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Gaia: A New Look at Li...
James E. Lovelock
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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  876 ratings  ·  53 reviews
In this classic work that continues to inspire its many readers, Jim Lovelock puts forward his idea that life on earth functions as a single organism. Written for non-scientists, Gaia is a journey through time and space in search of evidence with which to support a new and radically different model of our planet. In contrast to conventional belief that living matter is pas ...more
Published September 28th 2000 by OUP Oxford (first published 1979)
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Bart Everson
Further proof that a book doesn't have to be good to be great.

I read this because of my interest in science-friendly earth religion. In my other readings, and even in private meditations, I keep coming back to Gaia theory. But I didn't really understand what that theory entails. It's often described in a nutshell thusly: "The Earth can be considered as a single organism." But what does that mean, really? What does that nutshell contain?

This book has the answer. Or at least, the start of an answ
Just imagine for a moment--an organism as big as our planet Earth.

Reading Edward Wilson's "The Future of Life" served as the spark to pick up and read this book. And its true, good things do come in small packages. The book is all of 140 pages, and is written in a lean, but not glossed-over style. Robert Lovelock (to my knowledge) is the contemporary father of the study of the earth as a complete living system.

Lovelock readily admits that the book serves more to promote the dialog about our plan
Seminal. Not at all what the treehuggers and New Agers think it is.
I decided to dust this book off which had been sitting on my bookshelf unread for 15 years. My decision came after reading Richard Dawkin's book, "The God Delusion". Which renewed my interest in the looking at evolutionary processes.

Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, is certainly an apt title, as Lovelock does have a fascinating perspective with which he paints our world. His theory, the Gaia hypothesis may at first sound as if it has mystical connotations, but that is not the case, rather he i
This book was challenging for me due to the high focus on the chemical processes of the earth and atmosphere. I was hoping this focus would drop off after the first few chapters, but Lovelock continues it throughout the book. However, I don't think this will present a problem to those studied in chemistry on a basic level. The hypothesis seemed a little outdated to me as I think the thought of the earth being one large living organism has pretty much seeped into most of our understanding by now. ...more
Malcolm Little
I was expecting more out of Gaia. Its reputation has been built up quite considerably over the 30+ years since its publication, and I would say that that extolling, to a certain degree, has done it a disservice. I do not fault Gaia for its errors, since they are primarily due to the limitations of scientific understanding at the time (science, after all, is supposed to tear down old and incorrect assumptions), but I do fault it for certain naïve and myopic views on how people should or would app ...more
One great, ingenious concept stretched out over a whole book. By reading the introduction and the last chapter you have a whole summary of the purpose of the book and the ideas behind it. The idea itself is truly fascinating and I think I have come to agree with Lovelock. Love the concept, however the book gets very tedious and repetitive.
System dynamics applied to the Earth is what Lovelock shares in this book. Although the Earth may not be a living being in a manner that we are familiar with, it does appear to breath, cycle nutrients and keep a steady state environment that allows for life. A curiosity from a scientific viewpoint. How does it all work?

Perhaps what was so controversial, when first published and even today, was/is the implications of the meaning of it. If Gaia is a living being and we are destructive to it, we s
Joe Ward
It isn't Lovelock's fault that environmentalists lacking a firm grounding in the natural sciences took his ideas and went whacko with them. This book isn't the metaphysical or new agey nonsense that may have been partially inspired by it. What it is, rather, is a decent treatment of mainstream biogeochemical cycling theory, written for the popular reader and employing somewhat poetic language. I would recommend skipping it and reading Schlesinger's classic "Biogeochemistry" text instead, unless ...more
Pablo Mayrgundter
18/142 = 12% dog-eared, and fairly even throughout.

Memorable sections:

"When I started to write in 1974 in the unspoilt landscape of Western Ireland, it was like living in a house run by Gaia, someone who tried hard to make all her guests comfortable. I began more and more to see things through her eyes and slowly dropped off, like an old coat, my loyalty to the humanist Christian belief in the good of mankind as the only thing that mattered. I began to see us all, as port of the community of liv
I'm known as an environmentalist. I'm not or will never be a scientist of Lovelock's experience, but I do appreciate that he was given credit for promoting his heretofore unsung "Western" hypothesis that the Earth is a homeostatic organism. Aboriginal cultures knew this and agreed with it, and Lovelock acknowledges that in this book. So this book is the first "scientific" recognition of which I know that such a self-regulating phenomenon would be possible. For that it's absolutely invaluable. Sc ...more

Gaia, or How the Earth is like an Oven.

James Lovelock's look at life on earth isn't new any more; it's now over thirty years old. I found it rather frustrating, but that might be because it's outside of its original context and disciplines.

The idea of Gaia is certainly a powerful one. In short, life on earth functions as the key part of a cybernetic system which regulates the planet in order to maintain conditions suitable for life. So, for example, the sun's output has fluctuated a good deal si

Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth is the first accessible synthesis of what is now known as earth system science. Lovelock lays out an argument that the Earth's oceans, atmosphere and biosphere constitute a single living organism, named Gaia. Although he never actually makes a convincing argument that the Earth is a single living organism (and I am not convinced), Lovelock does lay out a clear argument that biology exerts a fundamental control on the composition of the atmosphere and oceans—as b ...more
A very interesting theory of the Earth as an organism and how it may self-regulate to preserve a stable atmosphere conducive to life. Fascinating segments on such control mechanism such as how methane production might be essential to the regulation of oxygen levels, which in excess would prove disastrous for our planet. Highly recommended for a new perspective on our planet which is somewhat more scientific than the average person preaching the interconnectedness of life.

