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In A Rough Ride to the Future, James Lovelock – the great scientific visionary of our age – presents a radical vision of humanity's future as the thinking brain of our Earth-system. 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.
A Rough Ride to the Future 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 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 photosynthesisers 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.
James Lovelock, who was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis (now Gaia Theory). His many books on the subject include Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979), The Revenge of Gaia (2006), and The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009). In 2003 he was made a Companion of Honour by Her Majesty the Queen, in 2005 Prospect magazine named him one of the world's top 100 public intellectuals, and in 2006 he received the Wollaston Medal, the highest Award of the UK Geological Society.
"Sparkling, lucid, marvellous"
– Matt Ridley, The Times
"James Lovelock, the visionary wno gave the world Gaia theory, has lost none of his power to provoke [...] his ideas are fascinating"
– Robert Colville, Daily Telegraph
"A challenging book that seeks to move the argument about climate change and population growth to somewhere quite different [...] he has not lost his eloquence, wit or passionate anger"
– Camilla Cavendish, Sunday Times
"Part memoir of his long life in science and part prediction of whether humankind can survive"
– Stephen Moss, Guardian
"Very powerful [...] Read it"
– Popular Science