That current problem aside, mass migration, famine and epidemics are the forecast for the future. This is where Lovelock sees a role for nuclear power. Technology, he thinks, is the only salvation, and this probably will include synthesized foodstuffs. He also supports fracking, yet another issue that puts him at loggerheads with the green movement. He only sees it as a pragmatic measure, to buy some more time.
Oddly enough, Lovelock remains an optimist, and describes himself as “cheerful.” Those who have met him say he is wonderful company, full of zeal and love of life. In one interview he compared the state of things now with the world in 1938 on the brink of the Second World War. He remarked that the war was somehow liberating, as, once it got going, people “loved the things they could do,”it gave them a sense of purpose. He believes we are in a similar state today. Knowing something terrible is on the horizon, and having it actually happen, are two differing conditions, and people are better prepared to get on with it when they have to.
He says there have been seven disasters since humans evolved and the one that is about to happen, as before, will “separate the wheat from the chaff” but out of that, a person may emerge who “really does understand” and can “Live with it properly.” This is the bedrock of his optimism. At one of these catastrophic and violent junctures only 2,000 individuals were left. Evidently, they adapted and survived.
Quite recently, he did admit he had gone too far with his scare-mongering ideas and perhaps had “extrapolated too far.” This was when he wrote that only a few breeding pairs of humans would survive, and live a hunter-gatherer type existence in the Arctic. Billions of others would have been wiped out. At that point, the data did not correlate with his previous predictions, and there had been a slight slowing down in the temperature rise. He did admit he had made a mistake but insisted that it was only a deference. He gave these comments in an interview on MSNBC, adding Al Gore’s book An Inconvenient Truth had made the same mistake.
Lovelock has never fit the mould, and is an autodidact, he learned his science from library books. His parents were not well-off enough for him to go to university and so he got a job as a lab assistant. He believes if he had a conventional scientific education he would have been corralled into a speciality. He did eventually get to Manchester University, but he could only afford two out of the three years course in chemistry. Instead, he has remained a generalist, unique in these times. He does not believe he would ever have had the epiphany which led to the Gaia theory if he had been funneled into a narrow field of discipline.
That is not to say the Gaia theory was not rigorously tested. He tested it his own way, by creating a computer model of a planet he called Daisyworld,which could become self-regulating through natural selection. It was a simple model, and it irritated scientists at the time, but it has remained unfalsified. It was his close friend and neighbour, William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, who came up with the name of Gaia. She was the earth goddess in Greek mythology.
Perhaps it is this mythical, rather romantic, name that has led to some becoming almost Gaia worshippers. To Lovelock, Gaia is science not religion and he refuses to have “faith” in it. He prefers to keep it at “trust.” The most difficult aspect of the Gaia theory is that it is not invested in the future success of the human race. Gaia seeks only to renew itself.
Humans and all their plans are irrelevant to the rebalancing of the system if they get in the way. Writer John Gray, who interviewed Lovelock in 2013, goes to far as to conclude that “finally dislodging the human animal from primacy in the world” could be seen as “completing Darwin’s work.” More
James Lovelock is best known as the father of Gaia theory; the idea that all parts of our planet form a complex interacting system, like a single organism. His new book depicts Gaia in trouble. In this interview Lovelock sounds a final warning for planet earth and enthuses about his upcoming space trip.