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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,904 ratings  ·  149 reviews
In this classic work that continues to inspire its many readers, James Lovelock deftly explains his idea that life on earth functions as a single organism. Written for the non-scientist, 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 matte ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published November 23rd 2000 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1979)
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 ·  1,904 ratings  ·  149 reviews


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Orhan Pelinkovic
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Gaia means Earth or the goddess of Earth. In this book she is discussed through the Gaia hypothesis or her more formal science name; geophysiology.

Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979) is written by James Lovelock who is an inventor, scientists and turned 101 years old this year (2020)!

Gaia hypothesis is a complex and unique entity that treats all of the living organisms on Earth as a single being. The Gaia hypothesis is an idea that suggests that it's the living organisms on Earth (us inclu
...more
Matt
Mar 23, 2008 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
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
Bettie
Apr 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Lovelock: 'We can't save the planet'

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 11:08 UK - Professor James Lovelock, the scientist who developed Gaia theory, has said it is too late to try and save the planet. The man who achieved global fame for his theory that the whole earth is a single organism now believes that we can only hope that the earth will take care of itself in the face of completely unpredictable climate change.

At the age of 90, Prof Lovelock is resigned to his own fate and the fate of the planet. Whe
...more
Terry
Nov 09, 2020 rated it liked it
This book might be more interesting to a chemistry major than it was to me. I got the concept right away, but I struggled through the details. I gave it three stars for good intentions and I am moving on.
Nicky
Mar 16, 2017 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
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
Eli
Oct 03, 2012 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I cannot believe I'm abandoning the book that brought the world the Gaia hypothesis! Maybe if I had one of the later editions, with Lovelock's notes on the evolution of his theory, I would enjoy it better. But 50 pages in, I've been put off by Lovelock's smug condescension, bored by his labryinthine sentences, and confused by an attitude that seems to vacillate between "just a little bit of alteration could change everything!" and "Gaia is indestructable, so we can do whatever we want to the pla ...more
Palmyrah
Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seminal. Not at all what the treehuggers and New Agers think it is.
Ryan
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: transformative, eco
In Gaia, first published in 1979, Lovelock describes the planet and all living things on it as a self-regulating entity, much like a collection of cells, organs, and bacteria together produce a living entity that we might think of as a person. My favorite thing about Gaia theory is that I paradoxically intuit that it's obviously ridiculous but also that it's obviously correct.

Readers new to this theory and book might do well to start in two places outside the introduction. In the epilogue, Lovel
...more
Darth Pika
Dec 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Disagree with Gaia Hypothesis did not means this book is bad written. Lovelock gave me insight about how to use chemistry and thermodynamics as analytical tool.
Becky
Feb 16, 2010 rated it liked it
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
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. ...more
Zuzia
Sep 08, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Red
Mar 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature
so, global warming and rising oceans are bad news for us maybe but planet earth has seen it all before
Michael
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Brett
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, environment
I'm having some trouble formulating much of an opinion about this book. On the one hand, it is technical enough that I was often confused by descriptions of chemical processes in our atmosphere or ocean. On the other, Lovelock in his introduction suggests this book is intended for a general audience and that the descriptions of the scientific processes may be too "poetic" for people with actual scientific backgrounds.

By the same token, Lovelock suggests that the way this theory is often describe
...more
Joe Ward
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Simon Vandereecken
It's funny of the Gaïa theory is something I deeply believe in for many years now, but never encountered before reading Luc Ferry's book about transhumanism. And I must say that this theory is deeply interesting (ok, I was already rooting for it before reading this book so it doesn't help) and with the latest climate changes and human trend, the thought of Earth being a sentient organism is something that becomes more and more concrete. If you're interested in discovering why our little planet m ...more
Jim Razinha
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
...more
Christopher
Mar 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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. ...more
David Whittlestone
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
An interesting book. This was a fairly easy read considering the remote nature of the subject. Lovelock presents a theory of everything that is quite breathtaking in its originality but he presents it in a very clear and credible way.
Octavia Cade
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biology, science
Metaphor backed up by science. An imaginative look at the Earth as a single system, notable for its interdisciplinary outlook. I'm not entirely sure that I'm convinced, but I'm certainly interested enough to look further! ...more
Pablo Mayrgundter
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Brandy
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
When reading Lovelock, I can't help but think of that show I watched as a child, Big Blue Marble.  Wait: was it an entire television series?  Maybe on PBS?  My memory is fuzzy concerning the details, but the impression of a concept of the earth as a self-contained ball adrift in space remains.  It was the concept I grew up with, carried on when I became an  adult in everything from science fiction to tiny, self-perpetuating biosphere glass balls you can purchase at some specialty stores.  It's a ...more
Thomas
Feb 23, 2022 rated it liked it
Hoped it would be more philosophical / integral. In some sense its a brilliant book, and I think that the level of analysis (planetary) is where we should be looking. I don't think though, that 'organism' is quite the concept we are looking for, its a good analogy, but more philosophical work can be done to improve the conceptualization. I agree that, from a holistic perspective, the planet, Earth, Gaia, is one integrated, self-regulated and self-sustained entity, but simply applying the term 'o ...more
Koit
May 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
I first heard the name of James Lovelock in sixth or seventh grade where my nature studies teacher mentioned Gaia theory briefly. I’ve known the name since but not investigated the man or the theory in more detail until now—and it turned out quite different to what I was expecting!

Mr Lovelock’s investigation of the Earth in this book is far more a story of science, supported by facts, or at least the facts as they were known at the time of the writing in 1970’s. It is clear that many of the fact
...more
Pam Hurd
Dec 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read

"In our belief that all that matters is the good of humankind we foolishly forget how much we depend upon all the other living things on Earth."

Of historical interest (1979) concerning the understanding of how our current thoughts on our planet and its future have evolved.
...more
Matara Scott
Sep 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
read after my course on living systems which fit so well, slightly more scientific than my abilities allowed but glad I stuck with it and the world makes soooo much sense after reading
Ian Robertson
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
Like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which gave an inchoate environmental movement in the early 1960s a scientifically grounded focal point and passionate call to arms, Lovelock’s book nudged the movement forward by offering an innovative perspective. Unfortunately, it is neither as compelling in its arguments nor has it aged as well as Carson’s classic. Lovelock’s book is not science (though Carson may well have been selective in the presentation of some of her science in order to bolster her ar ...more
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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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