This book is not optimistic as the author believes it is already too late to work on sustainable development and that we have to operate a sustainable retreat.
I truly enjoyed this as there are many elements worth reading, such as why nuclear is a chance and not a menace for us or what could be the solutions.This retreat would lead us to live in polar cities as the atmosphere everywhere else would be unsuitable for life. This is too me a bit far fetched and from what I read from the IPCC reports, it seems that this scenario could occur if we didn’t move fast or big enough.
This is indeed a risk and at the time of publication of this book – early 2006 – the situation was much different than today. Only recently did the United States, China and Australia became aware of what risks a full scale climate change could be and begun acting on climate change mitigation.
The speed at which policies are unfolding in the world – also in France with the Grenelle – make me think that a solution is at hand and that we could avoid the worth from happening
One could indeed question the idea of this retreat but the deployed means in Lovelock’s argumentation are worth reading.
Gaïa refers to the idea that Earth is alive, in the meaning that it can regulates itself and is “a physiological system”. The idea was created at the end of the 1960s and as gained credence ever since.
Lovelock has a very interesting way of seeing renewable energies. He states that they have nuclear origin as the sun is a huge nuclear plant, so solar energies harvest nuclear energy. It is quite the same for geothermal energy as they gather energy from Earth’s core.
The author regards solar thermal a “sensible way of decreasing the energy from fossil fuels” (page 68) but is absolutely against wind turbines as they are a nuisance to the countryside.
On nuclear itself, I find this quote interesting as it sums up very well his views :
My insistence on the need for nuclear energy in this book comes because there is no other safe and reliable alternative for the large scale production of electricity.
Dr. Lovelock mentions a Swiss study that counted the casualties due to several energy sources in the world. Nuclear happens to be the least lethal energy compared to natural gas, coal and hydro. (page 102)
Even if to Dr. Lovelock the idea of sustainable development is wrong, he gives a remarkable definition of it as he believes that the well being of Gaïa comes before ours. Indeed, without a healthy Gaïa where would we go ? (quick answer : nowhere ! )
It is not a book I would recommend for someone who is new to climate change or sustainable development. If you are in this case, I strongly recommend you Collapse how societies choose to fail or succeed by Jared Diamond ( see my review there )
If you are fortunate enough to read French, I strongly recommend you to read Le Plein s’il vous plait by Jean-Marc Jancovici and Alain Legrand. ( see my review there [Fr] )
I give this book a grade of 16/20 and appreciated it the developed views on nuclear, energy in general, biology and the importance of chemical pollution.