James Lovelock

James Lovelock

Overview
James Lovelock, CH
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

, CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

, FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (born 26 July 1919) is an independent scientist, environmentalist
Environmentalist
An environmentalist broadly supports the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities"...

 and futurologist who lives in Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis
Gaia hypothesis
The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life on the planet.The scientific investigation of the...

, which postulates that the biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

 is a self-regulating entity with the capacity to keep our planet healthy by controlling the chemical and physical environment.

James Ephraim Lovelock was born in Letchworth Garden City
Letchworth
Letchworth Garden City, commonly known as Letchworth, is a town and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England. The town's name is taken from one of the three villages it surrounded - all of which featured in the Domesday Book. The land used was first purchased by Quakers who had intended to farm the...

 in Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England. The county town is Hertford.The county is one of the Home Counties and lies inland, bordered by Greater London , Buckinghamshire , Bedfordshire , Cambridgeshire and...

, England, to working class parents who were strong believers in education.
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Quotations

The climate and the chemical properties of the Earth now and throughout its history seem always to have been optimal for life. For this to have happened by chance is as unlikely as to survive unscathed a drive blindfold through rush hour traffic.

In the current fashionable denigration of technology, it is easy to forget that nuclear fission is a natural process. If something as intricate as life can assemble by accident, we need not marvel at the fission reactor, a relatively simple contraption, doing likewise.

Our planet...consists largely of lumps of fall-out from a star-sized hydrogen bomb...Within our bodies, no less than three million atoms rendered unstable in that event still erupt every minute, releasing a tiny fraction of the energy stored from that fierce fire of long ago.

Encyclopedia
James Lovelock, CH
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

, CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

, FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (born 26 July 1919) is an independent scientist, environmentalist
Environmentalist
An environmentalist broadly supports the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities"...

 and futurologist who lives in Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis
Gaia hypothesis
The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life on the planet.The scientific investigation of the...

, which postulates that the biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

 is a self-regulating entity with the capacity to keep our planet healthy by controlling the chemical and physical environment.

Biography


James Ephraim Lovelock was born in Letchworth Garden City
Letchworth
Letchworth Garden City, commonly known as Letchworth, is a town and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England. The town's name is taken from one of the three villages it surrounded - all of which featured in the Domesday Book. The land used was first purchased by Quakers who had intended to farm the...

 in Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England. The county town is Hertford.The county is one of the Home Counties and lies inland, bordered by Greater London , Buckinghamshire , Bedfordshire , Cambridgeshire and...

, England, to working class parents who were strong believers in education. Nell, his mother started work at 13 in a pickle factory. His father, Tom, had served six months hard labour for poaching in his teens and was illiterate until attending technical college. The family moved to London where his dislike of authority made him, by his own account, an unhappy pupil at Strand School
Strand School
Strand School was a boys' grammar school in the Tulse Hill area of South London. It moved there in 1913 from its original location in the Strand...

. Lovelock could not afford to go to university after school, something which he believes helped prevent him becoming over-specialized and aided the development of Gaia theory. He worked at a photography firm, attending Birkbeck College during the evenings, before being accepted for chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 at the University of Manchester
University of Manchester
The University of Manchester is a public research university located in Manchester, United Kingdom. It is a "red brick" university and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive British universities and the N8 Group...

 although he could only pay for two years of the three-year course. Lovelock worked at a Quaker farm before a recommendation from his professor led to him taking up a Medical Research Council
Medical Research Council (UK)
The Medical Research Council is a publicly-funded agency responsible for co-ordinating and funding medical research in the United Kingdom. It is one of seven Research Councils in the UK and is answerable to, although politically independent from, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills...

 post working on ways of shielding soldiers from burns. Lovelock refused to use the shaved and anaesthetised rabbits that were used as burn victims, and exposed his own skin to heat radiation instead, an experience he describes as "exquisitely painful".
His student status enabled temporary deferment of military service
Military service
Military service, in its simplest sense, is service by an individual or group in an army or other militia, whether as a chosen job or as a result of an involuntary draft . Some nations require a specific amount of military service from every citizen...

 during the Second World War, but he registered as a conscientious objector
Conscientious objector
A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion....

