Leave it to Gaia? No thanks…

A less than enthusiastic response to the Royal Society report on geoengineering in the Guardian this morning from Gaian guru Jim Lovelock. He reckons it is a bad idea, because understanding of earth systems is so poor and we do not know what undesired effects it might have – the standard blanket objection in other words. But being the originator of Gaia theory, which he has got back into the habit of personifying, he has an original take on what our attitude should be – that is: “use our energies to adapt and leave recovery [from global heating] to Gaia: after all, she has survived more than three billion years and has kept life going all that time.”

Hmm, that works if you can maintain his apparent lack of interest in the survival of anything except the abstract “life”. But one might note that the prescription comes from a man who, while he has had many wise things to say over the years, told readers of the Independent in 2006 that “before this century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable”. The book he was promoting then was catchily titled Revenge of Gaia.

OK, lets personify the world beast. If that is Gaia’s idea of being helpful to life, I say: stuff her. Alternatively, shouldn’t we at least try and give her a helping hand?

(Full disclosure note: I once wrote a small book about Lovelock and his ideas, and I believe he is one of the two most interesting Englishmen of the second half of the 20th century – F.H.C. Crick being the other. OTOH I also fear he has reversed the normally assumed order of things and become less wise as he has grown older.)

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