James Lovelock has always cherished the freedom to follow his own ideas (March 27, 2013 New Statesman)

Update: A Feb. 20, 2014 CBC article is entitled: “Are we doomed? Elizabeth Kolbert explains why the world might be in the midst of a major mass extinction.” 

An excerpt from the article reads:

  • Although climate change is caused by things that most of us in the developed world think of as ordinary, geologically speaking, the way we live is extraordinary. “Climate change is caused by things we consider to be extremely ordinary – driving our cars, turning on lights, having power plants, all the ways that we use fossil fuels,” said Kolbert. “We consider them to be very ordinary, but in the grand scheme of things it’s really actually very extraordinary to take a geological process, which is the formation of fossil fuels, which took hundreds of millions of years, and then reverse very quickly, so we’re sort of running geological history in reverse and at a very high speed by burning all these fossil fuels and putting that CO2 back into the atmosphere. And that is changing the climate very significantly and very quickly.”

[End of excerpt]

[End of update]


A March 27, 2013 New Statesman article, which I found at James Lovelock’s website, is entitled: “James Lovelock: A man for all seasons.”

The subtitle reads: “The guru of Gaia is a maverick environmentalist who supports fracking and nuclear power. Does he believe the human race has a future?”

The opening paragraphs read:

  • A resolute independence has shaped James Lovelock’s life as a scientist. On the occasions over the past decade or so when I visited him at his home in a remote and wooded part of Devon to discuss his work and share our thoughts, I found him equipped with a mass of books and papers and a small outhouse where he was able to perform experiments and devise the inventions that have supported him through much of his long career. That is all he needed to carry on his work as an independent scientist. Small but sturdily built, often laughing, animated and highly sociable, he is, at the age of 93, far from being any kind of recluse. But he has always resisted every kind of groupthink, and followed his own line of inquiry.
  • At certain points in his life Lovelock worked in large organisations. In 1941, he took up a post as a junior scientist at the National Institute for Medical Research, an offshoot of the Medical Research Council, and in 1961 he was invited to America to join a group of scientists interested in exploring the moon who were based at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa). It was during his time at Nasa that Lovelock had the first inklings of what would become the Gaia theory – according to which the earth is a planet that behaves like a living being, controlling its surface and atmosphere to keep the environment hospitable to life. He has since worked closely with other scientists, including his former doctoral student Andrew Watson, who is now a professor of environmental science, and the late American microbiologist Lynn Margulis, in developing the theory.
  • Lovelock has always cherished the freedom to follow his own ideas and stood aside from institutions in which science is conducted as a vast collective enterprise. Partly this is an expression of his ingrained individualism, but it also reflects his radically empiricist view of science as a direct engagement with the world and his abiding mistrust of consensual thinking. In these and other respects, he has more in common with thinkers such as Darwin and Einstein, who were able to transform our view of the world because they did not work under any kind of external direction, than he does with most of the scientists who are at work today.

[End of excerpt]

“Enjoy life while you can”

A March 1, 2008 Guardian article is entitled: “James Lovelock: ‘enjoy life while you can: in 20 years global warming will hit the fan.'”

The subhead reads: “The climate science maverick believes catastrophe is inevitable, carbon offsetting is a joke and ethical living a scam. So what would he do?”

The opening paragraphs read:

  • In 1965 executives at Shell wanted to know what the world would look like in the year 2000. They consulted a range of experts, who speculated about fusion-powered hovercrafts and “all sorts of fanciful technological stuff”. When the oil company asked the scientist James Lovelock, he predicted that the main problem in 2000 would be the environment. “It will be worsening then to such an extent that it will seriously affect their business,” he said.
  • “And of course,” Lovelock says, with a smile 43 years later, “that’s almost exactly what’s happened.”
  • Lovelock has been dispensing predictions from his one-man laboratory in an old mill in Cornwall since the mid-1960s, the consistent accuracy of which have earned him a reputation as one of Britain’s most respected – if maverick – independent scientists. Working alone since the age of 40, he invented a device that detected CFCs, which helped detect the growing hole in the ozone layer, and introduced the Gaia hypothesis, a revolutionary theory that the Earth is a self-regulating super-organism. Initially ridiculed by many scientists as new age nonsense, today that theory forms the basis of almost all climate science.

[End of excerpt]


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