. He later abandoned this position in the light of Nazi atrocities and tried to enlist for war service, but was told that his medical research was too valuable for this to be considered.
In 1948 Lovelock received a Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 degree in medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Within the United States he has conducted research at Yale
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, Baylor College of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine, located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas, USA, is a highly regarded medical school and leading center for biomedical research and clinical care...

, and Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

.

Career


A lifelong inventor, Lovelock has created and developed many scientific instruments, some of which were designed for NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 in its program of planetary exploration. It was while working as a consultant for NASA that Lovelock developed the Gaia Hypothesis, for which he is most widely known.

In early 1961, Lovelock was engaged by NASA to develop sensitive instruments for the analysis of extraterrestrial atmospheres and planetary surfaces. The Viking program
Viking program
The Viking program consisted of a pair of American space probes sent to Mars, Viking 1 and Viking 2. Each spacecraft was composed of two main parts, an orbiter designed to photograph the surface of Mars from orbit, and a lander designed to study the planet from the surface...

, that visited Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 in the late 1970s, was motivated in part to determine whether Mars supported life, and many of the sensors and experiments that were ultimately deployed aimed to resolve this issue. During work on a precursor of this program, Lovelock became interested in the composition of the Martian atmosphere, reasoning that many life forms on Mars would be obliged to make use of it (and, thus, alter it). However, the atmosphere was found to be in a stable condition close to its chemical equilibrium
Chemical equilibrium
In a chemical reaction, chemical equilibrium is the state in which the concentrations of the reactants and products have not yet changed with time. It occurs only in reversible reactions, and not in irreversible reactions. Usually, this state results when the forward reaction proceeds at the same...

, with very little oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

, methane
Methane
Methane is a chemical compound with the chemical formula . It is the simplest alkane, the principal component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel...

, or hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

, but with an overwhelming abundance of carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

. To Lovelock, the stark contrast between the Martian atmosphere and chemically dynamic mixture of that of our Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

's biosphere was strongly indicative of the absence of life on the planet. However, when they were finally launched to Mars, the Viking probes still searched (unsuccessfully) for extant life there.

Lovelock invented the electron capture detector
Electron capture detector
An electron capture detector is a device for detecting atoms and molecules in a gas through the attachment of electrons via electron capture ionization. The device was invented in 1957 by Dr. James E...

, which ultimately assisted in discoveries about the persistence of CFC
Chlorofluorocarbon
A chlorofluorocarbon is an organic compound that contains carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, produced as a volatile derivative of methane and ethane. A common subclass are the hydrochlorofluorocarbons , which contain hydrogen, as well. They are also commonly known by the DuPont trade name Freon...

s and their role in stratospheric
Stratosphere
The stratosphere is the second major layer of Earth's atmosphere, just above the troposphere, and below the mesosphere. It is stratified in temperature, with warmer layers higher up and cooler layers farther down. This is in contrast to the troposphere near the Earth's surface, which is cooler...

 ozone depletion
Ozone depletion
Ozone depletion describes two distinct but related phenomena observed since the late 1970s: a steady decline of about 4% per decade in the total volume of ozone in Earth's stratosphere , and a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone over Earth's polar regions. The latter phenomenon...

. After studying the operation of the Earth's sulfur cycle
Sulfur cycle
The sulfur cycle are the collection of processes by which sulfur moves to and from minerals and living systems. Such biogeochemical cycles are important in geology because they affect many minerals...

, Lovelock and his colleagues developed the CLAW hypothesis
CLAW hypothesis
The CLAW hypothesis proposes a feedback loop that operates between ocean ecosystems and the Earth's climate. The hypothesis specifically proposes that particular phytoplankton that produce dimethyl sulfide are responsive to variations in climate forcing, and that these responses lead to a negative...

 as a possible example of biological control of the Earth's climate.

Lovelock was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 in 1974. He served as the president of the Marine Biological Association (MBA) from 1986 to 1990, and has been a Honorary Visiting Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford
Green Templeton College, Oxford
Green Templeton College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is the university's newest college having come into existence on 1 October 2008 from the merger of Green College and Templeton College...

 (formerly Green College, Oxford
Green College, Oxford
Green College was a graduate college of the University of Oxford in England. It was centred around an architecturally appealing 18th century building: the Radcliffe Observatory, which is modelled after the ancient "Tower of the Winds" in Athens....

