In the series the greatest environmentalist previous posts has been published; The Buddha, Gandhi, Einstein and Næss.
James Lovelock independent scientific work
James Lovelock is an English chemist, doctor, author and scientific instrument developer. A man well-known by many people nevertheless, few understand the importance of Lovelock groundbreaking work as a scientist and environmentalist. Lovelock has a unique position as a scientist his work is not sponsored or economically supported by neither universities nor corporations. Lovelock worked out of a barn-turned-laboratory he called his “experimental station” located in a wooded valley on the Devon/Cornwall border in the south-west of England. Furthermore not influenced by political views, governmental issues etc. Therefore Lovelock does not gain anything from not being objective and set his own objectives for his research, not pleasing contributors. Unlike most other scientist that is influenced by such forces he can work independently. Interference from forces that pays or in any other way support scientific research is the biggest treat accepting theories and weakening position and reputation of work and professions. More than ever critical thinking towards results and recommendations needed regarding todays scientific results.
Lovelock supports nuclear energy
Unlike most other environmentalists James support nuclear energy and not today’s technology of wind mill parks etc. This might come as a contradiction for many, nevertheless James understand the risk vs. realities of the alternatives. Lovelock writes in the book The Vanishing Face of Gaia; “There are now more than 442 nuclear power stations in the world and together they produce 17 percent of all the electricity used, compared with 2 percent from renewables, most of which are hydroelectricity. The safety record, their cost, and the local acceptability of these fission-powered stations make them the most desirable of all energy sources. So why in the first world do we still persist in the falsehood that they are uniquely dangerous?” Nuclear energy (8% emission) has the lowest emission of carbon dioxide compared to other alternatives, for example emissions from wind 17.6%, solar voltaic 226% and Geothermal 174%. Nuclear energy has nearly no wastes compared to other sources of energy and does not take as much resources from Earth, critics might claim the risk from long-term radioactivity storage of nuclear wastes, and the danger from misuse by terrorist and non-stable governments, however, in reality is there any better alternative if we want to continue a high standard of living?
Scepticism on climate models and predictions
Particularly his work the Gaia Hypothesis and later scientifically computer-based experiment Daisyworld proved his hypothesis that lead to Gaia Theory. There would not exist Earth Science without his contribution. The most important issue is the deeper understanding of Earths complexity; systems and cycles are depending on each other. Therefore most scientifically based climate models are missing out parameters when forecasting global warming. Trusting climate panel’s predictions will fail. Lovelock predicted a very pessimist view that actually did not happen. There are simply to many variations, the complexity of Earths systems can be compared to a long-term weather forecast (more than one week). The scientist Edward Lorentz programmed computer-based models for long-term weather forecast without success; the variables became astronomical, it known as the butterfly effect and lead to another interesting result the chaos theory. Nevertheless, these findings are very important to understand, in science research often is narrow and limited, breaking down everything without taking into considerations how things are related and depended on each other in unpredictable ways. Economist work a very narrow way, however have vast influencing on politicians, world trade decision’s, global corporation regulations etc. regarding global warming issues is not only wrong but a very dangerous one.
Holistic view on Gaia
A holistic view on how Earth balance order and disorder becomes extremely important and therefore across field of science systems and specialized new functions are in desperate need for the future. In the beginning of 1960’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) asked the scientist to take part in a scientific research project for trying to find evidence of life on Mars. While working with the project setting up design instruments capable of detecting the presence of life that could be sent on a spacecraft to Mars his hypothesis (Gaia) was that the Earth itself was a live organism. The ideas evolving during the years of science culminated in 1979 with publication of the book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. In Greek Mythology, Gaia is the goddess of the Earth. Lovelock theory ended with a thesis that Earth is a physical and chemical condition that is self-regulating; oceans and atmosphere regulate by life itself. Gaia evolves according to Darwinian laws of self-selection, a fine-tuned, interrelated to create conditions conducive to the life of the planet. Even if human life on Gaia is extinguished, the planet will self-regulate to maintain its own life, and possibly other forms of life within it.
