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He Knew He Was Right The Irrepressible Life Of James Lovelock

It was the smaller amounts of CFCs that still showed up in the West Cork air which spurred him on to join a scientific vessel heading to the Antarctic to get atmospheric measurements from the southern as well as Northern hemisphere. His inventions were already bringing Lovelock recognition in the wider scientific community and in he was invited to join the Nasa jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, where one of his tasks was to determine whether there was life on Mars. His own tests using this measure showed that life did not exist,which of course has been proven right.

The work also started him thinking as to how the Earth managed to sustain its own atmosphere which was rich in oxygen and other gases. That question led him to the revelation that it was living things which were regulating the composition of the atmosphere.

He now applied the concept to the planet earth, where complex interactions between the living and geological systems had helped maintain the right conditions for life for over 3, million years. His work was advanced in cooperation with Lynn Margulis the former wife of Carl Sagan who had pioneered the idea that once free-living bacteria are now incorporated within animal and plant cells where they carry out specific tasks such as converting sunlight into useful energy.

The response to this hypothesis was initially very sceptical. Neo-Darwinian scientists such as Richard Dawkins argued that such a living earth concept could not have evolved in the absence of competition from alternative living systems. However, over the last thirty years the hypothesis has been tested and is now recognised as a commonly agreed theory.

The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning by James Lovelock, review

You get the sense that in this latest book Lovelock wants to nail that recognition down. With the exception of a new proposal to convert agriculture waste to char, which could then be ploughed back into the soil as a means of carbon storage, there is little new from the book of four years ago.


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He is the equivalent of a modern-day Churchill, warning of the climate wars that are ahead of us. In these bleak economic times it is hard to read such a grim account about the weakness of the natural systems which must ultimately sustain us. There is little joy in the concept that these island nations in a cooler zone might be able to survive the coming heat like lifeboats for humanity; he sees us being flooded with massive immigration by climate change refugees. Log in to view full text via AAAS login.

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We should give up on saving the planet - James Lovelock

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The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning by James Lovelock, review - Telegraph

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