) since 1994. He has been awarded a number of prestigious prizes including the Tswett Medal (1975), an ACS
American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society is a scientific society based in the United States that supports scientific inquiry in the field of chemistry. Founded in 1876 at New York University, the ACS currently has more than 161,000 members at all degree-levels and in all fields of chemistry, chemical...

 chromatography award (1980), the WMO
World Meteorological Organization
The World Meteorological Organization is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 189 Member States and Territories. It originated from the International Meteorological Organization , which was founded in 1873...

 Norbert Gerbier Prize (1988), the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize
Dr A.H. Heineken Prize
The Dr. A.H. Heineken and Dr. H.P. Heineken Prizes, named in honor of Alfred Heineken, former Chairman of Heineken Holdings, and Henry Pierre Heineken, son of founder Gerard Adriaan Heineken, are a series of awards bestowed by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences .-History:Alfred...

 for the Environment (1990) and the RGS
Royal Geographical Society
The Royal Geographical Society is a British learned society founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences...

 Discovery Lifetime award (2001). In 2006 he received the Wollaston Medal
Wollaston Medal
The Wollaston Medal is a scientific award for geology, the highest award granted by the Geological Society of London.The medal is named after William Hyde Wollaston, and was first awarded in 1831...

, the Geological Society's highest Award, whose previous recipients include Charles Darwin http://www.jameslovelock.org/page7.html. He became a CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 in 1990, and a Companion of Honour
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

 in 2003.

An independent scientist
Gentleman scientist
A gentleman scientist is a financially independent scientist who pursues scientific study as a hobby. The term arose in post-Renaissance Europe but became less common in the 20th century as government and private funding increased.-History:...

, inventor, and author, Lovelock works out of a barn-turned-laboratory on the Devon/Cornwall border.

CFCs




After the development of his electron capture detector
Electron capture detector
An electron capture detector is a device for detecting atoms and molecules in a gas through the attachment of electrons via electron capture ionization. The device was invented in 1957 by Dr. James E...

, in the late 1960s, Lovelock was the first to detect the widespread presence of CFCs in the atmosphere. He found a concentration of 60 parts per trillion of CFC-11 over Ireland and, in a partially self-funded research expedition in 1972, went on to measure the concentration of CFC-11 from the northern hemisphere to the Antarctic aboard the research vessel
Research vessel
A research vessel is a ship designed and equipped to carry out research at sea. Research vessels carry out a number of roles. Some of these roles can be combined into a single vessel, others require a dedicated vessel...

 RRS Shackleton
RRS Shackleton
RRS Shackleton was a Royal Research Ship operating in the Antarctic from 1955 to 1992. She is now a seismic survey vessel, MV Sea Profiler.-History:...

. He found the gas in each of the 50 air samples that he collected but, not realising that the breakdown of CFCs in the stratosphere would release chlorine
Chlorine
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

 that posed a threat to the ozone layer
Ozone layer
The ozone layer is a layer in Earth's atmosphere which contains relatively high concentrations of ozone . This layer absorbs 97–99% of the Sun's high frequency ultraviolet light, which is potentially damaging to the life forms on Earth...

, concluded that the level of CFCs constituted "no conceivable hazard". He has since stated that he meant "no conceivable toxic hazard".

However, the experiment did provide the first useful data on the ubiquitous presence of CFCs in the atmosphere. The damage caused to the ozone layer by the photolysis of CFCs was later discovered by Sherwood Rowland
Frank Sherwood Rowland
Frank Sherwood Rowland is an American Nobel laureate and a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Irvine. His research is in atmospheric chemistry and chemical kinetics....

 and Mario Molina
Mario J. Molina
Mario José Molina-Pasquel Henríquez is a Mexican chemist and one of the most prominent precursors to the discovering of the Antarctic ozone hole. He was a co-recipient Mario José Molina-Pasquel Henríquez (born March 19, 1943 in Mexico City) is a Mexican chemist and one of the most prominent...

. After hearing a lecture on the subject of Lovelock's results, they embarked on research that resulted in the first published paper that suggested a link between stratospheric CFCs and ozone depletion
Ozone depletion
Ozone depletion describes two distinct but related phenomena observed since the late 1970s: a steady decline of about 4% per decade in the total volume of ozone in Earth's stratosphere , and a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone over Earth's polar regions. The latter phenomenon...

 in 1974, and later shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature,...

