OR, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love CO2
Note: this is what I was working on in early 2020 just before the C19 event, after which nobody was talking about anything else, so it made little impact. Lovelock died in July 22, and this is an updated version of the essay.
James Ephraim Lovelock was the much honoured British scientist famous for a beautiful and irresistible idea known as the Gaia hypothesis. Dr Lovelock was a self-made man in the best tradition of scientists of a previous age. His parents were poor, and he financed his own education through evening classes at Birkbeck college before being accepted into Manchester University to study Chemistry. He went on to receive a PhD from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, worked at the London Institute for Medical Research and conducted research at both Yale and Harvard Universities. While his work up to this point had been in the medical field, in 1961 he was engaged by NASA to develop instruments for the study of the atmospheres of other planets. He invented an electron capture detector, which led to the discovery that chlorofluorocarbons were depleting the Earth’s ozone layer. He was studying the planet Mars, knowing that if life existed on the planet it would have altered the composition of its atmosphere. It was the inert stability of the Martian atmosphere, with its dearth of oxygen, hydrogen or methane and its disproportionate abundance of carbon dioxide, that told him that the planet was dead: a stark contrast with the chemically dynamic nature of Earth’s biosphere. It was as a result of this that he began to develop his Gaia hypothesis.
Essentially the Gaia concept is that the animate and inanimate components of planet Earth together constitute a self-regulating, interactive system that can be thought of in its totality as a single living organism. The biosphere, in other words, has a regulatory effect on the environment that acts to preserve the balance necessary to sustain life. It builds on the so-called CLAW hypothesis (an acronym of the names of four collaborating scientists, Charlson, Lovelock, Andreas and Warren) proposing negative feedback loops between oceanic ecosystems and earth’s climate. As an example, Lovelock detailed the role of marine phytoplankton’s production of dimethyl sulphide in response to rises in temperature. The sulphide rises into the atmosphere, seeding clouds, the resultant albedo effect then cooling the surface. The feedback also works in reverse, falls in temperature leading to lower production of sulphide, decreased albedo, and an increase of sunlight reaching the surface. Thus Gaia is characterised by negative feedbacks preserving a planetary-scale homeostasis: “a biocybernetic universal system tendency”, in Lovelock’s original formulation.
The hypothesis has that quality of many brilliant ideas, that once conceived it seems absolutely obvious, and amazing that nobody had articulated it before. Of course this is how it is. Higher temperatures increase evaporation, which enhances albedo through both cloud-cover and leaf-cover. The fact that the oceans release CO2 as they warm, meeting the expanding needs of accelerated plant-growth, is one of many such data-points that make a teleological interpretation rather difficult to resist, not only in my view but more importantly in the implications of the work of many twentieth century scientists whose discoveries led them to similar epiphanies.
The only people who couldn’t accept it were militant materialists like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, to whom the idea that nature might attain spontaneous balance and order seemed a little too redolent of an intelligent system to suit his nihilistic view of the universe. John Maynard Smith, who made his name by the application of game theory to evolution, called the Gaia hypothesis an “evil religion” in a quite manaical outburst.
Lovelock’s theory does not go beyond the parameters of science; any such inferences are left to others to make. It’s true that a teleological inference is invited by the personification of homeostatic earth systems as Gaia, the Greek Earth goddess, but it was intended merely as shorthand for a complex theory. The name, without which one doubts whether the idea would have become so well-known beyond scientific circles, was suggested by his neighbour and friend, the novelist William Golding, and Lovelock certainly encouraged the inference by constantly referring to his ‘system tendency’ as ‘She’, ‘Mother Nature’ and so on. But it’s a metaphor, not intended to be taken literally.
“The Gaia Hypothesis, now Gaia Theory, is still up for trial,” wrote Lovelock in the nineties. “A common criticism is of teleology. This accusation is unjust; neither purpose or foresight were ever claimed. Whether right or wrong, it is a testable theory and capable of making ‘risky’ predictions.”
