This evening I had a brave walk across the Thames in yet another horrid weather to attend a talk on climate change by an academic and inventor of the Gaia theory James Lovelock. I must admit I had only read a couple of articles about him, hence had no in-depth understanding of this theory. From what I read, he came across extremely skeptical about being ‘green’ and ‘trying to save the planet’. He believes the process of climate change cannot be reversed, extreme changes in climate have happened before, it is going to happen again and the only thing we can do is to ensure the survival of human species. So I was intrigued. And you know what, that’s just exactly how he was. In a very mannered way he delivered his view of a world that is ‘rather gloomy’ but one should ‘enjoy it while you can!’ His ideas appealed to me. I like how he sees the planet Earth and how, at the end of the day, he had a hint of optimism in his message. Lovelock refers to the Earth as if he is talking of a dear close friend. We need to realize that in fact, we are part of Gaia. He emphasized how the division of sciences in 19th century has led us to see the Earth as a ball of rock (‘utter nonsense’) and how it is important in education to link different kind of sciences to have a complete understanding of things.
He was very critical towards the political reality in steps towards combating climate change, which was wonderful. In Lovelock’s view the saddest thing in current decision-making is that the Earth doesn’t have a seat that speaks about the Planet. Right now there are simply small efforts by Western nations to decrease guilt and it’s not enough. Guilt is most inappropriate. Another point he made, was the importance of the empowerment of women and improving the education for women on family planning to help coping with climate change. As simply – we are way too many. Apparently the Earth could cope with 1-2,5 billion of us. Right now we are 6,9 billion. By us breathing, we produce 10 times more carbon emissions that all airlines in the world.
One question raised asked ‘Are we a virus as part of ‘Gaia’?’ Looking at Earth’s history, Lovelock said, originally the photo synthesizers, tiny green organisms, that appeared 3 billion years ago, were devastating polluters, but then Earth got used to it. In his view, we might be an evolutionary experiment and our presence here could be as important some day as we are the 1st intelligent species and Earth could begin to talk about itself.
Big was my surprise, when, during the Q & A session, a voice asking a question stated ‘Vivienne Westwood, a fashion designer.’ Obviously she didn’t ask a question, but rather made a statement that financial crisis is a match to the ecological crisis, adding a pinch of criticism towards politicians. I had no idea she was a political activist, voicing her concern on climate change and attending such an event.The only thing I know of her is that she designed the graduation gowns for King’s College. After the talk I was queuing to get my books signed by Lovelock and a chat with a schoolteacher made me aware of my ignorance in this field – I just don’t follow all those British magazines and I barely watch any TV – apparently she has interviewed and been a supporter of Lovelock’s ideas for quite some time. Here’s a video of an interview. I was quite surprised after the talk, that no-one went to talk to her, as she was simply hanging out there alone for some time. I wondered whether it was a way for people to protest against her wanting to make publicity at such an event (like the teacher) or simply people being British and finding it inappropriate. Ah you Brits, so many things to understand.
Anyhow, I’ll be sure to have his books as my bed-time read to have a better understanding of his views and I do hope he, being 90 years old, will be able to fulfill his dream and have a little tour in space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to see Gaia whilst it’s still there.