 (with Paul Crutzen
Paul J. Crutzen
Paul Jozef Crutzen is a Dutch Nobel prize winning atmospheric chemist.Crutzen is best known for his research on ozone depletion. He lists his main research interests as “Stratospheric and tropospheric chemistry, and their role in the biogeochemical cycles and climate”...

) for their work.

Gaia



First formulated by Lovelock during the 1960s as a result of work for NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 concerned with detecting life on Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

, the Gaia hypothesis proposes that living and non-living parts of the Earth form a complex interacting system
Cybernetics
Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to information theory, control theory and systems theory, at least in its first-order form...

 that can be thought of as a single organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

. Named after the Greek
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 goddess Gaia
Gaia (mythology)
Gaia was the primordial Earth-goddess in ancient Greek religion. Gaia was the great mother of all: the heavenly gods and Titans were descended from her union with Uranus , the sea-gods from her union with Pontus , the Giants from her mating with Tartarus and mortal creatures were sprung or born...

 at the suggestion of novelist William Golding
William Golding
Sir William Gerald Golding was a British novelist, poet, playwright and Nobel Prize for Literature laureate, best known for his novel Lord of the Flies...

, the hypothesis postulates that the biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

 has a regulatory effect on the Earth's environment that acts to sustain life.

While the Gaia hypothesis was readily accepted by many in the environmentalist
Environmentalist
An environmentalist broadly supports the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities"...

 community, it has not been widely accepted within the scientific community
Scientific community
The scientific community consists of the total body of scientists, its relationships and interactions. It is normally divided into "sub-communities" each working on a particular field within science. Objectivity is expected to be achieved by the scientific method...

. Among its more famous critic
Critic
A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

s are the evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

ary biologist
Biologist
A biologist is a scientist devoted to and producing results in biology through the study of life. Typically biologists study organisms and their relationship to their environment. Biologists involved in basic research attempt to discover underlying mechanisms that govern how organisms work...

s Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

, Ford Doolittle
Ford Doolittle
Dr. W. Ford Doolittle is a biochemist., he is a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He received his BA in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard University in 1963 and his PhD from Stanford University in 1967.Since joining the biochemistry department at Dalhousie in 1971, Dr...

, and Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation....

 – notable, given the diversity of this trio's views on other scientific matters. These (and other) critics have questioned how natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 operating on individual organisms can lead to the evolution of planetary-scale homeostasis
Homeostasis
Homeostasis is the property of a system that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition of properties like temperature or pH...

.

Lovelock has responded to these criticisms with models
Model (physical)
A physical model is a smaller or larger physical copy of an object...

 such as Daisyworld
Daisyworld
Daisyworld, a computer simulation, is a hypothetical world orbiting a star whose radiant energy is slowly increasing. It is meant to mimic important elements of the Earth-Sun system, and was introduced by James Lovelock and Andrew Watson in a paper published in 1983 to illustrate the plausibility...

, that illustrate how individual-level effects can translate to planetary homeostasis, under the right circumstances.

Nuclear power


Lovelock has become concerned about the threat of global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 from the greenhouse effect
Greenhouse effect
The greenhouse effect is a process by which thermal radiation from a planetary surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions. Since part of this re-radiation is back towards the surface, energy is transferred to the surface and the lower atmosphere...

. In 2004 he caused a media
News media
The news media are those elements of the mass media that focus on delivering news to the general public or a target public.These include print media , broadcast news , and more recently the Internet .-Etymology:A medium is a carrier of something...

 sensation when he broke with many fellow environmentalists by pronouncing that "only nuclear power
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

 can now halt global warming". In his view, nuclear energy
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

 is the only realistic alternative to fossil fuel
Fossil fuel
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years...

s that has the capacity to both fulfill the large scale energy needs of humankind while also reducing greenhouse emissions. He is an open member of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy
Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy
Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy is a pro-nuclear power non-profit organization. Their website states that environmental opposition to nuclear energy is the "greatest misunderstanding and mistake of the century"....

.

