TCS Daily

Dr. Death and Mother Gaia

By Roy Spencer - January 23, 2006 12:00 AM

James Lovelock, godfather of the "Gaia" theory that the Earth's biosphere is a single living entity, has weighed in on the fate of mankind under the threat of global warming, as well as other environmental maladies. In a January 16 Independent article, Professor Lovelock wrote "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."

Professor Lovelock views himself as more than just a scientist with a theory. He is Mother Earth's physician: "My Gaia theory sees the Earth behaving as if it were alive, and clearly anything alive can enjoy good health, or suffer disease. Gaia has made me a planetary physician and I take my profession seriously, and now I, too, have to bring bad news."

The bad news is that the disease that Gaia is currently suffering from (popularly known as "mankind") has progressed to the point of no return, a fatal illness with little hope for a cure. If you want to learn more about the gory details of this degenerative disease, Lovelock coincidently has a new book coming out on 2 February, entitled The Revenge of Gaia. Lovelock sees little hope for us, with the major developing countries of the world rapidly increasing their use of fossil fuels and other natural resources, and the developed world continuing to ravage Gaia's frail body in our industrial business as usual mode.

Now, I'll admit to a certain amount of skepticism about the whole Gaia Hypothesis and the Earth's being a living thing. How is it that mankind, being part of Gaia, can choose either to be a lethal virus, attacking Gaia's health, or the equivalent of white blood cells, halting and even helping heal the environmental damage we have done? And how exactly does Gaia reproduce? Without knowing what part of Gaia's body I'm currently inhabiting, I can only anticipate the arrival Gaia's mating season with considerable trepidation.

But maybe this is the time to accept the diagnosis, and try to look at the bright side of what humanity has left. For instance, we no longer have to argue about what should be done about global warming, because our fate is sealed anyway. "Eat, drink, and be merry..." comes to mind. And we can start planning for a future bursting with exciting changes. For instance, it used to be that the Canadian government would give away land if the owner would improve the property. If this is still true, this might be the time to get a few lots, at different elevations, with the hope that rising sea levels will lead to one of these properties being beachfront property someday.

But if you can't bring yourself to see any hope in these inevitable future developments, you can buy Lovelock's book and drown yourself in its gloom and despair. I actually feel sorry for those who are already in a perpetual state of hand wringing over humanity's sins against our Mother. It sounds like this book will crank it up a notch for them.

And never mind the fact that the last major similar work, Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb, was full of dire predictions of mankind's fate that proved false. Maybe Ehrlich really will eventually be proved right...he was just ahead of his time.

As for me, I'll blissfully continue on with my life, too blind in my ignorance to recognize the suicidal path we are on. None of us are getting out of this alive, anyway, so I'll pop open another beer, kick back, and watch a rerun of "The Day After Tomorrow." After all, I do love science fiction.


This is exactly the response I'm beginning to have to all the gloom and doom scenarios. It's really sad that there are people out there ruining there lives over these theories. Anyone out there have a bomb shelter in their backyard? or do you know anyone who went on a spending binge leading up to the end of the world in the year 2000?

Alarming Stupidity
How is the statement “Before this century is over, billions of us will die, ..." worthy of anything but derision?

Current world population is around 6.5 billion. Life expectancy in the developed world is roughly 75 years. How many of those born today can be expected to still be alive in 94 years? How about those able to read this article who would only be a spry 150 by the end of the century?

So yes, billions will die, rivers will flood, glaciers will recede, hurricanes will form, and "intellectuals" will amuse us with their "alarming stupidity".

Mom will have the last word
Thanks for alarming us of your stupidity howard. Just kidding. It was an opening I couldn't resist.