[Note – “a prediction made on the basis of a scientific hypothesis that has a real possibility of proving that hypothesis wrong. The influencial philosopher of science Karl Popper (1902–1994) held that scientific theories must be tested by means of such predictions.]
Gaia theory has gradually been accepted into the academic mainstream, where it is generally taught under the title of Earth Systems Science.
In 1974, at the age of 55, Lovelock was elected to Britain’s Royal Society of scientists in recognition of his work on cryopreservation, atmospheric physics, marine biology, gas chromatography and much more. He served as president of the Marine Biological Association, became an honorary fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford, and continued his work as an independent scientist, author and inventor. In 1990 he was awarded a CBE — Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
It was only after the turn of the century that Lovelock’s career entered a chaotic phase that did considerable damage to his reputation, with his involvement in the catastrophic global warming movement. In 2006 he published a book which he would repudiate within a few years. Its premise was that destruction of primary forest and consequent reduction in biodiversity is stretching Gaia’s capacity to absorb the additional greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels. It was Lovelock’s apocalyptic projection of this observation into the future that suggested the book’s sensationalist B-movie-style title, The Revenge of Gaia. In his thesis, humanity’s destruction of tropical rainforest eliminated the regulatory negative feedbacks and switched them into positive mode — vicious cycles, in other words. Warming oceans would extend the thermocline layer of tropical waters into the the Arctic, preventing oceanic nutrients from rising to the surface waters and eliminating the blooms of phytoplankton on which food chains depend. Most of the earth’s surface, he predicted, would be turned to desert. The Sahara would reach to Paris and Berlin. All food production in Europe would cease; billions would die — 80% of the human race, he predicted — and by the end of the 21st century human survival would depend on a few breeding pairs of humans who had managed to hang on in the Arctic, the only region where the climate would remain tolerable. The only way to avoid this apocalyptic scenario would be the exclusive adoption of nuclear power, radioactive waste being absolutely preferable to “that truly malign waste, carbon dioxide.”
“The earth is about to fall into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years,” he said in an interview with The Independent newspaper. “We have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act, and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can.”
His hyperbole fed into the millennial panic promoted by profiteers like Al Gore and Maurice Strong.
It’s an astonishing episode in the thought-history of the scientist — to go from conceiving of the Earth as a living, self-regulating organism to characterising atmospheric carbon, the foundation of all life on the planet, as “truly malign”. How could such a contradiction be resolved? Was the Earth Goddess so fragile that the evolution of a creative life-form would destroy her capacity to sustain life?
If the Gaia hypothesis is valid, then humanity, like every other species on the planet, must be thought of as a cog in the “biocybernetic universal system tendency” — a child of Gaia. Of course humanity has an effect on the environment. But the same is true of all other species — in fact that is the basis of the whole Gaia hypothesis, that Earth’s dynamic atmosphere is the product of its biosphere. So the question is at what point did we depart from our natural destiny to the extent of exhausting the mother’s tolerance for her problem child and invoking her fury? Something about us, according to the catastrophists, puts us in opposition to the Gaia system — but what? How do we define it?
During Locklock’s 21st Century catastrophist digression, he pinpointed that original sin as humankind’s use of fire.
“Our giant mistake was combustion, learning to burn things. At first it was harmless, just for cooking. But we never stop at that level, we start doing it on a grand scale, like burning down whole forests because you get cooked meat much cheaper that way, it’s much less effort. That was our mistake, and we’ve been making it for a long time. We’re only just beginning to discover how serious a mistake it was.” (Pioneer Productions, 2007)
So it’s not just about fossil fuels; it’s about fire itself. Once again, a mythological context is evoked: the Promethean theft of fire from the gods of Mount Olympus. To argue that humanity’s accessing of energy from combustion is in itself wrong and immoral is to say that we rebelled against Gaia at the very beginning of our existence. Even our hominid precursors used fire. Did it really all go wrong when Prometheus saved us poor naked humans with the gift of fire, the spark of all technology and civilisation?