In 2005, against the backdrop of renewed UK government interest in nuclear power, Lovelock again publicly announced his support for nuclear energy, stating, "I am a Green, and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy". Although these interventions in the public debate on nuclear power are recent, his views on it are longstanding. In his 1988 book The Ages of Gaia he states:
"I have never regarded nuclear radiation or nuclear power as anything other than a normal and inevitable part of the environment. Our prokaryotic
Prokaryote
The prokaryotes are a group of organisms that lack a cell nucleus , or any other membrane-bound organelles. The organisms that have a cell nucleus are called eukaryotes. Most prokaryotes are unicellular, but a few such as myxobacteria have multicellular stages in their life cycles...

 forebears evolved on a planet-sized lump of fallout
Nuclear fallout
Fallout is the residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast, so called because it "falls out" of the sky after the explosion and shock wave have passed. It commonly refers to the radioactive dust and ash created when a nuclear weapon explodes...

 from a star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

-sized nuclear explosion, a supernova
Supernova
A supernova is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. It is pronounced with the plural supernovae or supernovas. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months...

 that synthesised
Nucleosynthesis
Nucleosynthesis is the process of creating new atomic nuclei from pre-existing nucleons . It is thought that the primordial nucleons themselves were formed from the quark–gluon plasma from the Big Bang as it cooled below two trillion degrees...

 the elements
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

 that go to make our planet and ourselves."


In The Revenge of Gaia
The Revenge of Gaia
The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back – and How we Can Still Save Humanity is a book by James Lovelock.- External links :* The Revenge of Gaia * , edited extract from The Guardian, 24 March 2006...

(2006), where he puts forward the concept of sustainable retreat
Sustainable retreat
Sustainable retreat is a concept developed by independent research scientist Dr. James Lovelock, who is well known in ecological circles for developing the Gaia theory, in order to define the necessary changes to human settlement and dwelling at the global scale with the purpose of adapting to...

, Lovelock writes:
"A television interviewer once asked me, 'But what about nuclear waste? Will it not poison the whole biosphere and persist for millions of years?' I knew this to be a nightmare fantasy wholly without substance in the real world... One of the striking things about places heavily contaminated by radioactive nuclides is the richness of their wildlife. This is true of the land around Chernobyl
Chernobyl disaster
The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine , which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities in Moscow...

, the bomb test sites of the Pacific, and areas near the United States' Savannah River
Savannah River
The Savannah River is a major river in the southeastern United States, forming most of the border between the states of South Carolina and Georgia. Two tributaries of the Savannah, the Tugaloo River and the Chattooga River, form the northernmost part of the border...

 nuclear weapons plant of the Second World War. Wild plants and animals do not perceive radiation as dangerous, and any slight reduction it may cause in their lifespans is far less a hazard than is the presence of people and their pets... I find it sad, but all too human, that there are vast bureaucracies concerned about nuclear waste, huge organisations devoted to decommissioning power stations, but nothing comparable to deal with that truly malign waste, carbon dioxide."

The revenge of Gaia


In James Lovelock's 2006 book, The Revenge of Gaia
The Revenge of Gaia
The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back – and How we Can Still Save Humanity is a book by James Lovelock.- External links :* The Revenge of Gaia * , edited extract from The Guardian, 24 March 2006...

, he argues that the lack of respect humans have had for Gaia, through the damage done to rainforests and the reduction in planetary biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

, is testing Gaia's capacity to minimize the effects of the addition of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

. This eliminates the planet's negative feedback
Negative feedback
Negative feedback occurs when the output of a system acts to oppose changes to the input of the system, with the result that the changes are attenuated. If the overall feedback of the system is negative, then the system will tend to be stable.- Overview :...

s and increases the likelihood of homeostatic
Homeostasis
Homeostasis is the property of a system that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition of properties like temperature or pH...

 positive feedback
Positive feedback
Positive feedback is a process in which the effects of a small disturbance on a system include an increase in the magnitude of the perturbation. That is, A produces more of B which in turn produces more of A. In contrast, a system that responds to a perturbation in a way that reduces its effect is...

 potential associated with runaway global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

. Similarly the warming of the oceans is extending the oceanic thermocline
Thermocline
A thermocline is a thin but distinct layer in a large body of fluid , in which temperature changes more rapidly with depth than it does in the layers above or below...

 layer of tropical oceans into the Arctic
Arctic
The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...

