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James lovelock's new book 'Revenge of Gaia'
January 16, 2006 9:34 AM   Subscribe

James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia hypothesis believes that global warming has passed the point of no return. The feedback mechanisms that have regulated the planet are now working against us, accelerating the warming process. Can civilisation survive? Not according to Lovelock. The celebrated planetary scientist believes billions will die leaving the human race reduced to a few breeding pairs living in the Artic. Gloomy stuff.
posted by piscatorius (95 comments total)

 
Uh-oh.
posted by EarBucket at 9:45 AM on January 16, 2006


I remember when I was learning how to drive, and the handbook always talked about the point at which stopping for a yellow light was dangerous. Like, if the light turned yellow just as you were about to cross the intersection, they recommended speeding up. Of course, nowadays, the yellow light means speed up rather than slow down.
posted by Sully at 9:46 AM on January 16, 2006


At a stoplight, green means go, yellow means slow down, and red means stop. It's the complete opposite for a banana. Green means hold on, yellow means go right ahead, and red means, dude, where the fuck did you get that banana at?
posted by rxrfrx at 9:47 AM on January 16, 2006


I was thinking about buying a Prius and conserving energy. Now I guess I won't.
posted by JekPorkins at 9:51 AM on January 16, 2006


I love doomsday articles that don't actually contain any facts or evidence. The literary equal of a haggard guy with a sandwich board that reads "The end is nigh!"
posted by V4V at 9:54 AM on January 16, 2006


My new book The Revenge of Gaia expands these thoughts ...
posted by WCityMike at 9:54 AM on January 16, 2006


More and more, I suspect my late father had been uncomfortably close to the truth when he said, "The problem with this planet is there's too damn many people on it."
posted by alumshubby at 9:54 AM on January 16, 2006


I was thinking about buying a Prius and conserving energy. Now I guess I won't.

Yeah. Matter of fact I've taken to flushing vats of mercury down the toilet and burning tires in my back yard. I mean, it doesn't matter so who cares, right?
posted by tkchrist at 9:55 AM on January 16, 2006


Background on the Gaia Hypothesis
posted by gsteff at 9:56 AM on January 16, 2006


burning tires in my back yard

Dude, I burn 'em in my front yard. That's how strongly I believe in the unavoidable doom of humanity.
posted by JekPorkins at 9:57 AM on January 16, 2006


I am just not buying this hypothesis. (though I don't claim to be an expert)

Yes, we're causing weather changes, and that's going to have some/a-lot-of negative impact. But reducing the world to a few breeding pairs in the arctic? Come on now...that's a ridiculous assertion. How much of the world is expected to be completely inhospitable? How much of the world -right now- is extremely inhospitable and has people living on it? Last time I checked, sub-saharan Africa was well populated, even over-populated. It's not a stretch to believe large numbers of people not in the tropics will adapt, and hopefully smarten up a little.

What we're doing to the Earth sucks, but going off on the extinction of humanity angle is ridiculous. If there's one thing we've learned about ourselves, it's that we're cockroaches and very hard to kill.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:59 AM on January 16, 2006


Wait, what happened to the ice age we were going to get due to the slowdown of north Atlantic ocean currents?
posted by MillMan at 10:00 AM on January 16, 2006


rxrfrx : "red means, dude, where the fuck did you get that banana at?"

In Hawaii, maybe.
posted by nkyad at 10:00 AM on January 16, 2006


i believe global warming is a serious problem ... but lovelock needs to back this prediction of doom with some facts
posted by pyramid termite at 10:02 AM on January 16, 2006


This will be official US policy* in a few years. They'll go directly from "We don't know climate change is happening so do nothing" to "Climate change is inevitable so do nothing". You'll notice the prevalence of the "do nothing" meme.