However, I skipped over
I'm not going to get into the science, read the book for that, but basically this book is about Lovelock's pan-theory of how Earth regulates itself in terms of environment and interaction between all biological life and chemical elements. Lovelock identifies Earth's "conscious" regulator as the titular Gaia, and credits her with the ability to keep all the earth and all it's inhabitants in constant balance. As you read you realise what a fine balance the environment thrives in and it's fascinati ...more
Yadong Li
a very good read, the author makes a convincing arguments for the self-regulation effects of life on earth, even without much direct evidence due to the complex nature of the biosphere. I also noticed and liked the author's evidence based approach: He clearly distanced himself from the environmental alarmist who often makes extreme claims without much evidence and sound reasoning.
Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

Gaia, written in a style that combines scientific research with metaphysical musings, is the elaboration of a theory or hypothesis conceived by Lovelock, together with Lynn Margulis. Essentially, it postulates that the physical and chemical condition of the surface of the Earth, of the atmosphere, and of the oceans
What a wonderfull little book! 'Gaia' expounds the hypothesis that earth itself is a living entity, thereby stressing the interdependence of all living things, from the vast amounts of micro-organisms to the great mammals that roam earth.

Reading this as a general interest, I read it mainly because it is just one of the ideas out there I wanted to acquaint myself with. I expected some semi-scientific account, well meaning but suspended by vague New Age sentiments. So I was suprised to find solid
A seminal and important book. 35 years ago it had a revolutionary touch. Today its claims seem obvious, even for scientists. Sadly, Lovelock is not a very good writer, and his old-man-malthusian-style misanthropy is annoying.
Not what hippies and new agers think it is. A seminal work but from today's perspective definitely in need of an update from all that was built of it since then. I will be soon moving on to more modern works by Lovelock building off this theme. If it was the 80s I would have given it 5 stars.
I generally like what Lovelock has to say, and I agree with his general premise--that the Earth's living and non-living elements (atmosphere, soil, etc.) work together as a self-regulating system like an organism. This is his first book, written in 1979, and although the few factual problems have been corrected, a lot has happened to the hypothesis in the past 30 years. The "better" and more condensed version can be found in 'The Vanishing Face of Gaia,' but the purpose of the books are differen ...more
Tim Evans
A fascinating, exciting, (and only very occasionally dense) explanation of the planet's chemical processes and systems.
Nancy Ellis
A fascinating approach, easily understood even by a far-from-being-a-scientist like myself!
Lage von Dissen
Lovelock explains his perspective of how the Earth functions as a single organism. The Earth's atmosphere and biosphere ultimately regulate the Earth's temperature in many ways. Once the Earth developed an atmosphere, this created a means for homeostasis, and the life within the biosphere provided a symbiotic relationship to help accomplish this, despite the many changes associated with solar output, etc. Lovelock gives us a new way to look at life on Earth, and I think that this book is worth r ...more
An interesting hypothesis, approaching big questions through from a unique, multidisciplinary perspective. Lovelock presents the "Gaia Hypothesis" and follows it up with a few chapters that each explain a single idea that support it. I think anyone remotely interested in this should at least give it a try; it's not too long, it's skimmable, and you can get the main substance of the hypothesis and its support without much scientific expertise.
Considering that this book was written in 1979, the evidence it puts forward to support the Gaia hypothesis is impressive, but it certainly wasn't a light read. Some parts were fascinating, but I often found myself rereading paragraphs because I had lost focus. I was struggling a bit to get through it and my rating is based on the fact that I didn't really enjoy the read, not on the validity of the concept of Gaia.
Micah Issitt
Dec 06, 2007 Micah Issitt rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Your mama.
This book was an important first step in realizing a more holistic ecology. Other important works, like Margulis' Symbiosis and Vernadsky's Biosphere also fit in this category. The important insight here is the use of a new metaphor to stimulate discussion and research. I also think there's some relevance to the whole Nietzsche thing about recurrence in nature and what not.
A fascinating look at the science and reason behind the Gaia Hypothesis: that Earth is more than various ecosystems and we have to save it. Instead the whole planet in one system that will go on with or without humans.
Jim Razinha
Interesting theory, but could have been presented better.

One of New Scientist magazine's 25 most influential science books. I intend to read (or re-read four) them all and randomly chose this one to start. I think I'll have to come back to it after I've thought a bit on the premise.
I think I need to put this on the "to re-read" shelf. I know I am not walking away from this with a complete grasp on Gaia theory, but I am still intrigued and I want to know more (especially in light of our latest environmental disasters).
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Ephraim Lovelock, CH, CBE, FRS, is an independent scientist, author, researcher, environmentalist, and futurist who lives in Devon, England. He is known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, in which he postulates that the Earth functions as a self-regulating system.
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