 and Antarctic
Antarctic
The Antarctic is the region around the Earth's South Pole, opposite the Arctic region around the North Pole. The Antarctic comprises the continent of Antarctica and the ice shelves, waters and island territories in the Southern Ocean situated south of the Antarctic Convergence...

 waters, preventing the rise of oceanic nutrients into the surface waters and eliminating the algal bloom
Algal bloom
An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in an aquatic system. Algal blooms may occur in freshwater as well as marine environments. Typically, only one or a small number of phytoplankton species are involved, and some blooms may be recognized by discoloration...

s of phytoplankton
Phytoplankton
Phytoplankton are the autotrophic component of the plankton community. The name comes from the Greek words φυτόν , meaning "plant", and πλαγκτός , meaning "wanderer" or "drifter". Most phytoplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye...

 on which oceanic foodchains depend. As phytoplankton and forests are the main ways in which Gaia draws down greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

, taking it out of the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

, the elimination of this environmental buffer
Buffer
Buffer may refer to:*Buffer state, a country lying between two potentially hostile greater powers, thought to prevent conflict between them* Buffer zone, any area that keeps two or more other areas distant from one another, may be demilitarized...

ing will see, according to Lovelock, most of the earth becoming uninhabitable for humans and other life-forms by the middle of this century, with a massive extension of tropical desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

s.

In his most recent book, "The Vanishing Face of Gaia", he rejects scientific modelling that disagrees with the scientific findings that sea levels are rising faster, and Arctic ice is melting faster, than the models predict and he suggests that we may already be beyond the tipping point of terrestrial climate into a permanently hot state. Given these conditions, Lovelock expects human civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

 will be hard pressed to survive. He expects the change to be similar to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
The most extreme change in Earth surface conditions during the Cenozoic Era began at the temporal boundary between the Paleocene and Eocene epochs . This event, the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum , was associated with rapid global...

 when atmospheric concentration of CO2 was 450 ppm. At that point the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

 was 23 °C and had crocodile
Crocodile
A crocodile is any species belonging to the family Crocodylidae . The term can also be used more loosely to include all extant members of the order Crocodilia: i.e...

s in it, with the rest of the world mostly scrub and desert.

Climate and mass human mortality


Writing in the British newspaper The Independent
The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

in January 2006, Lovelock argues that, as a result of global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

, "billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable" by the end of the 21st century. He has been quoted in The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

that 80% of humans will perish by 2100 AD, and this climate change will last 100,000 years. According to James Lovelock, by 2040, the world population of more than six billion will have been culled by floods, drought and famine. Indeed "[t]he people of Southern Europe, as well as South-East Asia, will be fighting their way into countries such as Canada, Australia and Britain".
He further predicts, the average temperature in temperate regions will increase by as much as 8°C and by up to 5°C in the tropics, leaving much of the world's land uninhabitable and unsuitable for farming, with northerly migrations and new cities created in the Arctic. He predicts much of Europe will become uninhabitable having turned to desert and Britain will become Europe's "life-raft" due to its stable temperature caused by being surrounded by the ocean. He suggests that "we have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act, and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can".

He partly retreated from this position in a September 2007 address to the World Nuclear Association
World Nuclear Association
The World Nuclear Association , formerly the Uranium Institute, is an international organization that promotes nuclear power and supports the many companies that comprise the global nuclear industry...

's Annual Symposium, suggesting that climate change would stabilise and prove survivable, and that the Earth itself is in "no danger" because it would stabilise in a new state. Life, however, might be forced to migrate en masse to remain in habitable climes. In 2008, he became a patron of Population Matters, (formerly known as the Optimum Population Trust), which campaigns for a gradual decline in the global human population to a sustainable level.

In a March 2010 interview with the Guardian newspaper, he said that democracy might have to be "put on hold" to prevent climate change. He continued:

"The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they're scared stiff of the fact that they don't really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing...We do need scepticism about the predictions about what will happen to the climate in 50 years, or whatever. It's almost naive, scientifically speaking, to think we can give relatively accurate predictions for future climate. There are so many unknowns that it's wrong to do it."