Lovelock does not condemn the use of fire for cooking, which increased human lifespan and cognitive development. He condemns its misuse by Homo Sapiens as a weapon, for fire-drive hunting, land-clearance, warfare, and and so on. It is a moral rather than a scientific distinction, in line with Lovelock’s Quaker upbringing rather than his scientific career. Humans are an ‘unpleasant’ species, which does ‘bad’ things. The taming of fire is The Fall of Man. It’s the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, in Genesis 3.
But Gaia does not make ethical judgments. Species are selected, according the theory, not only for their ability to adapt to the environment, but for their contribution to adapting the environment to the needs of life on the planet, that is, their tendency to contribute to the homeostasis of the system. Since plants require CO2, it would seem obvious that a species such as humans, producing CO2 through combustion, would be of value to Gaia and contribute to the homeostatic system tendency. For the originator of Gaia theory to overlook this patently crucial contribution to planetary homeostasis is difficult to explain.
In any case, if the problem is that we produce the “malign waste” of CO2 — which is essential to the continuation of that system — then how are we different from bacteria and decaying vegetation and volcanoes and oceans and all the other sources of carbon dioxide, responsible for the presence of at least 97% of the life-giving gas in the atmosphere? The argument and his statements in support of it represent an absolute contradiction of his original hypothesis that could only make sense if humanity is viewed as separate from the Gaia system. How could that be true of our species, unless we came from somewhere else or were genetically engineered by aliens or something like that? Lovelock never espoused any such notion.
Less than a year after this attack of panic-stricken hyperbole, Lovelock was already backing off from his melodramatic pronouncements, saying that the climate would stabilise and that the Earth was in no danger. Nevertheless, in an article in Nature in 2007, he promoted a geo-engineering solution using ocean pumps to bring water up from beneath the thermocline to “fertilise algae in the surface waters and encourage them to bloom”, thus accelerating the transfer of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the oceans, where it would eventually fall to the bottom in the form of ‘marine snow’. His drift into the eugenicist worldview behind catastrophic global warming theory was confirmed in 2009 when he became a patron of the organisation Population Matters (formerly the Optimum Population Trust).
Lovelock’s geo-engineering scheme attracted a lot of media attention and was roundly criticised in some quarters. “It doesn’t make sense,” objected Corinne la Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia, in an article in The Times. “There is absolutely no evidence that climate engineering options work or even go in the right direction. I’m astonished that they published this. Before any geo-engineering is put to work a massive amount of research is needed – research which will take twenty to thirty years”. That didn’t stop a commercial company from designing the technology to realise Lovelock’s proposal for marine biological sequestration of CO2.
By 2012 Lovelock had come to his senses, and thoroughly repudiated his Revenge of Gaia aberration, saying he had made a mistake and been guilty of alarmism in that book, and dismissing Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth in the same terms. He called anthropogenic global warming theory ‘green drivel’, and accused the alarmists of behaving like the priests of a new religion.
“It just so happens that the green religion is now taking over from the Christian religion,” he said in an interview with the Toronto Sun (“Green ‘drivel’ exposed”, 23 June 2012.) “I don’t think people have noticed that, but it’s got all the sort of terms that religions use… The greens use guilt. That just shows how religious greens are. You can’t win people round by saying they are guilty for putting [carbon dioxide] in the air.”
His repudiation of his 2006 work was explicit. In an MSNBC article Lovelock made it clear that “we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew twenty years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened. The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now. The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… [the temperature] has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that.”
The point is well made and still valid in 2023; the millennial temperature plateau turned into a decline, already a problem for the University of East Anglia’s ‘Climategate’ scientists as early as 2010, as they schemed to “hide the decline”, and current data confirms that global temperatures are now in a seven-year cooling trend. Whether this mitigation is a matter of sun cycles or homeostatic mechanisms at work, as detailed in the work that made Lovelock’s name as a scientist, the fact is that the climate alarmists have never made a single prediction that has been fulfilled. As Hannah Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), “There is hardly a better way to avoid discussion than by releasing an argument from the control of the present and by saying that only the future will reveal its merits.”
