The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate Crisis & the Fate of Humanity


James Lovelock



James Lovelock suggests, "Before the twentieth century ended, we were unaware of how serious a threat global heating was, and we believed that civilization could only flourish if there was increasing economic growth." [1]  


galactic spiral

"The universe is much more intricate place than we can imagine. I often think our conscious minds will never encompass more than a tiny fraction of it all and that our comprehension of the Earth is no better than an eel's comprehension of the ocean in which it swims."

p. 38.

To his credit, Lovelock divulges insight based on his geographical oversight. "There is one exception among renewable energy resources that is almost free of disadvantage and that is geothermal energy." [2] He unfortunately goes on to undermine his argument after mentioning Iceland's development of geothermal power, Lovelock touts "Unfortunately there are few places where it is freely available." A recent MIT study differs sharply from Lovelock's less than enlightened conclusion reflecting his poor judgment about the availability of geothermal energy. [3] Clearly for volcanic islands, Japan, Indonesia, or in California, Italy, and Africa the uses of geothermal offers far more possibilities than either Brand or Lovelock suggest in their more expectant boosting of a nuclear fission option. The MIT study concluded "Geothermal resources span a wide range of heat sources from the Earth, including not only the more easily developed, currently economic hydrothermal resources; but also the EarthÕs deeper, stored thermal energy, which is present anywhere," quite to the contrary of Lovelock's assertions. Arguably, Lovelock may have meant that geothermal power is limited in the UK [4] . Yet he divulged his bias here based on an assumption common to many who harbor a widespread misunderstanding of the varied capacities geothermal sources embody for heating, cooling and electrical supply.


The MIT engineering study pointed out that:

Although geothermal energy has provided commercial base-load electricity around the world for more than a century, it is often ignored in national projections of evolving U.S. energy supply. ... a result of the widespread perception that the total geothermal resource is often associated with identified high-grade, hydrothermal systems that are too few and too limited in their distribution in the United States to make a long-term, major impact at a national level. This perception has led to undervaluing the long-term potential of geothermal energy by missing an opportunity to develop technologies for sustainable heat mining from large volumes of accessible hot rock anywhere in the United States. In fact, many attributes of geothermal energy, namely its widespread distribution, base-load dispatchability without storage, small footprint, and low emissions, are desirable for reaching a sustainable energy future....


Without ample supplies of electrical power to maintain populations and renew natural systems that people depend upon for economic development, population and consumption will further diminish natural resilience and undermine human health by eroding nutrition.


From a review of the literature and research on climate change five emerging lessons are:


1          The scope, amount, suddenness, persistence, and pervasiveness of global warming make creatures and their co-dependent humanÕs essential partners to understand and protect as a commons because wildlife and fisheries are significant indicators of what we are doing to both reduce pollution and adapt to unpredictable and precipitous changes.

2          Damage assertions causing biodiversity loss can instruct civilization that natural systems sustain, not obstruct population's growing needs, revealing how institutions must carefully balance mitigation with adaptation since we are intensely altering the planet.

3          Poorly understood, energy-use causes pollution but is necessary for water, development, and conservation. Yet badly informed, recent debates increase social divisiveness driving broken policies to reinforce damaging habits to our global commons that is comprised of wildlife and fisheries, the atmosphere, ocean and arable lands.

4          Caught in a vice between entrenched privilege and emerging needs, a distributive and flexible, diversely fueled energy system should: A) transfer wealth to sustain productive rather than damaging uses, and B) encourage an assortment of means to achieve similar ends such as: increasing efficiency, mixed tillage, blended uses, cogeneration, or chiefly implementing geothermal power that need not harm biodiversity

5          Limited perceptions, poor communications, and unequal access to remedies for existing damages caused by air pollution all obscure widespread solutions that are viewed as too costly in an unequally competitive energy market. Current debates confuse judgment while delaying extensive adoption of already existing means to reduce pollution, minimize harm, and promote adaptive response to the uncertainties inherent in climate chaos stemming from the enduring and reverberating shocks of global warming.


Hesitantly we at a crossroads await an appropriate means to motivate healthy responses to growing challenges. Locked in debilitating uncertainty over how little reduction of emissions or how much adaptation to unprecedented ecological changes we must make, animals and their codependent commons offer us a limited but needed vision in our blind pursuit of conservation and development. Unaware that we are stumbling beyond the edges of our past experiences, widespread means to adjust require unprecedented risks. Without our partners, the planet's wild creatures, we cannot prosper; with them we may yet thrive, since they keep secure sage knowledge of that world we so desperately altered.




[1] James Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia, Earth's Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity. New York: Perseus Books, 2006. p. 78. Brit Liggett, "Stewart Brand Says Nuclear Power Could Save the World." Inhabitat. 05/10/11, VIDEO INTERVIEW: 6/26/12 10:59 AM. "Stewart Brand: Nuclear Power Could Save The World." Huffington Post. First Posted: 02/18/11 10:27 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:35 PM ET

[2] Ibid., p. 68.

[3] The Future of Geothermal Energy. © 2006 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. pp. 1-26 & 1-27.

[4] "Deep Geothermal can Provide 20 percent of UK electricity," A report published on May 30, 2012 suggests just the opposite: 6/7/12 11:19:15 AM