I respect the reality that theorizing the destruction of humans is alarmist. But I also can't help but feel the same concerns upon reflecting on human development and the reality of our situation. Americans in particular. We're a fat, lazy society that doesn't value open mindedness and intelligence like we should. Instead we're run by sound bytes and campaign messages, nothing more than 30 seconds, because our attention span barely lasts that long. The average American pays little attention to the big picture, its the reason we're such a wasteful society, and its a huge reason Bush got re-elected. Yep, sorry guys, its a Bush-culture. He didn't invent it, but he has accelerated its growth exponentially in only a few years. Its a culture for the priviledged. Flag waving Americans think they are priviledged simply because they were lucky enough to be born in the greatest country in history, so they think they deserve respect, instead of earning it. It shouldn't surprise us we won't be the lone superpower for much longer, but I suppose comfort and priviledge has made us weak as humans, we don't recognize our own weaknesses anymore.

The author deals with it by cracking a fresh brew and watching television. Perfect.

You can ignore the possibilities, or you can do what you can do to contribute to our species' longevity. Bush will join you shortly on the couch, he's bringing a case of Bud and some Cheetos.

A measured approach
Liberals usually use the argument that my friend Mr. Jones provides. That is, well the findings may be extreme but what if its true?? We must act now and totally put personal freedoms and economic burdens on countries that find it already to, well develop. Should we base such draconian measures on something that most scientists do not predict happening at the end of this century, or cannot verify fully the arguments...of global warming.

I have always been confused by the global warming pro/con argument. I find that if the earth is as old as some say it is, say a billion or two years old, then how would a 100 yr record of temperature changes to a small degree increase make us all alarmed. I find that there maybe global warming happening, but its a natural part of our planets life. But as a concern citizen of this planet we call earth, I do what I can as part of my personal freedoms to limit my generations of greenhouse gases, try to recycle many items, dont make alot of trash, dont drive carelessly, and not use chloroflorocarbons (sp.?)like aerosol sprays....

So, in my hopefully 80 or 90 years on this wonderful planet, may the winters be mild, the summers temperate and may the oceans not back up to my back door...on the other hand that maybe pretty nice, dont have to worry about travelling to the beach :)....

Bob should be carefull calling others stupid
As usual, the only way a liberal can make a point, is by totally lieing about the positions and beliefs of his adversaries.

I have seen very few "flag waving" Americans who match bob's description of most Americans. My experience is that they only exist in the fevered swamps of the far lefts imagination.

As to Bush accelerating any kind of cultural refusal to see the big picture. That's equally not true.
What is true is that average, thinking people, don't see the same "big picture" that your average, foam at the mouth Bush hater sees. Of course those on the left are intellectually incapable of recognizing that any viewpoint that differs from theirs has any rights or merit.

Not just that
But that 100 year record covers less than 10% of the planets surface. (Mostly Europe and the US.)

Lovelock's Labor Lost
Where were Jim and Mark when , late last year, James Lovelock scandalized the Greens, by declaring in _The Ecologist_, no less, that the way to save the planet was a radical expansion of the nuclear power industry?

A Theory Not subject to Science
The Gaia theory is what is known in science as an unfalsifiable theory. This sounds rather nice but it means that there is no experiment or observation that can be made that will be accepted as disproving it. Or of proving it. Since science depends entirely on testing hypothesis such theories tend towards religion. The most obvious such is the theory of evolution, though it is not entirely unfalsifiable since we can test the individual parts of the theory (that mutations occur, that selective breeding can produce different breeds & that nature has had a very long time indeed to do so). Another such unfalsifiable theory is the existence of invisible fairies at Cottingly.

One can thus see why Professor Lovelock became so popular particularly with newage types. Indeed the Independent did a puff piece where they explained, with unconscious irony, that he might never have become known if he had stuck with the original title (something like Large-scale Bio-feedback Mechanisms Hypothesis) but William Golding persuaded him to give it a sexier name & the rest is history, or showbiz.

Now he is selling a new book & has come up with a theory that will be proven, or otherwise, in a century rather than billenia. Leasehold prices in non-Arctic land seems unaffected & so am I.