* I almost wrote Republican, but lets face it the other lot aren't exacly going to be any different on this, just less blatant.
posted by Artw at 10:03 AM on January 16, 2006


One of the things I believe is that the way people see and experience the world is heavily colored by the inside of their heads. (Obviously, the way I see and experience people tends to confirm this. Weird how that works, huh?) People project themselves into the world, and when they look at the world they see, consciously or not, distorted reflections of themselves. (Think of any angry argument over politics or religion; notice just how often snide snarlings occur about the other not understanding the way the world really is, the real world, etc. Notice how often any given snarler's "real world" reflects that old saw about owners resembling their pets.)

When a fellow's in his 80's and isn't in some sort of denial, the sense of personal mortality has got to be ever-present. Aches and pains that don't simply go away the way us younger folks take for granted, an ever-increasing list of friends and family and acquaintances who have already died or are on the way there, and so on. The usual golden years fun. (To quote one of the many great lines of Unforgiven, "We've all got it coming, kid.")

So it's not terribly surprising that an old fellow, reviewing data about climate change, sees in it the death of all. (for the Vonnegut-jargon-enabled, recall the Bokononist suicide mantra, "Now I will destroy the whole world.")

It's also possible we're all going to die of heatstroke in another ten years, of course. In which case, boy will my face be red!
posted by Drastic at 10:05 AM on January 16, 2006


Kickstart70-

I have no idea if the author factored it, but I would have to guess that most people living in urban environments couldn't feed/clothe/house themselves once it took more than a store and money to do so. Hospitable or not, the land isn't going to be very useful to you if you don't know what the hell to do with it.
posted by rollbiz at 10:08 AM on January 16, 2006


<fark>huhuhuhu! he's called love-cock!</fark>
posted by qvantamon at 10:10 AM on January 16, 2006


Dude, I burn 'em in my front yard.

Show off.
posted by tkchrist at 10:10 AM on January 16, 2006


oops. Actually lovelock. don't anyone dare to freudianize me!
posted by qvantamon at 10:10 AM on January 16, 2006


I’m fairly agnostic when it comes to this - that is - I really just don’t know. So I’m a bit irked when I see the dire warnings without some facts and hard ideas as opposed to “OH NO!!!”-ing.
And I’m pretty serious about conservation so I’m receptive to the argument. This just turns me off tho’ as a touchy feely thing. Gaia has seen herself from space? Yeah, I get it, but c’mon. That plus a plug for the book.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:12 AM on January 16, 2006


Fortunately, by the time the really out-of-control climate change kicks in, we'll all be dead from Peak Oil.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:18 AM on January 16, 2006


Funny "Euro-American" centrism - the small article does not give reasons, but why will the (small and already melting quickly) Artic be livable and the Antartic, a whole continent that could serve as harbor for hundreds of species previously living in more temperate climates (the not mention all that already live in and around it), will not?
posted by nkyad at 10:19 AM on January 16, 2006


Global warming will destroy our civilisation in the same way the internal combustion engine destroyed the horse dung collectors' civilisation.

Things change.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 10:23 AM on January 16, 2006


Artw : "You'll notice the prevalence of the 'do nothing' meme."

That has always been the game - the country whose population dies with the largest per capita income wins!
posted by nkyad at 10:24 AM on January 16, 2006


I thought the Antarctic is just ice.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:24 AM on January 16, 2006


Hospitable or not, the land isn't going to be very useful to you if you don't know what the hell to do with it.

Yup, but this knowledge is very easily shared.

Maybe it's the fact that I already know this stuff (having grown up on a farm/ranch), but while I agree that many people would die for the inability to take care of themselves, a large segment of the population would sort themselves out and share the knowledge needed to survive.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:27 AM on January 16, 2006


Not sure about a handful of breeding pairs, but we definitively will be experiencing a drastic die-back. The planet could have supported current populations if things where handled correctly, but systems like this move at a rate that is hard for political institutions to respond to, i.e. not immediate.

wonder if the additional stress will cause people to work together or to fall apart, probably both.
posted by edgeways at 10:28 AM on January 16, 2006


I thought the Antarctic is just ice.

Nope, wrong pole. The Antarctic is land covered in ice, the arctic is ice.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:28 AM on January 16, 2006


rxrfrx : "I thought the Antarctic is just ice."

