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A New Look at Life on Earth

Oxford UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

James Lovelock revisits his landmark study of “Life On Earth” with updates and discussions reflecting recent findings.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


James Lovelock’s theories have become indispensable to anyone responsible for a firm’s environmental impact. His “Gaia hypothesis” has gained a tremendous following, though debate about it continues in the scientific and lay communities. Lovelock tries to break his science down into terms an average reader can grasp, but the mechanics of the Earth can prove hard to follow. People have discussed, reviewed and debated his text since its debut in 1979. The text in the new version is mostly from 1979, but the preface is an intriguing update that corrects statements which science has since proven wrong, like the idea that oceans dump CO2 into the atmosphere to keep levels constant. getAbstract recommends this classic because of its importance on the road to modern scientific theory, and for its power in shaping public perception of the environment.


The Earth Is a Living Being

In the late 1970s, people became concerned about environmental protection. The primary threat seemed to be nuclear war and a subsequent radiological disaster. Climate change was not yet on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Society now must be more mindful of the environment. However, overly politicizing the environmental movement led the discussion “dangerously astray.” Blaming multinational companies for environmental damage is not enough. People must take responsibility for their actions. These companies would not exist or produce dangerous pollutants if society did not demand their products at low prices that leave no room for responsible environmental practice.

Science supports the idea of Earth as a superorganism – Gaia.

“Quest for Gaia”

Scientists working on NASA’s Viking project searched for life on Mars. But short of a photograph of a Martian, how could they demonstrate its existence? They looked for “entropy reduction” – the force that brings order to an unorganized system. Looking for signs of life meant looking for the byproducts that life produces in ratios that are unlikely in its absence.

The quest for Gaia ...

About the Author

James Lovelock, a celebrated and often controversial scientist, author and lecturer, received a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) from the Queen of England in 1990 and contributed to NASA’s planetary exploration program.

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