The Greatest Environmentalist Series
James Lovelock independent scientific work
Lovelock supports nuclear energy
Unlike most other environmentalists James supports nuclear energy and not today’s technology of windmill parks etc. This might come as a contradiction for many. Nevertheless, James understands the risk vs realities of the alternatives. Lovelock writes in The Vanishing Face of Gaia. “There are now more than 442 nuclear power stations in the world, and together they produce 17 per cent of all the electricity used. Compared with 2 per cent from renewables, most of which is 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%, solar voltaic 22% and Geothermal 17%. Nuclear energy has nearly no wastes, compared to other sources of energy. Besides, it does not take as many 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
Notably, his work the Gaia Hypothesis and later scientifically computer-based experiment Daisyworld proved his hypothesis that leads to Gaia Theory. There would not exist Earth Science without his contribution. The most critical issue is the more profound 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 too 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 is known as the butterfly effect. Later lead to another exciting result “the chaos theory“.
Nevertheless, these findings are significant to understand. The scientific research is mostly 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.
A holistic view on Gaia
A holistic view on how Earth balance order and disorder becomes significant and therefore, across the field of science systems and specialized new functions are in desperate need for the future. At the beginning of the 1960s, 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 set up design instruments capable of detecting the presence of life. The mission to send on a spacecraft to Mars. Lovelock hypothesis (Gaia) 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 regulated life itself. Gaia evolves according to Darwinian laws of self-selection, a fine-tuned, interrelated to create conditions conducive to the growth of the planet. Even if human life on Gaia is extinguished, the Earth will self-regulate to maintain its own life, and possibly other forms of life within it
Gaia, our home
Lovelock way of presenting his scientific hypothesis and environmental view makes 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”.
Earth System Science
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 understands how Earthworks in systems by feedback and loops. How everything is interconnected, 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 anything. Still, it is a 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.
The same view shared in Early Buddhism. Everything is interconnected, cause and effect happen in time and space. Karma (action) nevertheless, cumulate by (seed) positive, neutral or negative actions. The actions develop and becomer the fruits of the future. Of whom all life, including trees, plants and mountains, is cherishing of diversity. The importance of diversity is shared by modern environmental philosophy such as the Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss. His work accumulated with 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 instead promotes a new approach called Sustainable retreat. A concept to define the necessary changes to human settlement and dwelling at the global scale, to adapt to global warming. 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 rule most over the world, of which 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 (biocapacity). If the human race continues, creating disorder in the fragile systems, it will not take long before Gaia only sustain approximately one million people. Gaia will remain the same biosystem 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 than those left, the stored moments become a source of wisdom, learning by doing and experience. We learn a great deal about different issues in a lifetime, some become authorities in fields of science, art, philosophy, economy, engineering or whatever work or educational skills. Hundred years seems like an eternity, however, hardly a second compared with Gaia.
The evolution of human species
The evolutions of human species started some million years ago. According to Darwin still are in development depending on factors such as cultural environment, food distribution, water resources etc. A society communicates collected knowledge from past learning’s and interacting. Modernism is 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 life, mostly put the ego in the centre of everything. We should let go of the ego and regard ourselves as a part of a universal interconnected and 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 ultimate goal.
During a lifetime
During a lifetime human, therefore, can performance good or bad actions. Depending what is regarded and historically subjective truth, for example, in the 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 actions, unwisely results that coming generations must live sparsely to restore Gaia balance. They 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’. Therefore, a precise definition of the term “alive” is. 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 seeks 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 chaos, a process known as entropy.
The Gaia Hypothesis and New Age
The Gaia concept was born at the peak of the New Age—contemporary, with Woodstock and the Beatles. This caused difficulty for many scientists to accept his studies. The Gaia hypothesis is highly controversial, during the last decade, critics tried to prove it wrong. Especially during 1980 anti-new age trends. And many scientists criticized Lovelock, such as the Canadian biologist Ford Doolittle, Richard Dawkins and Richard Stephen. One can suspect that 1960 flower-power, drugs and hippies culture was too much.
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 a plausible alternative that could James was wrong, he constructed an experiment called Daisyword to prove the Gaia hypothesis. Daisyworld is a holistic approach to determine the hypothesis Lovelock wrote the program of the model and ran it on a 9845 Hewlett-Packard desktop computer. It should become the most crucial step in the history of Gaia theory. It expresses the mathematical basis of the theory succinctly and can and has been tested to see if it can be falsified. The program describes in precise terms a self-regulating system, made up from the climate of a single, flat planet. Illuminated by a star like a sun, and on which there was a simple ecosystem of two daisy species evolving in a Darwinian fashion. Without going into details about the Daisyworld research, it became clear that Gaia is a holistic concept and therefore unpalatable to rational Earth and life scientists.
The scientifical experiment Daisyworld
The experiment Daisyworld was a victory over biologists and teleological science. I believe he wanted people to see Gaia as a 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 scientifical term. After all, this is a significant issue and far more than even Lovelock could realize. Spiritual and religious practice is of the highest importance of most people. A rational approach towards living things includes trees, mountains, rivers and oceans develop love, care and respect for our planet.
Do humans have a special right to habitat earth?
Before Lovelock philosophers such as Spinoza and Næss pinpointed the importance of biological diversity. Even more, so that humans do not have the exclusive right, insects have 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 it 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 it’s possible to understand that Earth is Alive.
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.”
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.”
Earth System Science
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 the 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, the development of an abstract model to reduce complicity of the problem is needed. Gaia theory is such a modelling.”
Sources and Useful Information
Books James Lovelock
- 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