Lovelock’s catastrophist outlook at this point was in direct contradiction not only to his own theory but well-established scientific fact: for example, the logarithmic dependence of temperature on atmospheric carbon concentration — i.e., that the progressive addition of CO2 to the atmosphere has less and less effect on temperature, and no effect at all beyond the point of carbon saturation at around 1200 ppm. Therefore — and Lovelock must know this — there can be no ‘tipping point’, no ‘runaway greenhouse effect’ due to atmospheric carbon dioxide. In other interviews post-2012 he admits to elementary mistakes or oversights, such as the cooling haze-effect of industrial pollution, which renders ‘clean-world’ models obsolete. It’s difficult to believe that any atmospheric scientist would not know this; after all, the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions which atmospheric geo-engineering schemes seek to imitate had been conclusively demonstrated by a series of volcanic eruptions in recent history: Mt. St Helens (1980), El Chichón (1982), and Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. I remember these ‘years without a summer’ very well, and so do the geo-engineers.
Either he was ignorant of the global dimming brought about by volcanic eruptions, or he failed to make the most obvious of connections; such a glaring critical lacuna on the part of this undoubted genius, I’m afraid, strains belief. He could not not have known this. His defense would be, as per the original hypothesis, that humankind’s destruction of primary forest undermines the planet’s ability to correct for rising temperature by pulling atmospheric carbon out of the atmosphere. But higher availability of carbon dioxide for photosynthesis leads to increased plant growth everywhere (NASA, CSIRO), in a negative feedback loop which is central to his own Gaia theory. So there is something profoundly aberrant about this episode. Had Lovelock entered some kind of fugue state in which he spouted apocalyptic visions incompatible with his signature theory? Was his mind overpowered by crude propaganda, like any unscientific paeon?
This scientific giant was already in his eighties when he sold out his sophisticated vision of earth’s compensatory mechanisms to the politically and financially motivated purveyors of junk UN climate science. But he was not senile, far from it. Even in interviews given in his centenary year, he is as articulate as ever, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with his powers of recall. No, there must be else something more behind his aberration. It’s a hard thought to accept, given his attractively naïf persona and infectiously mischievous sense of humour. Perhaps that last quality holds the key, and Lovelock should ultimately be seen as an archetypal trickster figure; underneath the optimistic grin lay something more ruthless, to which he was prepared to sacrifice even his own scientific reputation. This charming and brilliant man had long been an admitted Malthusian, who accepted the premise that the Earth is over-populated and that Gaia must inevitably rebalance herself by wiping out a species whose impacts can no longer be accommodated within the Earth’s homeostatic systems.
Remember, it’s not just modern man that’s damaging the planet. The first people to move to Australia, during one of the previous ice ages a long time ago, managed to destroy almost the whole ecosystem of that continent with just quite simple tools. Fire-drive hunting and tricks of that kind. So we’re a pretty unpleasant species in many respects and always have been. Modern man is just more efficient at doing bad things. (Pioneer Productions, 2007)
Asked in 2019 to “spend a few minutes telling us how you view Gaia now — what is Gaia?”, the centenarian Lovelock gives an answer which seems to mask a drawing back from the implications of his own theory, and of course we’d seen that before. But there’s something else rather intriguing about his teasing answer:
“You can’t sum up Gaia in a few words,” he says, “any more than I could sum up an answer to the question ‘Who am I?'”