No, Antarctica is a desertic continent covered by ice - I can't say how this will change with global warming, but one can eventually end up with a nice temperate or even tropical environment. The Artic, on the other hand, is mostly an ice-covered ocean, bound to melt as soon as the ocean temperature reaches a threshold point.
posted by nkyad at 10:30 AM on January 16, 2006


So I guess there's no need to worry.

Always wanted a h1. w00t.
posted by delmoi at 10:33 AM on January 16, 2006


Over the eons, the average global temperature has been much cooler and much warmer than it is now, and yet the system stabilized.
Lovelock is generating fear as a merketing tool to sell his new book. Don't buy into it.
posted by rocket88 at 10:37 AM on January 16, 2006


i believe global warming is a serious problem ... but lovelock needs to back this prediction of doom with some facts

They are clearly outlined in his new book, The Revenge of Gaia! On sale now in hardcover edition, paperback and book-on-CD versions coming soon. Get in line now!
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:41 AM on January 16, 2006


I suspect my late father had been uncomfortably close to the truth when he said, "The problem with this planet is there's too damn many people on it."
posted by alumshubby at 11:54 AM CST on January 16


Your dad is the Reverend Malthus?

James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia hypothesis believes that global warming has passed the point of no return.

So all those environmentalists who said for the last twenty years that we could save the planet were wrong?

Or was this "point of no return" last Tuesday at 11:42 a.m. EST?
posted by dios at 10:42 AM on January 16, 2006


Wow, between the environmental doomsday post, the athiesim post, and the single link post to an Al Gore speech, we've hit a trifecta of suck today. Congrats.
posted by keswick at 10:46 AM on January 16, 2006


Previous post.
posted by homunculus at 10:47 AM on January 16, 2006


I like how dios is taking his talking points from JP now.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:49 AM on January 16, 2006


It's bit's and peices amongst a quite long text, but Bruce Sterling has some interesting things to say on this.

Search for "Well, it's too late! Look, the game is over!".
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on January 16, 2006


Wow, between the environmental doomsday post, the athiesim post, and the single link post to an Al Gore speech, we've hit a trifecta of suck today. Congrats.

who's this "we", white man?
posted by Hat Maui at 10:50 AM on January 16, 2006


Jared Diamond's COLLAPSE provides lots of figures suggesting we have some big environmental problems. He also provides a chapter called "One-liner objections," some of which have already surfaced:

Technology will solve our problems. ...advances in technology just increase our ability to do things ... for the better or for the worse. All of our current problems are unintended consequences of our existing technology.

If we exhaust one resource, we can always switch to some other resource meeting the same need. Optimists who make such claims ignore the unforeseen difficulties and long transition time regularly involved...

Sometimes human cultures have had alternatives to which they can turn: run out of wood, use coal (England). Sometimes they don't: run out of wood, suffer enormous population crash (Easter Island). But cultures have not always had alternatives, and cultures have not always managed the transition because of cultural and political reasons, not technological ones. It is a matter of concern, surely, that we have chosen to base our society (population and economic growth) on the irrevocable destruction of the finite accumulated capital of millions of years of sunshine (oil) and don't appear to be taking the sensible, forward-thinking decisions that will guarantee our future.
posted by alasdair at 10:51 AM on January 16, 2006


Time for my hardhat; it looks like the sky is falling again.
posted by caddis at 10:56 AM on January 16, 2006


I like how dios is taking his talking points from JP now.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:49 PM CST on January 16


Who or what is JP?
posted by dios at 10:59 AM on January 16, 2006


Tch. It my not be interesting to you, but for anyone who's been following lovelocks work it's actually quite an interesting reversal.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on January 16, 2006


not to mention the oceans are dying.
posted by specialk420 at 11:00 AM on January 16, 2006


leaving the human race reduced to a few breeding pairs living in the Artic. Gloomy stuff. Does that include Hasselhoff on the glacier?
posted by gimonca at 11:20 AM on January 16, 2006


Who or what is JP?