No Subject
You're on the right track at first jdisom. What if it is true? Do we go on "business as usual" and just hope for the best? Or do we take measures personally to help the longevity of our species? You have the right idea, we recycle, we try not to waste. Do you drive an SUV? Thats one the most wasteful behaviors we have, and its common. Next we take balanced measures on the federal side to reduce pollution and not cripple industry. Is that so hard to understand?

"We must act now and totally put personal freedoms and economic burdens on countries that find it already to, well develop."

That quote does what MarkTheDeusch likes to do, you're defining someone else's position. We have no right (thanks to Bush) to tell any other country how to do anything, how about we take some measures in our own country? We need to reverse what is happening under Bush. It might be painful to industry, but it doesn't need to cripple them.

I agree with you, global warming may be a natural thing that we can't affect. It may be a natural thing and human behavior is accelerating it. Or it may purely be due to human influence. Thats the question we can't definitively answer yet. Global warming is real, its happening, yet you still dance around it and Bush outright denies it.

A small degree increase in a short span of time is very concerning. It changes the climates and weather patterns. Weather is more severe. More destructive hurricanes and tornado's. Oceans rise. Animal habitats are upheaved, more animals migrate and some plants die off. It truly becomes survival of the *****st. Hey, maybe Darwin was right. If you think in terms of decades being a long span of time, then its understandable why you're confused. A one hundred year span of time is really very small, microscopic, considering how old the Earth is. If you're interested in more than yourself, if you care about our species in general, you would be concerned about a one-third degree average increase every decade.

Its easy to call MarkTheMoron stupid
Just look in the mirror Moron, you'll see my description. Theres your flag, waving to show that you belong. You look a little overweight, been sitting on the couch too long. We already know you don't use your brain, the republican message machine does that for you. What have you got left? All you do is accuse others of doing exactly what you do:

lie about the positions of your adversaries,
foam at the mouth for Bush-love (that better be foam),
incapable of recognizing merit in any viewpoint different than yours.

What was your point again? You talk so much but say so little, I get distracted playing this silly game.

What nonsense!
The bubble I'd like most to burst is the left's conviction of its superior intellect. What nonsense!

This Lovelock fellow is a fool, and as such, is nothing new. Research for yourselves the apolocyptic prophets of mankand's past, and you'll encounter one unifying theme: Mankind is done for because mankind sucks. So what does Lovejoy have to add?

Wow! How profound! Reminds me of the three-word bumper sticker, "Mean People Suck." Why does origionality always seem to evade fools?

Here's my word: Take Gaia and shove her. As far as I'm concerned, the ***** has done nothing but try and kill me since the day I was born. If it wasn't for the abstract cognitive abilities of my family who wrested the means of my survival from her tight-fisted grasp, I'd now be where Lovelock deserves to be - dust from dust.

A theory not subject to science
HIs original insite that one test for life on a planet is the surface being in disequilibrium with surrounding space. The Earth is much warmer than it would be in the absence of life.
I must say I suspect that Oldtimers disease may have struck Lovelock. I suppose it must come to us all although we can hope to live to a 100 and then be shot by a jealous lover. But here is something I wrote about Lovelock in a review of Gribben's Deep Simplicity: –
I strongly recommend John Gribbins latest book "Deep Simplicity".

"This is an update on the impact of deterministic chaos on our understanding of ecology, evolution and the origins of life.

It strongly challenges the green's model of stable and climactic nature – from the basis of fundamental maths, the deep simplicity of chaos. Extinction is the norm and probably many of the extinctions we blame ourselves for are just the natural order of things.

The last chapter is about the really big self regulatory ( or spontaneously ordered) systems such as the earth and the galaxies.

The last chapter is also a tribute to James Lovelock - which is timely.