Geoengineering proposal


In September 2007, Lovelock and Chris Rapley
Chris Rapley
Prof. Christopher Graham Rapley CBE is a British scientist. He was Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme IGBP from 1994 to 1998, and Director of the British Antarctic Survey from 1998 to 2007. He was appointed Director of the Science Museum in 2007...

 proposed the construction of ocean pumps to pump water up from below the thermocline
Thermocline
A thermocline is a thin but distinct layer in a large body of fluid , in which temperature changes more rapidly with depth than it does in the layers above or below...

 to "fertilize algae in the surface waters and encourage them to bloom". The basic idea was to accelerate the transfer of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the ocean by increasing primary production
Primary production
400px|thumb|Global oceanic and terrestrial photoautotroph abundance, from September [[1997]] to August 2000. As an estimate of autotroph biomass, it is only a rough indicator of primary production potential, and not an actual estimate of it...

 and enhancing the export of organic carbon (as marine snow
Marine snow
In the deep ocean, marine snow is a continuous shower of mostly organic detritus falling from the upper layers of the water column. It is a significant means of exporting energy from the light-rich photic zone to the aphotic zone below. The term was first coined by the explorer William Beebe as he...

) to the deep ocean. A scheme similar to that proposed by Lovelock and Rapley is already being independently developed by a commercial company.

The proposal attracted widespread media attention and criticism. Commenting on the proposal, Corinne Le Quéré, a University of East Anglia
University of East Anglia
The University of East Anglia is a public research university based in Norwich, United Kingdom. It was established in 1963, and is a founder-member of the 1994 Group of research-intensive universities.-History:...

 researcher, said "It doesn’t make sense. There is absolutely no evidence that geoengineering
Geoengineering
The concept of Geoengineering refers to the deliberate large-scale engineering and manipulation of the planetary environment to combat or counteract anthropogenic changes in atmospheric chemistry The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in 2007 that geoengineering options, such...

 options work or even go in the right direction. I’m astonished that they published this. Before any geoengineering is put to work a massive amount of research is needed – research which will take 20 to 30 years". Other researchers have claimed that "this scheme would bring water with high natural pCO2 levels (associated with the nutrients) back to the surface, potentially causing exhalation of CO2". Lovelock subsequently said that his proposal was intended to stimulate interest and research would be the next step.

Portraits of Lovelock


The National Portrait Gallery collection has two photographic portraits of James Lovelock by Nick Sinclair
Nick Sinclair
Nick Sinclair is a photographer from the United Kingdom. The National Portrait Gallery in London holds 148 of his portrait photographs in its collection....

 (1993) and Paul Tozer (1994). The archive of the Royal Society of Arts
Royal Society of Arts
The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce is a British multi-disciplinary institution, based in London. The name Royal Society of Arts is frequently used for brevity...

 has a 2009 image taken by Anne-Katrin Purkiss
Anne-Katrin Purkiss
Anne-Katrin Purkiss is a photographer, born in Chemnitz, Germany in 1959 and moving to Britain in 1984 after graduating from University of Leipzig in 1983....

. Lovelock agreed to sit for sculptor Jon Edgar
Jon Edgar
Jon Edgar is a British artist born in Rustington, West Sussex in 1968, the grandson of British cartoonist Brian White. He direct-carves in wood and stone using methods of improvisation, and works in clay.-Biography:...

 in Devon during 2007, as part of The Environment Triptych (2008) along with heads of Mary Midgley
Mary Midgley
Mary Midgley, née Scrutton , is an English moral philosopher. She was a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Newcastle University and is known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights. She wrote her first book, Beast And Man: The Roots of Human Nature , when she was in her fifties...

 and Richard Mabey
Richard Mabey
Richard Mabey is a naturalist and author.He has been called by The Times 'Britain's greatest living nature writer'. Among his acclaimed publications are Food for Free, The Unofficial Countryside and The Common Ground, as well as his study of the nightingale, Whistling in the Dark...

. A bronze head is in the collection of the sitter and the terracotta is in the archive of the artist.

External links



Interviews


Book reviews

  • Goodbye to All That, Tim Flannery
    Tim Flannery
    Timothy Fridtjof Flannery is an Australian mammalogist, palaeontologist, environmentalist and global warming activist....

     reviews The Vanishing Face of Gaia in The Monthly
    The Monthly
    The Monthly is an Australian national magazine of politics, society and the arts, which is published eleven times per year on a monthly basis except the December/January issue. Founded in 2005, it is published by Melbourne property developer Morry Schwartz...

    , June 2009.