Japan?
JP Morgan?
The Jerusalem Post?
JP Ricciardi?
Pope John Paul?
posted by loquax at 11:22 AM on January 16, 2006


Ah well, f*ck the planet then, I'm getting a Hummer. This way I can drive to the Arctic and get in on some of that post-apocalyptic hot action!
posted by clevershark at 11:23 AM on January 16, 2006


Over the eons, the average global temperature has been much cooler and much warmer than it is now

In fact this planet was a veritable chemical soup for most of its life that could barely support the most simple bacteria. It's only been in its current temperate zone for a brief second of time which has allowed for humans to expand to 6 billion in size.
posted by stbalbach at 11:26 AM on January 16, 2006


Judas Priest. Rob Halford et al dispute Lovelock's writings vigorously in The Green Manalishi, Electric Eye and more recently Eat Me Alive. It hasn't been stated better than in this quote:
Sounds like an animal
Panting to the beat
Groan in the pleasure zone
Gasping from the heat
posted by substrate at 11:34 AM on January 16, 2006


High high above sealevel is the Antarctic continent? Would it be completely covered by water as the ice at both poles melt?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:37 AM on January 16, 2006



I was thinking about buying a Prius and conserving energy. Now I guess I won't.
posted by JekPorkins at 12:51 PM EST on January 16 [!]
posted by rxrfrx at 11:37 AM on January 16, 2006


I beleive the Antarctic has Himalayas size mountain ranges.
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on January 16, 2006


High high above sealevel is the Antarctic continent? Would it be completely covered by water as the ice at both poles melt?

If it could be, it would be already. Duh. And technicaly it is, I suppose. But in any event it's really no diffrent then any other contenent.
posted by delmoi at 11:49 AM on January 16, 2006


I miss Mitch Hedberg.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:59 AM on January 16, 2006


I had an ecogasm just reading that.

Seriously, while he could be right, pushing the "Chicken Little" method of trying to explain global warming trends practically guarantees his dismissal as an extremist nut.

The worst part is that he's probably right.
posted by FormlessOne at 12:15 PM on January 16, 2006


Where the hell is Santa going live!!!????!!11one
posted by pez_LPhiE at 12:18 PM on January 16, 2006


going to* live
posted by pez_LPhiE at 12:18 PM on January 16, 2006


High high above sealevel is the Antarctic continent?

It varies, but most of the landmass is over current sea level, there are a couple of mountain ranges, etc. The landmass of the South Pole is near sea level -- but it's under 3000m of ice, so the station at the pole is well up in the air.

Furthermore, the landmass of both Greenland and Antartica are pushed down by the huge weight of the ice above them, and they'll rebound a great deal if the ice melts off. Antartica will have more land area than Australia.

About 2% of the current continent is free of ice, about 11% of the current continent is icecap-over-water, so about 90% of the current continent would remain after the melt.

The bad news: Antartica seems to be very much mountain terrian. About half of these are submerged completely under the ice, but after the big melt, we're not going to see the Great Plains appear. Furthermore, even without ice, farming is going to be interesting, though with 20+ hours a day of sunlight in the summer, you might get amazing crop yields.
posted by eriko at 12:20 PM on January 16, 2006


> Bruce Sterling has some interesting things to say on this.

#104 of 129: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 12 Jan 2006 (03:13 AM)

Why is it, I wonder, that elderly science fiction writers with failing health get into this "Mind at the end of its tether" syndrome? It's just like HG Wells in 1945: "well, the A-Bomb's been invented. And, uhm, I've got cancer. Therefore, annihilation is at hand."

If civilization collapses, then it collapses, but the human race is scattered in tens of thousands of little enclaves from pole to pole. Even if all four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are whipping their skeletal horses into a lather, it's not gonna be easy to get ALL of them. ALL of them? Do the math!

#105 of 129: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 12 Jan 2006 (04:22 AM)

Still, one can hope.



> after the big melt, we're not going to see the Great Plains appear.