Lovelock way of presenting his scientific hypothesis and environmental view make it possible for people to understand how important and fragile Earths systems are, even using the name Gaia instead of Earth Science or any other scientifically term make us feel humble and feel as she is our family. As Lovelock describes it, “Earth is 4.5 billion years old and measured in time approximately 500 million years old left to live before its death. Gaia has become an 80 years grand old lady measured in human time perspective. Then, the Sun as it becomes older will naturally increase the solar radiation and Earth will become significantly warmer and life on the planet will end as we know it, because of this Gaia will not be able to sustain its ecosystem”.
Earths Interconnected systems, balance and importance of diversity
Lovelock might look at global warming with a pessimistic view, nevertheless, his arguments are well founded and because he understand how Earth works in systems’ and cycles and that everything is connected, one thing missing in one place might cause fatal failure elsewhere. For example one-degree rise in temperature last one hundred year seems like hardly nothing, however, this is a very short time if this prognosis continued in 500 years it would be five-degree rise. This would lead to enormous consequences, billions of people would die and landmasses disappear.
This view shared by Early Buddhism; everything is interconnected, cause and effect happens in time and space much like Karma cumulate by past (seed) actions and develops into “fruits” in the future, whereof all life, including trees, plants and mountains is a cherishing of diversity. The importance of diversity is shared by modern environmental philosophy by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss work and the deep ecology movement. If the planet’s natural homeostasis (equilibrium) is maintained, the planet will continue to survive as a whole. The most important balance and vital to all life is the relationship within the oxygen-carbon cycle. If any disruption of these areas may sustain perturbations so drastic that the planet will not survive as a human habitat. “Perhaps we are not aware of how fast the world is changing because we are so adaptable,” writes Lovelock in the book The Vanishing face of Gaia.
According to Lovelock we must learn to live with global warming
James claims global warming is now past the tipping points and not avoidable, we must learn to cope with it, he rather promotes a new approach called Sustainable retreat, a concept in order to define the necessary changes to human settlement and dwelling at the global scale with the purpose of adapting to global warming and preventing its expected negative consequences on humans and not taking care of ‘Earth itself. I agree with Lovelock, particularly as long as a capitalistic model rules most over the world whereof profit is more important than human survival. It’s more important to save humanity that Earth as Lovelock claims. Because Earth will go on without us, other species and life forms might survive a much warmer climate than now and require less land for food production (bio capacity). If the human race continues creating disorder in Earth systems it will not take many generations before it can only sustain approximately one million people, Gaia will remain the same bio for another 100-500 million years.
Time perspective Earth vs. human life
With James writing in perspective a human life cycle is less than 100 years, during a lifetime a person can become a father and grandfather. His children become teenagers, get married and have children of their own, if lucky becoming very old experience grand-grandfather role. Memories will become far more important that those left, the stored moments become source of wisdom, learning by doing and experience. We learn a great deal about different issues in a lifetime, some becomes authorities in fields of science, art, philosophy, economy, engineering or whatever work or educational skills. Hundred years seems like eternity, however, hardly a second compared with Gaia.
The evolutions of human species started some million years ago, according to Darwin still are in evolution depending on factors such as cultural environment, food distribution, water resources etc. A society communicates collected knowledge from past learning’s and interacting. In a modern society most people do not think about how to cover basic needs such as protection from the climate, security and passes up Maslow’s pyramid of needs, taking freedom as granted and self-realization as achievable. Developing various philosophies and gain deeper insights and master problem solving issues. Nevertheless, a question we strive to deal with is the purpose and meaning of live, mostly put the Ego in centre of everything. We should let go of the ego and regard ourselves a part of a universal connected conscious mind. After all we share the same DNA and are in fact family members and a part of the vast universe, we never need to feel alone. There are neither final goal nor purpose, as we might believe this we share with Gaia. Gaia does not seek self-realization or any final goal.
During a lifetime humans therefore can performance good or bad actions depending what is regarded and historically subjective truth, for example 18th century living a sustainable lifestyle was not of any need, today less should mean more. Nevertheless, we are not performing less, our desire for material wealth and a comfortable lifestyle demands increasingly more resources from Earth, we know this. The effect of our actions unwisely results that coming generations must live sparsely in order to restore Gaia balance and seriously risk human extinction (we talk about the next hundred years and not thousands).
