4.0 out of 5 stars An important book on our planet’s future
April 13, 2009
Review by Future Watch Rider
Book by James Loveluck
Lovelock merits our attention because he has been proven right in predicting grim events. Indeed, Lovelock’s grim views have in some ways been too optimistic in light of the speed with which the global environmental situation has been declining.
I think his views in this book are too pessimistic but Lovelock is a creative original thinker about science who does not fit into neat categories. He has infuriated a lot of his fellow environmentalists with his advocacy of nuclear power. He does so because he sees the huge size of the gap between what is needed and what exists. For example, President Obama has promised to “double” the percentage of renewable energy America uses in a few years. It sounds great….. until you realize renewable energy is less than one percent of America’s energy now. (Meanwhile, renewable energy is being very badly hurt by the global economic crisis.) Optimistic predictions about a “boom” in renewable energy over the past 20 years by various environmental advocates have turned out to be pie in the sky. It hasn’t happened. Hopefully, it will happen now. However, according to predictions of the International Energy Agency, the share of the world’s energy coming from coal, the worst form of energy, is going to go up, not down by 2020. This is why Lovelock also supports research on making coal less disastrous although it’s never going to be “clean” as claimed by the coal industry and its millions of dollars in advertising. (Some environmental purists have also attacked him for this.)
Lovelock’s book should be read in conjunction with a new book by Gus Speth The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability What is very interesting is that Speth was the founder of the World Resources Institute, one of the main American establishment environmental groups. What is very interesting is that Speth now also calls for radical change and expresses a deep disillusionment with the kind of moderate solutions he used to advocate.
What is lacking in this book is a clearer message of realistic hope. Today’s problems are not hopeless. I would recommend Lester Brown’s Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (Substantially Revised) I also have an Amazon Listmania list on my profile (which may be listed below in Listmania lists for this book) which covers other thoughtful books about the future.
Overall, Lovelock is worth reading. I have spent a good part of my life studying the scientific data about the environment. Never before in history has there been a bigger disconnect between science and politics than today. From the destruction of the world’s fisheries and rain forests to the poisoning of the air and the water, the warning signs are all there and have been there for a long time.
What’s new about today is that things have deteriorated to a point that debt and political and religious delusions can no longer paper over disastrous problems.
Is Lovelock correct in seeing a maximum capacity of two billion people (over four billion below today’s population) on our planet? I don’t know. What I do feel, however, is that if more people read his book, maybe the world could drum up the political courage to adopt long overdue reforms. If you are looking for sugary happy talk about how a “green economy” can be created by the exact same political and business leaders who created today’s global disaster – without a lot of pain and tough choices, this book is not for you. We desperately need a “green economy” but the public needs to know the truth about the cost. We are living in the greatest age of “green washing” in history. I don’t agree with all Lovelock says but he is truly prophetic figure who has had the courage of his convictions in dealing with both polluters and other environmental leaders. This book is worth reading.