What intrigued me is that Lovelock is in the tradition of the great amateur scientists of the 18th and 19th century. He made a fortune out of designing instruments and hence self-funded his work. His association with Reading University was only to give him a respectable address. He found scientific journals were reluctant to accept papers from a domestic address.

Probably his greatest mistake was to take William Goulding's advise and call the biosphere Gaia. If he had stuck to a "complex self regulatory feedback system" the whakos would not have captured his theories and degraded his re****tion.
The Greens who don't quite know what to do about Lovelock now that he is advocating nuclear power. In the latest issue of Prospect he declares that we will not not solve any of our problems by looking to the Green Romanticism of the neo-Luddites. Science and technology alone will solve any problems we care to identify and decide to deal with.

The same issue of Prospect takes Prince Charles to task for pandering to this Green Romantic view of the world.

I must say that I was hugely impressed by Lovelock first book on Gaia and am now annoyed that I did not keep up with his work - probably because I was not impressed by the company I thought he was keeping. It turns out that he wasn't keeping such company at all."
Sadly it seems he has now joined the whakos.

Poor Bob
Even when he's addressing other people he has to through insults my way. I guess I'm making such an impression on him, that even when he wants to, he just can't stop thinking about me.

BTW, there is no evidence that Global Warming is man caused, there is prescious little evidence that it is happening at all, and there is substantial evidence that even if it does happen it will be a net plus for the world.

As to reducing pollution, bob, as usual gives misinformation. Pollution has dropped tremendously. But to eco-purists like bob, no amount of reduction will ever be enough.

bob's intellect shorts out
As usual bob can't come up with an answer, so he resorts to insults.

I guess when you are as filled with hatred as he is, anyone who fails to support your lunacy can't be tolerated and must be destroyed.

Fortunately bob's arsenal is filled with nothing heavier than an overdone spitwad or two.

It's fun to watch him get so mad that he begins drooling oveer himself, but it's so easy, that you can't call it sport.

Shouting for joy
that there was at least one environmentalist that wasn't lost to the loony fringe.

A theory not subject to science
Re the up-coming news: More Die in Russia's Bitter Cold,
I wonder if this could not recall to mind all the nonsense we have heard so far about the "Climate change" theory according to which Earth is Warming due to the bild-upè of the GHG's and primarily CO2.
Now, should we think that this extreme colder temperature is due to the effect of the efforts started here in Europe to cope with the "Kyoto Protocol" and the related Emission Trading Scheme, in order to be able to reduce by 6,5 % the 1990 CO2 emissions.
Some is being done (irrlevant, anyway) here in Europe and one might be led to consider that:
- since we are reducing the CO2 from the emissions, so reducing the GHG's warming effect, by consequence we are now causing a colder winter effect.
It is nonsense, might be, similarly to the parallel Warming Theory.
It might be useful is imaginative writers like James Lovelock, writes something about it.

Mark is the standard for idiocy
Yes MarkyMark, you have become my standard to gauge stupidity.

Thats what I said, we don't know if global warming is man-made. We do know its happening, even if you want to continue to deny it. As for being a net plus for the world, I don't think we could possibly know that.

What makes you think pollution has dropped tremendously, and to what time period are you referring? How about from 1990 or 1995 or 2000 to today, has it dropped tremendously? You're such a moron. Just saying something doesn't make it true. You could at least use some common sense.

I'm shore the passengers on the titanic wouldn't have believed it either, if some marine engineer had pointed out to the people boarding the boat, that there's no life boats and that there heading into iceberg infested seas.
Lovelock knows ordinary people get confused by scientific
modeling and jargon ,so he's simplified his language for the ordinary person to understand.
Lovelocks message shouldn't be mocked as the words of a deluded scientist, who woke up one morning shouting " repent the end is near " he CAN give us the figures to validate what he says.
Lovlock's distilled his research into a warning, which is, THE PARTY IS OVER, and in the age of selfish individualism we may not like to hear it, but the iceberg is slowly getting nearer nevertheless.

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