If you're interested in what else you're going to see, here's At The Mountains of Madness.
posted by jfuller at 12:39 PM on January 16, 2006


Where the hell is Santa going live!!!????!!11one

going to* live

You have some extra punctuation at the end of the sentence there too, as long as you're correcting. ::rolls eyes::
posted by spiderwire at 12:44 PM on January 16, 2006


To be fair, this is a comment article in a newspaper, not an article in a scientific journal. It's perfectly fair for Lovelock to keep the facts, evidence etc in the book, and just give people an overview in his newspaper articles.
posted by matthewr at 1:12 PM on January 16, 2006


The Revenge of Gaia

Just the name speaks volumes. "Gaia" was never really a "hypothesis" so much as a faith. When Lovelock was (relatively) young and optimistic, his faith was strong and he saw Gaia as a nurturing, protective mother-goddess. Now that he's old and frail, he sees "her" as more like Kali.

Much better would be if he actually looked at this as a scientist.

Elsewhere, Sterling has indeed had some interesting things to say about the state of civilisation in a post-global-warming scenario -- or, rather, a global cooling scenario, triggered by global warming:
Let's cut to the chase here and assume that a giant switch goes off in the Atlantic and ninety percent of everybody dies in ten years. That would leave 600 million people, about the population of the early 1700s. What are they going to do with themselves henceforth, one wonders. There are still lots of them, and the early 1700s was a pretty lively time. We might assume that they'd be reduced to Mad Max savagery by a holocaust of this magnitude, but why? All of them? No way. Those 600 million survivors would have plenty of elbow room, plus enough leftover infrastructure for 6 billion. The TVs would still be on, the cellphones would work.... Assuming that the climate is stable in its new Ice Age configuration, this 600 million could re-create industrial society in a jiffy and go right on burning coal. Because hey, it's COLD outside!
So: Mass starvation, sure; but there's still plenty of coal out there if you're not tryign to support to many people with it and you don't care how dirty you get the air. (And if we're going to get warm anyway, why would you?)

And I feel obliged to point out that the people best positioned ot respond to global warming -- i.e., the people in charge of big industries and big nations -- can see themselves as protected from its consequences. If you can afford to build a bio-dome and hire a private security force, you'll be able to sit out the formation of a new- new-world-order in dry, warm comfort.
posted by lodurr at 1:31 PM on January 16, 2006


"We must do it while we are still strong enough to negotiate, and not a broken rabble led by brutal war lords. "

Holy crap awesome. Lovelock is predicting Mad Max.

In all seriousness, this is probably the most sobering - albeit brief - admission of failure on part of a high patron of environmental science I've ever read.


Artw completely hit the nail on the head with this (understated) comment:

"Tch. It my not be interesting to you, but for anyone who's been following lovelocks work it's actually quite an interesting reversal."
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM PST on January 16 [!]

posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:32 PM on January 16, 2006


Lodurr - you are speaking out of your ass, my friend.

Lovelock's work is not 'faith'. You do him a discredit by labeling it as such. It is important work.

Please read about it before you make yourself sound even more like a college freshman.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:35 PM on January 16, 2006


So are we to pray to gaia?
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:36 PM on January 16, 2006


Aw potatoes. I had to post that after Baby_Balrog and look like the fool. I'm no fool, but I just find the personification that tends to happen with 'gaia theory' gives it a feely and mystical read. Adding "revenge" only makes it the more religious. If only they'd exclusively call it self-regulating earth theory.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:42 PM on January 16, 2006


or "homeostasis-seeking earth"? I can't think of anything catchier than gaia theory, unfortunately.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:44 PM on January 16, 2006


Baby_balrog, I know the language he uses. You can't use that kind of language without having it affect your conclusions. More to the point, you can't use that kind of language withotu having people read it as "faith."

Furthermore, it's entirely possible for Lovelock's data and his precisely-worded scientific opinions to be corrct, and the so-called "Gaia Hypothesis" to be a load of warm, steaming, and profoundly toxic bullshit. Which, in my opinion, it is: Both correct, and deeply wrong.
posted by lodurr at 1:47 PM on January 16, 2006


I just got a flatscreen and 360 set up in my fallout shelter. You bitches aren't invited.
posted by bardic at 1:57 PM on January 16, 2006


The entire argument over the pseudo-mystical personification stuff is utter hogwash, and the genuinely brilliant work Lovelock has done gets lost in the fray.