According to James Lovelock Gaia theory maintains that the Earth is alive, however a view that provokes the question of what is meant by ‘alive’. A more precise definition was needed, philosophically, scientifically or teleological. For example a Biochemical definitions centre by observations that living entities grow, metabolize, respond to stimuli, possess DNA, reproduce, die and evolve across generations. However, the idea of a living Earth does not need most of these things, earth seek balance and adjusting from order and disorder not self-realization. The most important observation is the second law of thermodynamics the universe always moves from a state of order to a state of disorder, a process known as entropy.
Gaia hypothesis critics and Daisyworld
The Gaia concept was born at the peak of the New Age—contemporary with Woodstock and the Beatles this has caused difficulty for many scientists to accept his studies. Gaia hypothesis and James work is highly controversial and during the last decades critics tried to prove him wrong, especially during 1980 anti-new age trends fellow scientists from various fields such as the Canadian biologist Ford Doolittle criticises Gaia hypothesis, one can suspect that 1960 flower-power, drugs and hippies culture should not be taken seriously. Also by many other critics such as Richard Dawkins, Ford Doolittle, Richard Stephen Jay Gould.
James Lovelock was sure his hypothesis was right, nevertheless not proven scientifically, probably he found their views not in line with results of his measurements and wanted to fight back the critics since their attempts to argue or present plausible alternative that could James was wrong, he constructed an experiment called Daisyword to prove the Gaia hypothesis. Daisyworld is a holistic approach to prove the hypothesis Lovelock wrote the program of the model and ran it on a 9845 Hewlett-Packard desktop computer. It should become the most important step in the history of Gaia theory. It expresses succinctly the mathematical basis of the theory and can and has been tested to see if it can be falsified. The program describe in mathematical terms a self-regulating system made up from the climate of a simple, flat planet, illuminated by a star like the sun, and on which there was a simple ecosystem of two daisy species evolving in a Darwinian fashion. Without going in details about the Daisyworld research, it became clear that Gaia is a holistic concept and therefore unpalatable to rational Earth and life scientists. Of course Lovelock with his background in system science of earth, Geophysiolog, life science and instrument inventor and developer Daisyworld was a victory over biologists, teleological science, however, I believe he wanted people to see Gaia as spiritual, mysterious and divine place. This creates care, kindness and love for all living things and Gaia (mother) is a name that awakes such feelings rather than a scientifically term. After all this is an extremely important issue and far more than even Lovelock could realize. Religion, spirituality and transcendental is of great importance of most people all over the world, such an approach to all living things include trees, mountains, rivers and oceans develop love, care and respect for our planet.
Does humans have a special right to habitat earth?
Before Lovelock philosophers such as Spinoza and Næss pinpointed the importance of biological diversity and even more so that humans does not have any special right, insects has an equal right to habitat Earth. Lovelock shares the same ideas; “Gaia theory put us in our proper place as part of the Earth system—not the owners, managers, commissars, or people in charge. The Earth has not evolved solely for our benefit, and any changes we make to it are at our own risk. This way of thinking makes clear that we have no special human rights; we are merely one of the partner species in the great enterprise of Gaia”. Nevertheless, life must be viewed differently than biological, only then its possible to understand that Earth is Alive .
From the Eco Fashion Dictionary Gaia Hypothesis. “In the beginning of 1960’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) asked the scientist James Lovelock to participate in a scientific research project aimed at trying to find evidence of life on Mars. While working with the project setting up design instruments capable of detecting the presence of life that could be sent on a spacecraft to Mars his hypothesis was that the Earth itself was a live organism. The ideas evolving during the years of science culminated in 1979 with the publication of the book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. In Greek Mythology, Gaia is the goddess of the Earth.
