Other articles on James Lovelock in the Generator.
Background on James Lovelock
James Lovelock is a scientist who invented a device in 1958 to detect minute concentrations of chemicals. It was used to show that pesticides like DDT accumulate in animals a long way from where they are used. He used it himself a decade later to show that ChloroFlouroCarbons (CFCs) were present in large concentrations in the Antarctic.
Lovelock was hired by NASA to design instruments that could find life on Mars if it existed. Lovelock started designing very sensitive instruments. Then he realised that they would be unable to differentiate between the contamination brought to Mars on the space ship and any life already there on the red planet.
He started to focus on ways to tell from the outside if life existed. He reached the remarkable conclusion that there is a very simple indicator of life and that is activity, or more accurately, instability.
Life consumes nutrients, extracts what it needs and exhales what it does not. It reorganises the world around it. There is one very significant thing about that reorganisation. It is more complex as a result of life than it would be without it. Plants consume sunlight, dirt and water and create forests. Animals eat plants and drink water and create societies.
When you look at a living thing from the outside you see change happening that cannot be explained by simple chemical processes. We see the seething compost and we know the worms are well.
Lovelock reported to NASA that he had completed his experiments and had proven that there was no life on Mars. They sacked him and insisted that he did not report his findings.
He went one step further. He founded a movement, named after the Greek goddess of the Earth, Gaia, based on the principle that the planet is alive. It is not just covered in life, it is, itself, a living organism.
There is no doubt in my mind that it is a very useful way to understand the systems which operate on a global scale.
When we describe the rainforest as the lungs of the planet we are using exactly such an analogy. When we look at the ocean currents and their interaction with the life that depends on them, it is a circulatory system we describe. David Suzuki reports that the Nitrogen in the temperate rainforests that blanket the west coast of the USA and Canada has all come from the sea in the bodies of salmon. On a planetary scale, I see small, salmon-shaped cells carrying nutrients through that circulatory system to an organ that helps the planet breathe.
This is not a far-fetched notion, it is a practical tool.
James Lovelock in the news
He’s opposed to renewable energy, and recently opposed the construction of windfarms in the UK http://www.thisiswesternmorningnews.co.uk/news/Expert-launches-tirade-wind-farm-fascism/article-869981-detail/article.html
He’s been called the ultimate pessimist http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sanjay-khanna/pessimists-die-quickly-gu_b_177808.html
He’s a biochar enthusiast! But he does not support the planting of trees for the sole purpose of creating biochar.
In a January interview James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia theory, stated “There is one way we could save ourselves and that is through the massive burial of charcoal. It would mean farmers turning all their agricultural waste… into non-biodegradable charcoal, and burying it in the soil.” http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?at_code=436833&no=385028&rel_no=1
He’s accused of being extreme in his beliefs. e.g.
“He believes the hotter new world we are bringing into being could support, at best, a billion people. That would require 84 percent of the world’s population to die off.” http://www.alternet.org/environment/135201/why_the_london_protesters_are_on_the_right_side_of_history/
Probably the most controversial thing about Lovelock is that he goes against the tide of green sentiment by proclaiming only nuclear power can halt global warming