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

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,101 Ratings  ·  68 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
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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
...more
Sam
As an ecologist and all round nature lover I am rather familiar with Lovelock's Gaia concept, one that I have not been wholly convinced by. And this book has done nothing to help that. While I do like the idea of nature being an actual single entity/being/organism deliberately managing the planet for the benefit of all species, this is a belief and not something that can or should be applied to science (or visa versa for that matter). Lovelock's explanations of many of the basic Earth systems we ...more
Nikki
Mar 16, 2017 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I’ve heard of the Gaia theory before, I’ve usually heard of it in a sceptical sort of context that criticises the tree-hugging idea that Earth has a soul. That is not actually the main thrust of Lovelock’s argument at all: instead, what he argues is that Gaia, or Earth, is a self-sustaining system with in-built feedback loops which hold it more or less steady and capable of supporting life.

If you’ve studied climate or geology or even the water cycle, you know that he’s not wrong about the s
...more
Palmyrah
Sep 14, 2009 Palmyrah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seminal. Not at all what the treehuggers and New Agers think it is.
Matt
Mar 23, 2008 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Michael
Aug 18, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
Becky
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
Zuzia
Sep 08, 2010 Zuzia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-level
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.
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
...more
Andrea
Dec 15, 2015 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment
James Lovelock opens Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth is SF fashion thus:
As I write, two Viking spacecraft are circling our fellow planet Mars, awaiting landfall instructions from the Earth. Their mission is to search for life, or evidence of life, now or long ago. This book is also about a search for life…

His questions -- how do you detect life? How do you know life on another planet when you see it?

In our efforts to explore space and its far planets we traveled far, but the real magic happene
...more
Anjar Priandoyo
May 19, 2017 Anjar Priandoyo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
A mandatory book for any Environment student, some part is very technical and other part is very philosophical
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
Tiredstars

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

...more
Kerry
Jan 08, 2014 Kerry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Stephen Palmer
The Gaia hypothesis (now Gaia Theory thanks to lots of scientific work, modelling and testing) was a real bolt from the blue for me. I was immediately hooked by the notion of a global, self-regulating geophysical/biological/climate mechanism. I didn’t fall however for any of the daft New Age additions which, to James Lovelock’s considerable annoyance, began to augment the original hypothesis as his ideas achieved mainstream recognition.

Gaia Theory has been made more sophisticated – in the manner
...more
Noel
Oct 21, 2010 Noel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sherri Anderson
I have always wanted to read this book. I have read about the principles in a number of scientific papers but never the book. It was well written and gave a person a lot to think about. This was definitely thought provoking.
Mike
Nov 22, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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
Dan
Oct 23, 2016 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Stupid incoherent mess. Every single paragraph is a choppy game of intellectual hopscotch.

Which is a real shame. And a particularly irritating one because I've been wanting to read this for a while, and unsuccessfully trying to read it before. So to finally read about, at least what sounds like an interesting idea, is lame.

F@#% you Lovelock.

So basically Lovelock exports the idea, holistically, that the Earth is a single self regulating organism. A sum of the parts being greater than the whole
...more
Marjan
Here's a thought: what if the whole planet - OK perhaps not the whole planet, but certainly its biosphere - is just one huge organism. Yes, we've read new age freaks, we have even familiarised ourselves with asian traditions, but the argument is so much more powerful and surprising if it comes from one of the foremost scientists and inventors of our age. So once you get under the skin of this idea, there is no going back.
The book starts almost like any book on creation and evolution of life; at
...more
Helen
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
Bernard
Sep 30, 2012 Bernard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
Paul Hartzog
Frequently it is important to go back and read the original work that started a movement or a paradigm change, even if it seems old or outdated. In fact, every work is a product of its time, and by reading the original you get a glimpse not only into the work itself but also into the Zeitgeist of the era from which the work emerged.

Gaia is a book I have wanted to read for a long time. This version is the 2000 reissue with a new preface, corrections, and a further reading list of more recent book
...more
Bettie☯
Apr 23, 2008 Bettie☯ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jacco..
Feb 04, 2013 Jacco.. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Adrienne
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
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
GlobeRunner
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.
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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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