A dusty hovering in a sunbeam

The Earth and I
Forfatter: James Lovelock
Forlag: Taschen Books (UK)
EARTH / For many, James Lovelock has been a science enfant terrible for around 50 years.


“We are buried under rapidly growing data mountains. Against this backdrop, this book is not intended to contribute to the amount of information, but to the real knowledge. ”The quote author is the man behind The Earth and I, 98-year-old (!) British James Lovelock.

Lovelock's book serves as a travel guide into the future, and included in the journey are experts in fields such as quantum physics, astronomy, philosophy, geology and neurology. The strange thing is that despite this high professional competence, the book is experienced almost as easy to read. Also thanks to large, explanatory illustrations.

The father of Gaia theory

The Earth and I is thematically the continuation of a life's work. For many, James Lovelock has been a scientist child terrible for about 50 years, ever since he developed his own ideas about Gaia, the Earth as a whole and self-regulating organism. At that time, the terms environmental protection and ecology were almost unknown or suspect, especially when presented by a researcher with no “proper” academic background.

When biology professors at British universities teach Gaii theory students, they often "forget" to mention the author. Even after decades of growing awareness of the dangers we expose to the planet and ourselves, Lovelock's position is contested. He made early doomsday prophecies. The earth would certainly come in, but in unfinished form. Lovelock also talked nicely about nuclear power. The 98-year-old is also cited as one of the world's 100 most important intellectuals and "one of the greatest thinkers of our time" (New Scientist).

“If I want company, I go to conferences two or three times a year. That's more than enough. "

Even this friendly white-haired gentleman explains his solitude and his home lab in Devon with the comment: “If I want company, I go to conferences two or three times a year. That is more than enough. ”Now, research has gone a long way since the early seventies, and so has The Earth and I-The Author. The snowball effect of human destruction destroyed even the visionaries' original imaginations, and in 2006 Lovelock alerted his readers with the book "Revenge of Gaia" (The Revenge of Gaia). Left alone, he explained, the Earth retains favorable conditions for its living organisms at all times. But man put himself out of this life-saving cycle, with disastrous consequences, and Gaia strikes back.

Not scares, but hope

Ten years later, "Father Earth" with friends has gone even further. The Earth and I is not about scares, but about hope; hope based on knowledge of the Earth, the universe and the geological era we have christened the "anthropocene", the age of man. With this project, Lovelock has colleagues from across the scientific spectrum, from the very big – the cosmos – to the vanishing little – the innermost in the atom. The chapters are called "Sun and superstorms", "Resilient planet", "From ants to elephants", "Think animal" and "Need for greed".

It will take a very long time for the combination of chip and biological life to give birth to entirely new life forms.

Despite the seriousness of the themes, the release nevertheless gives a refreshingly playful impression. Besides the almost naivistic drawings, the cover invites you to use your finger and slide on a spinning cardboard circle with a "window", which reveals the chapter titles one by one. A list of word explanations is good to resort to; also a bit of humor: "Eternity is very long, especially towards the end" (Woody Allen). But none of this attempts to explain that we are talking about phenomena that challenge human perceptions to the extreme. As astrophysicist Martin Rees says in the chapter "Pale blue spot," about the universe, galaxies and the Big Bang: "It is complexity, not sheer size, that makes things difficult to understand. Even an insect, with its layers upon layers of complexity, challenges the mind more than a star, where intense heat and the laws of gravity hinder complex chemistry. This is why less than one percent of scientists are particle physicists or astronomers, who study the boundaries of the very large and the very small. The rest face the challenges of the complicated, especially the environment and living systems. ”

Enlightenment time for evil

The reader who wonders – despairs – of how man, with his brilliantly developed brain, could start digging his own grave, gets a special thought in the chapter "Human perspective" by the philosopher John Gray. Here he brings man's conception of himself as the natural ruler of the world back to the age of enlightenment. During this period, the thinkers waged a battle to free man from the supremacy of God. The positivist movement (in the 18th and 19th centuries) – the one who says that knowledge can only be ascertained through experience, observation, measurement and logic – in its consequence elevated humanity to a status as the highest being. This led to a mechanical way of thinking, and thus the enlightenment time stood for the belief that the planet exists to be exploited by us. And Gray further sharpens the pen: "It is this enlightenment-inspired cult of human ingenuity that, more than any other modern way of thinking, prevents an intelligent response to climate problems."

Eternal adaptable soil

The Earth and I rounding off with Lovelock's conclusion: For the first time, nature has produced an animal capable of harvesting, storing and using information on a scale of enormous dimensions. Equally unique is our ability to do either harm or good. We are not a finished species. We are still under construction.
In the anthropocene age, Lovelock predicts, man can begin to create new forms of life, where we merge with our own technology. If we will. Admittedly, it will take a very long time for the combination of chip life and biological life to give birth to entirely new life forms. These children of the anthropocene will, among other things, get a whole new and lightning-fast perception of time. Our coming intelligence will bring life to an ever-adaptable planet.

Our total sorrow and happiness, thousands of religions, ideologies, economic doctrines, every sin and saint in our history, lived here.

What this new life will look like is in the stars. If we take a look at our own star from the room and think about it as from the future, we might be struck by a bit of nostalgia. Or as Carl Sagan says on the first page of Lovelock's anthology: “Look at that spot. It's here. It's home. Us. Everyone you loved, everyone you knew, everyone you ever heard of, all human creatures – here they lived their lives. Our total sorrow and happiness, thousands of religions, ideologies, economic doctrines, every culprit and saint in our history lived here – on a dusty floating in a ray of sun. ”

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