Magazine article The Spectator

A Few Thoughts on the Apocalypse

Magazine article The Spectator

A Few Thoughts on the Apocalypse

Article excerpt

It is hard for me not to like James Lovelock. South London grammarschool boy, walker, mountain climber, scientist and admirer of Margaret Thatcher: what is not to like? But as the creator of the Gaia hypothesis, he is arguably one of the most influential and provocative radical thinkers of the last 50 years.

Forty years ago he thought up the Gaia concept, and was attacked for what people misguidedly saw as a mystical idea, when it was a very scientific concept. He was described as a maverick, which he probably took as a compliment.

He is doing it again, with his new book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia (Allen Lane, £20). In it he predicts that it is too late to reverse climate change. Worse, it is approaching a tipping-point, and will soon accelerate with cataclysmic consequences.

But he is no easy ally to the Greens.

When I bumped into him this Monday in the Today studio, he had been on air charming the nation about this new book, with the delicately detached air of an absent-minded scientist. In person this delightful grey-haired 90-year-old made me think of Q in the Bond films.

Appropriate, really, since he once made gadgets for MI6. But out of the studio he was all business. 'Do you think you could introduce me to your spokesman?' he said. 'Which one?' said I, wondering if I could remember which member of the Tory front bench covered the area he was interested in.

'Don't know his name, ' he said, 'Useless with names. He wrote in the Times about a week ago. Terrible. Made me really angry. Completely Old Green.' 'Ah, that would be Greg Barker, ' I said.

'OK.' I had never heard the term 'Old Green' before, but reading his book I see what he meant. He is pretty scathing about some of the sloppy thinking of the 'Old Greens, ' and indeed about their prescriptions.

For example he is dismissive of wind farms, and is a firm believer in nuclear energy. He is very practical about it, though: 'It takes 15 years to get a project underway in this country, of which only five is actual building.' Lovelock argues that this is not about saving the planet -- it will take care of itself, he thinks -- but about saving humanity. His prognosis for mankind is dire.

He thinks that the Earth cannot support the close on seven billion people that it has now, and that much of this is to do with agriculture, not just the fashionable obsession with energy-generation methods. …

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