It usually begins like this:

COLLEGE BIO LAB 114:

TA: "Meh. Today we will be discussing James Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis and super-ecosystems."

Patchouli Girl: "Ah yes. The scientific theory that proves we all dwell in the womb of the great mother goddess, and the oceans are the milk from her bountiful bosom, and we shouldn't declaw our cats or cook our food because it harms her and makes her sad."

Lodurr (Alpha Omicron Pi): "WhateveryouprobablyvotedforKerry. The earth is not alive. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Lovelock is a tool."

And the entire homeostatic earth theory gets pushed aside by the Comparative Religion Majors vs. the Physical Education Majors.

On Preview: "You can't use that kind of language without having it affect your conclusions."

What? What kind of language? His metaphor? That Gaia is
"a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet." -
It's no different than calling your car Charlene.

And I've yet to see another theory that so adequately explains why
-The global surface temperature of the Earth has remained constant, despite an increase in the energy provided by the Sun
-Atmospheric composition remains constant, even though it should be unstable
-Ocean salinity is constant
(yanked from wiki article)

I get touchy about this because I often see otherwise intelligent people make incredibly uneducated blanket dismissals of the man's work, akin to I.D. proponent's dismissals of the work of Darwin.

It is infuriating.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:58 PM on January 16, 2006


That's right, Lodurr. You're infuriatoring me.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:59 PM on January 16, 2006


Infuriatoring? You can't use that kind of language!
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:01 PM on January 16, 2006


Is this a reprint of The Limits to Growth, the The Population Bomb or just a reprint of the classic science based end of the world prediction The Principle of population?

The end of the world genre seems to have a bit of a pattern to it, the world is going to end, It's all going to happen in about 10 years, enough to get some book sales going and near enough so that it really scares people. Most of the people who write these books are pretty smart too.

There is quite a similarity between end of days Christian stuff and Envi-doom books. Most strange Christians who write books about the coming end of time are also clever. When you try to argue with one of them they start with a bunch of solid facts and then switch in the end of the world stuff quickly, usually in a monologue that lasts a few minutes. After a few minutes of talking there are just so many little things you can disagree with that you are just arguing in quicksand. It's the same with environmentalists.
posted by sien at 2:19 PM on January 16, 2006


woops - Enviro-doom in the first sentence of the the third paragraph of my previous post.
posted by sien at 2:19 PM on January 16, 2006


As much as I never wanted to be a light fixture, I always enjoy being turned into a straw man.

... the Comparative Religion Majors vs. the Physical Education Majors.

Interesting false dichotomy you've got going on there, balrog.

Baby_balrog, your heated and passionate defense of Lovelock's "brilliant work" is probably misguided. I do not deny that there are arguments for homeostasis; in fact, I haven't said anything stronger than what you've implicitly said with your charicature "patchouli girl." You're right, the discussion is stupid -- but Lovelock baited it by using the laguage that he did. He didn't have to turn homeostasis into a "goddess" and turn it into a fuzzy-headed movement that could be easily dismissed by "physical educaiton majors" -- or neocons, as the case may be.

The argument about language is only "bullshit" if you assume that the language we use to talk about things doesn't change how we're able to think about them. You're free to assume that; I'm free to trust my experience and conclude that you are wrong.

Oh, and: I voted for Kerry.
posted by lodurr at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2006


I'm going to go with the first choice.
The bit about assuming stuff.

I assume that the language Lovelock uses as no bearing on the scientific validity of his theory.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:24 PM on January 16, 2006


Thanks erico! .. and that was exactly what I was thinking, jfuller.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:51 PM on January 16, 2006


If you're interested in what else you're going to see, here's At The Mountains of Madness.

Dude, I've seen Dick Cheney, Carrotop, Tubgirl, and the Hasselhoff Recursion. Shoggoths? Not worried.

