James Lovelock's Centennial
26 July 2019
James Lovelock was born 26 July, 1919 in Letchworth, UK’s first Garden City. Over the course of the century, Lovelock became known as both a pioneer in the field of environmental sciences, as well as a controversial figure within the discipline. Charting a unique path that has disregarded disciplinary boundaries, Lovelock has contributed to the study of aging, space exploration, geophysiology, as well as a number of maverick detection instruments and inventions. But perhaps most significantly, Lovelock will be remembered for drafting the Gaia Hypothesis - now Gaia Theory, which has profoundly shaped how we understand planetary science, climate change, and biodiversity loss.
The Gaia Hypothesis first emerged in 1965 when Lovelock was working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, searching for the possibility of life on Mars. Contemplating the barren surface and lack of atmosphere on the red planet, he thought how improbable the odds were for life to form and sustain on a planet. In comparison, Earth has maintained a variety of living forms for 4.5 billion years. “To keep constant something must be regulating it,” wrote Lovelock. His Gaia Hypothesis proposed that all life on Earth was interacting with the physical environment, to form a complex self-regulating system, which can be thought of as a single superorganism.
Gaia, named after the Greek goddess Earth, is a mythological figure. She is interested in history, cybernetics, fermentation, nuclear fission, and aliens. Gaia has metaphysical and political dimensions. She problematizes totality and requires a certain amount of faith. And in that sense, she is a controversial figure in science.
On the occasion of Jim’s birthday let’s reread Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979) and raise a toast to the scientist who has tried to restore the consciousness of the planet.
7:30PM – 8:30PM
Rereading Gaia reading group
9PM – 12AM
James Lovelock, Gaia: A New Look at Life on
Earth (reissued 2000)
Bruno Latour, "The Puzzling Face of Secular
Gaia", Facing Gaia: Six Lectures on the Political Theology of Nature (2013)
Dorion Sagan and Lynn Margulis, "Futures",
Slanted Truths: Essays on Gaia, Symbiosis, and Evolution (1997)
Jacques Grinevald, "Sketches for a History of the
Idea of the Biosphere", P. Bunyard (ed.) Gaia in Action: Science of the Living Earth (1996)