James Lovelock's book the Vanishing Face of Gaia is not a comforting book to read. I first came across Gaia theory about 20 years ago and it made immediate sense to me -- the earth is a living thing.
The implications of that -- according to Lovelock's book -- are not good for humanity. Through man's actions we have been messing with Gaia's systems and it is about to undergo a change that will not be in the least bit kind to humanity as a whole, moving to a hot state that will be unpleasant for a good deal of humanity.
Lovelock's main message I think is that we ought to be preparing for the impending disaster. The scientific consensus on global heating (as he calls it) is based on flawed models that don't take into account its biological component, and that the world is already midst disproving as being too conservative.
Thus the targets set by world governments, and the movements to meet those targets are badly flawed. He seems to feel the whole green living movement, and focus on renewable energy is a waste of time. His vision though never wholly articulated with any cohesion is that a
much smaller humanity will be living a nuclear powered life, with synthesized food, in the various places around the globe that will be least affected by Gaia's change of state.
Lovelock, likens the current urban environmental movement to a religion, and dangerous (the most dangerous ideology?) because it is now more focused on the health of humans rather than the health of the planet. Windpower and individual solar panels are sops to the weak minded in the service of corporations who are afraid of losing money to cheap nuclear energy.
He spends considerable time laying into windpower, one because it might make landscapes ugly, two because of its large footprint, and three because urban centers need constant power.
Somehow it doesn't add up - if the modern environmental movement were to be carried to its logical conclusion, its members would be self-sufficient, vegetarians not badly placed to survive in a world where self-sufficiency is called for. There are plenty of criticisms that can be fairly leveled at the environmental movement, but it's not clear to me actually what Lovelock's are, or if it is only a portion of it.
The term environmentalist has had a bit of a tarnish of late, and is used by people of all persuasions to attack the particular element of environmentalism they don't like. We could use some more particular terms perhaps.
Labels: book review