Besides, we all know that Nyarlathotep was really nothing but a surfer god.
posted by eriko at 4:11 PM on January 16, 2006


Mmmmmmm fearmongering...
posted by nightchrome at 4:20 PM on January 16, 2006



Time for my hardhat; it looks like the sky is falling again.


for the inuit people, the alaskan forests, and polar bears to name a few ... it has been for some time. it's tragic numb nuts here and in our collective governments of this country are laughing global warming off - your children won't be.
posted by specialk420 at 5:18 PM on January 16, 2006


Why wait for the Apocalypse? Start looting NOW!

I'm so glad that I don't have to quit smoking....

*leaning back to let the pestilential waves gently lap over me*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:24 PM on January 16, 2006


your children won't be.

But WE are cool, right?
posted by Krrrlson at 9:41 PM on January 16, 2006


Yeah, we're cool, heading towards cold.
posted by Jawn at 11:00 PM on January 16, 2006


Baby_Balrog: I'm going to go with the first choice.
The bit about assuming stuff.

I assume that the language Lovelock uses as no bearing on the scientific validity of his theory.
As do I. As you'd know, if you actually read what I posted.

His language can have bearing on two other very important factors: How people understand the theory (in this case, most exponents of "Gaia" theory understand it in terms that can only be really understood as religious); and how Lovelock himself conceptualizes the interactions of his data.

Which is to say that while the language has no logical relation to the validity of the theory -- it will stand or fall based on the supportability and falisifiability of its hypotheses -- it has a direct relation to the kind of theory he formulates. Furthermore, large parts of the "Gaia hypothesis" could be accurate while the overall concept (Earth as living organism which actively maintains homeostasis) isn't valid under any meaningful understanding of the common meaning of the terms used.
posted by lodurr at 3:15 AM on January 17, 2006


Lovelock was a damn sight less pessimistic just before Christmas, when the Guardian interviewed him.
posted by alloneword at 6:35 AM on January 17, 2006


There seems to be a marked resistance - on this thread - to the concept that we are living in a bounded environment, the Earth.

As for awareness that this neat stuff we breathe called "oxygen" (a part of a"air", that is ) comes from somewhere ( plants, photosynthesizers ) and that those are part of complex global cycles involving C02, Oxygen, Nitrogen, and so on which maintain our atmosphere, planetary temperature, and various other parameters of life.....

Well, people here on Metafilter are supposed to be smart - maybe they are in a certain localized way. But not many here seem to grasp the concept that we live on a planet, the Earth, which is only so big, no bigger.

Curiousity doesn't seem - oddly - to be too much a strong suite of many here.... or, maybe people are just busy.

But strong claims - impending doom - would, I would think, inspire some mild curiousity : "who is making these claims ?".

There was a reason that NASA hired James Lovelock as a consultant to advise the design of devices, for the Mars expedition, to look for life on that planet.

Lovelock may have been having a bad day. But he's one to take seriously, and his "Gaia Hypothesis" has been gaining scientific adherents for two decades now.
posted by troutfishing at 6:55 AM on January 17, 2006


Over the eons, the average global temperature has been much cooler and much warmer than it is now, and yet the system stabilized.

yeah, over 100,000 years or so. Which is mentioned in the article - the "fever" he predicts will not last for all eternity. he just thinks it will last too long for humankind. Our entire civilization is a tiny blip in the history of this planet. the earth is 4.5 billion years old. that's, like, a really long time. About a third the age of the known universe. what's that analogy - all of human history would be the thickness of a blade of grass in the end zone if the universe were the length of a football field?

Anyway, so yeah, the planet can have its ups & downs, but if we exaggerate the effects of these by adding gases to the mix that the earth can't stabilize for us, then we just hurt ourselves. the planet will keep going in some form or other, just not necessarily with us.

re: antarctica - one big problem down there is the hole in the ozone - skin cancer & super fast sunburns, etc.
posted by mdn at 8:39 AM on January 17, 2006


The first time I read about the Gaia Hypothesis was on the back cover of the Last Whole Earth Catalog. My first thought was "that's not an orthodox definition of organism." My second thought was "why does he have to confuse the issue with religious language?"

