James Lovelock, who has been hailed as 'the man who conceived the first wholly new way of looking at life on earth since Charles Darwin' (Independent) and 'the most profound scientific thinker of our time' (Literary Review) continues, in his 95th year, to be the great scientific visionary of our age. This book introduces two new Lovelockian ideas. The first is that three hundred years ago, when Thomas Newcomen invented the steam engine, he was unknowingly beginning what Lovelock calls 'accelerated evolution', a process which is bringing about change on our planet roughly a million times faster than Darwinian evolution. The second is that as part of this process, humanity has the capacity to become the intelligent part of Gaia, the self-regulating Earth system whose discovery Lovelock first announced nearly 50 years ago. In addition, Lovelock gives here his reflections on how scientific advances are made, and his own remarkable life as a lone scientist.
The contribution of human beings to our planet is, Lovelock contends, similar to that of the early photosynthesizers around 3.4 billion years ago, which made the Earth's atmosphere what it was until very recently. By our domination and our invention, we are now changing the atmosphere again. There is little that can be done about this, but instead of feeling guilty about it we should recognise what is happening, prepare for change, and ensure that we survive as a species so we can contribute to - perhaps even guide - the next evolution of Gaia. The road will be rough, but if we are smart enough life will continue on Earth in some form far into the future.