits its title well. Make no mistake, however, James Lovelock's message is thereby not rendered any less serious and pressing.

There has been much said recently (2012-13) about the limitations of climate models and the difficulty in making long term climate predictions. Lovelock wrote so already in 'Vanishing Face'in 2009. His final warning is not to allow ourselves to be lulled into a fool's paradise just because the climate system behaves sometimes erratically and contrary to what one would expect. He points to empirical evidence from observation to show that the planet's average climate keeps indeed getting warmer. Join to this what needs no scientists to explain, namely that unsustainable population growth and the pressure for relentless economic growth continue unabated with all the attendant loss of bio-diversity and consequential alterations to Gaia's face on which all life exists. It is not hard to see why it is vanishing.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute necessary for everyone to read July 17 2009
The Vanishing Face of Gaia

This book is an absolute must to read for everyone who is remotely interested in conserving our environment. I can only read one chapter at a time, it is so scary, but is a "wake-up" call.
Renate Kellhammer
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This book is based upon the notion that, since the Earth teems with life, it can profitably be be viewed as a living entity which -- like all living entities -- attempts to ensure its own well being. At very minimum it is clearly true that it is impossible to understand the functioning of the Earth without taking into account the existence of life in general and human life in particular. Lovelock chooses to emphasize this fact by referring to the earth as Gaia (A Greek word which personifies the Earth as a goddess)and Lovelock's Gaia theory is not just a fanciful notion but a theory with some real substance. This is exemplified by the use of this theory to make no less than seven verified forecasts.
There is little doubt that Gaia is passing through a troubling phase in its ever changing existence and Lovelock attempts to identify the causes of this troubled state. Over and over again,throughout the book, he points an accusing finger at our overpopulation of the Earth as being a major and, possibly, the major cause of our woes. To use Lovelock's own words: ".. the root cause is too many people ... more than the earth can carry". He is not exactly confident in our ability to stave off the potentially disastrous consequences of this overpopulation. Moreover, he does not have much confidence in our use of computer models to try and predict what will happen in the future and is even more pessimistic about our ability to stave off disaster. In his view Gaia,as whole, will undoubtedly survive no matter what but the future of the human race has a huge question mark hanging over it.
Unfortunately the book is marred by an almost inexplicable flaw.
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2 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More of the same... July 28 2009
By Drinse
Like another reviewer, I could only read this book one chapter at a time. In fact, I gave up halfway through. Because it is the same old alarmist "science" and bad feelings that is scamming us all. I suggest people read some other books that tell the truth about what is happening, and not happening, in our world's climate. Maybe "Red Hot Lies" or "The Chilling Stars", or at least something that doesn't treat our earth like some big ameoba that just needs some tender loving care. It's not our fault, people, it's just normal weather changes over time. But if you follow the money, especially the money to conservationists, you can find out the truth...
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