I, personally, have no problem believing that we live on a planet with finite resources. I also think that if Lovelock has models that support his arguments, we should look at them. If he wants to argue that we've tipped the balance so far that homeostasis no longer applies, great: Make the argument, support it, I'll listen. (Notice that I'm not sayng that he was either wrogn before or he's wrong now. That's clearly a false dichotomy, and I'm not interested in making it.)

Does he have such models? Not that I've heard of. What he does have is this idea of "Gaia taking revenge." He's personified the damn theory, again. Why? What scientific reason could that serve?

Which is the point, ultimately: Lovelock himself is the one who's castign it in these religious terms. He's te one who's circumventing scientific language to put it in religionist terms. He doesn't have ot do that, but he does. Why?

Very simple: To create an emotional impact. In other words, to make it no longer a rational discussion.

All of that is completely separable from Lovelock's expertise. That is is not separated is Lovelock's own doing.
posted by lodurr at 8:41 AM on January 17, 2006


So, we're not allowed to call quarks 'quarks' either?
posted by cytherea at 9:40 AM on January 17, 2006


lodurr writes "Those 600 million survivors would have plenty of elbow room, plus enough leftover infrastructure for 6 billion. T"

The problem of course is that not all are infrastructure degrades nicely. Ya you can not maintain an interstate and it'll still be usable as a road for a good long time (at least to foot traffic) but bridges need constant maintence. And stuff like hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants need constant skilled attention. A canal with a broken lock is much less usefull.
posted by Mitheral at 12:13 PM on January 17, 2006


True enough, but I think it's safe to assume that a disproportionate fraction of the "survivors" will be descended from very powerful people, or be scions of very powerful great oil-clans such as Exxon and BP, or warrior clans like DynCorp. So they'll be running their own fiefdoms where all that stuff gets done with sufferance to live as pay.

Also, to clarify it wasn't me what said that -- it was Bruce Sterling.
posted by lodurr at 1:00 PM on January 17, 2006


The TVs would still be on, the cellphones would work.... Assuming that the climate is stable in its new Ice Age configuration, this 600 million could re-create industrial society in a jiffy and go right on burning coal.

the assumption there is that the same things can be done at any scale. This is not a valid assumption - I expected that link to explain how he reached that conclusion, but instead it's just a blanket statement made in an unreflective rebuttal. I'm not saying a case couldn't be made, but just that he doesn't even try to make a case.

If 95% of the population is gainfully employed, that means that 95% of the population is needed to keep things running the way they are currently running. Now, if only 10% of the population were left, we wouldn't need to keep things running as they are currently running, because for many things we would need a smaller scale of production (i.e., only 10% as many tomatoes, etc). But for things like TV & cellphone reception, reduction to 10% of the broadcast or reception would be a significant change, and would alter demand, which in turn would further reduce supply as people would not be able to earn the same salaries keeping cell reception going if no one was going to buy it, etc.

Basically, this assumption could only work if the decrease in population were very regular and incremental, which it is not hypothesized to be (rather it would be enormous floods, hurricanes, diseases, etc), and the people left were very organized and prepared.
posted by mdn at 2:35 PM on January 17, 2006


Those 600 million survivors would have plenty of elbow room...

man, that'd be awesome. (assuming i was one of the 600 million)
posted by keswick at 2:38 PM on January 17, 2006


Lodurr, you need to actually read the first two Gaia books.
posted by dickasso at 3:02 PM on January 17, 2006


"True enough, but I think it's safe to assume that a disproportionate fraction of the "survivors" will be descended from very powerful people, or be scions of very powerful great oil-clans such as Exxon and BP, or warrior clans like DynCorp. So they'll be running their own fiefdoms where all that stuff gets done with sufferance to live as pay."

Either that or those people will all be dead due to inadequate immunity and a bunch of third worlders will be the sole survivors. When this kind of change happens, the result is rarely predictable using the old framework. Things could end up totally unrecognizable to us.
posted by muppetboy at 5:13 PM on January 17, 2006


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