Lovelock theory ended with a thesis that Earth is a physical and chemical condition that is self-regulating; oceans and atmosphere regulate by life itself. Gaia evolves according to Darwinian laws of self-selection, a fine-tuned, interrelated to create conditions conducive to the life of the planet. Even if human life on Gaia is extinguished, the planet will self-regulate to maintain its own life, and possibly other forms of life within it. His view is the same as in early Buddhism whereof all life, including trees, plants; Mountain is a cherishing of diversity. This diversity is taken further into modern environmental philosophy as Arne Næss deep ecology is based upon. If the planet’s natural homeostasis (equilibrium) is maintained, the planet will continue to survive as a whole. The most important balance and vital to all life is the relationship within the oxygen carbon cycle. If any disruption of these areas may sustain perturbations so drastic that the planet will not survive. See also Earth System Science, Deep Ecology, and Daisyworld.”
From the Eco Fashion Dictionary Daisyworld. “In the beginning of 1960’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) asked the scientist James Lovelock to participate in a scientific research project aimed at trying to find evidence of life on Mars. While working with the project setting up design instruments capable of detecting the presence of life that could be sent on a spacecraft to Mars his hypothesis was that the Earth itself was a live organism. The ideas evolving during the years of science culminated in 1979 with the publication of the book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (read more Gaia hypothesis).
James Lovelock needed to find a way to mimic important element of the Earth-Sun system model; of biological feedback mechanisms to illustrate the plausibility the Gaia hypothesis. Therefore, a mathematically based software program was developed to make computer simulations. The program was named Daisyworld. In the original 1983 version, Daisyworld is seeded with two diversity of daisy as its only life forms: black daisies and white daisies. White pealed daisies reflect light, while black pealed daisies absorb light. The program simulates tracks as the two daisy populations and the surface temperature of Daisyworld as the sun’s rays grow more powerful. Over a broad range of solar output, the surface temperature of Daisyworld remains almost constant.”
From the Eco Fashion Dictionary Earth System Science. “Earth system science (Gaia Theory) is a term used to describe science that studies the whole Earth as a system of many interacting parts and focuses on the changes within and between these. When scientist James Lovelock worked for the center of space research, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) California he was asked by NASA finding out what is it that makes life on a planet possible as they prepared for their space travels in the 1970’s. Lovelock did the study on Earth and he discovered with his mind’s eye our planet as something possibly unique in the universe, something alive. He named it Gaia Theory (Gaia means mother in Greek). Since then other scientist re-named it Earth system science. Earth system science is an approach to understanding the Earth as a number of interrelated systems and provides a physical basis for understanding the world in which we live and upon which humankind seeks to achieve sustainability. See also Gaia Theory, Daisyworld and biocapacity and in the Eco Fashion Dictionary a-z.”
From the Eco Fashion Dictionary Complexity. “Complexity is a term used to describe technically, an interconnected network of components that cannot be described by a few rules; generally manifest in structure, order, and functioning emerging from the interactions among diverse parts. To understand complexity, first of all, is this to agree that everything is inter-connected, every action taken (positive, negative or neutral will create a footprint or reaction in the future)
For example, when we want to grow vegetables, we need to put seeds in the soil. From experience, we know also that in a few months, depending on several factors such as climate, temperature, sun, wind, rain or water system, soil nutrients it will grow and be harvested. Nevertheless, we cannot tell exactly the outcome or result. Solving problems within sustainable development and environmental issues are very complex and outcome of actions require rather putting things together than taking things apart, simultaneously input from experts and details calculated. Solving complexity needs thinking in systems. Complexity theory is an approach to the modelling of highly complicated and interconnected systems using techniques derived from the physical sciences, with a focus on self-organisation, emergence, and nonlinearity.
Therefore, Complexity requires models to simplify and increase the efficiency of the design process. Albert Einstein continuously claimed, in the brain, thinking is doing. Maybe his remark was and point of argument that doing is more important than thinking. System thinking is a holistic process; nevertheless, development of an abstract model to reduce complicity of the problem is needed. Gaia theory is such a modelling.”
SOURCES AND USEFUL INFORMATION
- James Lovelock the vanishing face of Gaia a final warning
- The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth
- Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist
- Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth
- A Rough Ride to the Future
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