I opened James Lovelock’s most recent book , A Rough Ride to the Future,with a prejudice. I had recently heard him assert that nuclear power plants were probably our best bet for the future. This amazing utterance came as I watched and heard him talk about his life’s work and his most recent conclusions regarding climate change and human possibilities. I was aghast. Thoughts of Fukushima and Chernobyl ran across my mind. James Lovelock is a very smart person, the one who gave us the Gaia concept, among other more plebian ideas and inventions, so I wanted to understand why he had come to, what seemed to me, such a strange conclusion.
I was a bit surprised at the ease with which I was able to secure a copy of the book from my local library; it’s testimony to how weakly engaged the public is with stuff that really matters. Popular new books are quickly booked up and you often have to wait for weeks before you can get a copy. This one, not so much. Anyway I suspended my disbelief and began reading. I was surprised again.
Lovelock had not lost any of his marbles; the book makes a cogent and plausible argument for abandoning the hubristic idea (his word) of saving the planet. Gaia, he reminds us, is self-regulating and we ought to be engaged in the business of figuring out how best we can accommodate the changes that the planet is going to make. Admittedly, the changes were probably caused by our actions, (our gas guzzling cars and conveniences included) but to imagine that without our interference everything would have stayed the same is really poor science. In any case, what’s done is done and the way forward should include the best ideas and practice we can muster. For lovelock that includes geo-engineering and nuclear power plants, if we can make them work.
We can’t save the planet (Gaia doesn’t need or want our help), but we can save ourselves if we are willing to change with it.