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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,565 ratings  ·  111 reviews
In this classic work that continues to inspire many readers, Jim Lovelock puts forward his idea that the Earth functions as a single organism. Written for non-scientists, Gaia is a journey through time and space in search of evidence in support of a radically different model of our planet. In contrast to conventional belief that life is passive in the face of threats to it ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published July 1st 2016 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1979)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  1,565 ratings  ·  111 reviews


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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
Bettie
Apr 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nicky
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Ryan
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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
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
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.
Darth Pika
Dec 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 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.
Red
Mar 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
so, global warming and rising oceans are bad news for us maybe but planet earth has seen it all before
Brett
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment, science
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
Michael
Aug 18, 2015 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
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
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.
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.
David Whittlestone
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Brandy
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ian Robertson
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Noel
Oct 21, 2010 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
Owen Moorhead
The central argument of the book is fascinating and persuasive, and when Lovelock sticks to this thesis "Gaia" is great. It's also a breezy read, which turned out to be a major plus considering my following qualifications.

The problems for me come when he attempts to extrapolate this idea in all kinds of weird directions--this kind of speculation is sketchy at best, and is sometimes so ridiculous that it strains the credulity of the reader (this reader, anyway). These grand pronouncements and pro
...more
Mike
Nov 22, 2012 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
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 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
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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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