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April 3, 2007

The Revenge of Gaia

Earth’s Climate Crisis & the Fate of Humanity
James Lovelock – ISBN 9780465041688

Gaia is a concept enveloping the entire earth: atmosphere, oceans, biosphere, crust of rock, etc . . . all of which function like a self-regulating, living super-organism. He intricately explains how Cartesian logic and science fail to explain simple, self-regulatory mechanisms, noting that analysis has failed as logic has become “circular” and inexplicable . . . one just intuits it, it seems. No one, including him, can fully understand or explain, but since he’s the professor we “just have to take his word for it.” (I do not disagree, but feel compelled to note how many things the cognoscenti are willing to “presume” as they deny the presumption of God.)

A not altogether unrelated quote, just for the hell of it:
“It’s amazing how evidence falls into place when you begin with the conclusion—and a hammer.” R. Joseph Hoffmann

Lovelock is an octogenarian scientist who helped introduce this concept, and while rational--unlike Al Gore--he is now insistent that all of the data indicate that we are approaching crisis mode. As with Gore, it seems to bother him little that a considerable number of serious climatologists—not T.V. weathermen, actors and politicians—disagree. He remains cantankerous and insistent that only he is correct.

I totally disagree with him--in principle and in fact. Still, he offers some wise counsel. His solutions are directed toward limiting greenhouse gasses, while mine are directed toward freeing ourselves from our dependence upon the damnable Middle-East with its corrupt dictatorships and maniacal religion, with an aside of minimizing whatever nominal effect humanity might have on the “biosphere of Gaia.”

Like him, I’m concerned about the decline of civilization, but Islam is a far greater risk than Mother Nature in my estimation.

His discussion includes a formidable amount of interesting and informative data, and in fairness he launches several serious attacks upon his “green friends,” such as our impassioned fears of radiation and the belief that somehow we can, with logic, arrive at “sustainable development” with “renewable energy supplies.” He emphasizes:

• To grow sufficient renewables to power (only) our planes, trains, ships and automobiles would require all of Earth’s arable land, and a couple more Earth sized planets!

• A continuous, uninterrupted supply of electrical energy is vital. A 21st century city denied electricity would, in but a few weeks, decline to a state comparable with a camp housing millions of starving and painfully uncomfortable refugees.

• Wind enthusiasts overlook the fact that to supply the UK’s present electricity needs would require 276,000 generators—about 3 per square mile--and even with this the fossil fuel generators would be required nearly 75% of the time, and have to be kept idling continuously, when not on line.

• Hydro-electric power, while safe and convenient, and classically renewable, is limited by both the number of rivers and our unwillingness to dam them all just for power. Hence it is only a marginal source of power.

• Solar energy, likewise, is impractical and very expensive. It would require paving the deserts at considerable expense . . . and even then it would not come close to providing sufficient energy to account for much.

“IF Kyoto had been influenced more by the pragmatism of scientists and engineers and less by romantic idealism, we might soon have harvested fusion energy.”

• Nuclear fission must be implemented, and fusion energy can probably be achieved within several decades . . . but only if we seriously pursue it. “An outstanding advantage of nuclear over fossil fuel energy is how easy it is to deal with the waste it produces.”

• The carbon dioxide generated by our current burning of fossil fuels produces two million times as much waste as would be produced by nuclear fission. The carbon dioxide waste is invisible, but infinitely more deadly.

• The problem with nuclear power is political! The technology exists and is much safer than commonly believed, and infinitely less damaging.

“You would not subject yourself to surgery by a novice [who had read some books] . . . so why should we trust urban environmentalists to advise our elected governments on how to make laws intended for the welfare of our planet?” Less, still, John Travolta?

Further, he discusses that since Silent Spring (Rachel Carlson’s diatribe on pesticides from the evil chemical industry) we have become unduly frightened of chemicals, and insist at our peril that the environment and our food be kept free of all chemicals. Similarly he attacks the mythical portions of “acid rain.” And he’s death on organic foods, pointing out all of the drawbacks and inefficiencies (not to mention the insufficiencies.)

His discussion of our trivial, “even imaginary” concerns about the risks of cancer from mobile telephones, pesticide residues in food, sunlight is enlightening, as “we are indeed straining at a gnat but swallowing a camel with ease.”

Overall an illuminating read, and a well written book with an appropriate edge of humor as he “pimps” us over our dangerous and unrealistic attitudes and fears. Highly recommended !!

Keep in mind that nuclear energy is emission free and independent of imports.

“There is no alternative but nuclear fission energy until fusion energy and sensible forms of renewable energy [are explored and delineated.]”

Posted by respeto at April 3, 2007 4:20 PM