It’s not a typical remark, and one gets the sense either that at a hundred years of age he feels safe to make an oblique confession, that it amuses him to invite a little speculation… for there is indeed more to Lovelock than meets the eye. After his death in 2022, various newspaper articles were written in which his ‘decades-long’ involvement with the British military intelligence were revealed, as confirmed by his private correspondence. These revelations were originally shared by the journalist Brian Appleyard, a WEF alumnus and fellow Commander of the British Empire. I think they served only to confirm what many already suspected. The Independent’s Year 2000 profile of the then 80-year-old scientist had touched on the same information in the rather coy formulation “a supporter of MI5”, which evokes a giggle from the great man. After all, how do you ‘support’ an intelligence agency? Intelligence agencies don’t require cheerleaders. But they do have many uses for genuine talent, in this case a phenomenally ingenious inventor, who, Appleyard asserts, served as the real-world equivalent of Q in the James Bond films: technologist to the spook world; Hephaestus to the Olympian gods.
Reviewing the outline of his career, it seems pretty obvious in retrospect. Mill Hill, Yale, NASA and JPL — and those billionaire-friendly research foci: cryogenics… airborne coronavirus transmission… his environmentalism, counter-intuitively, was undoubtedly of use in narrative-creation for a financial-corporate elite which saw the potential for control in apocalyptic visions of the consequences of human energy-use. As with Elon Musk, everything Lovelock worked on just happened to fit the globalist agenda as far as we know it (which is rather far) like a glove. As the elite worked to co-opt the nascent environmental movement in the wake of the Report from Iron Mountain, that electron capture detector was just the device they needed, able to detail the chemical pollution of all parts of the planet in microscopic detail, giving the movement extraordinary momentum. And — please don’t get me wrong — what his detector revealed about the ubiquity of pesticide residues and halogen compounds in every terrestrial region and biological niche is horrifying information which should have brought about changes in the way we farm. But in his climate alarmist period, Lovelock was not talking about these real problems, instead participating in the diversion of the movement into a war on carbon, a profound betrayal of the authentic environmental impulse.
Now, all this might conceivably occur unwittingly and coincidentally, these topics arising out of the cultural/scientific zeitgeist, so we can quite comfortably situate the manipulation further back in the causative chain. As a well-connected friend told me once, “You don’t even know you’re being recruited, the way they groom you.” Especially if you have been raised in almost total solitude by Quaker grandparents and have far more experience of, and interest in, the natural world than the human. I’m sure these agencies are very skilled in exploiting human naivety and innocence.
But at some point you know, and Lovelock was more than comfortable with it. His relationship to the agency, like his relationship to the truth, remains clouded. But he made no secret, at least as an old man, of his disdain for the common herd. In one of the centenary interviews he comments on Elon Musk’s desire to go and live on Mars, the solar system’s dead planet. The only explanation for such a stupid notion, he thinks, is that “He [Musk] must hate people even more than I do.”
It’s meant as a joke, but there’s a flicker across his face, as a remark so incongruous with his lovable persona hangs in the air for a moment… but the interviewer moves swiftly to the next question and that momentary embarrassment quickly evaporates. It’s not so much a critical lacuna as an ethical abyss over which some of his listeners must hover for an instant before grabbing for the next question.
Lovelock’s repudiation of his alarmist phase represented a return to science and sanity. Where a correlation appears to exist in the detailed climate reconstructions we now have, it is clear that temperature leads CO2 levels rather than following them. When it is warmer, more carbon dioxide appears in the atmosphere, not the other way round. For long periods in the record there is no linkage at all. And of course, as in Gaia theory, the Earth creates negative feedback loops which operate to mitigate extremes. Higher temperatures feed the water cycle; increased evaporation brings increased cloud cover, and the albedo effect cools the planet. In any case, a warmer planet is a wetter planet — a healthier planet, a better home. There is no runaway positive feedback triggered by CO2 or we would have seen it in the past, and the logarithmic dependence of temperature on CO2 concentration explains why not. The idea conflicts with Gaia Theory as well as the historical climate record. Lovelock’s description of CO2 as “truly malign” is an absolute contradiction of his theory, resulting from a deep-seated dualism, a categorical separation of the human animal from the rest of creation which makes no sense at all.
One way or another, Lovelock’s intervention in the global warming controversy did a lot of damage, hyping up the apocalyptic imagery and setting a precedent for geo-engineering which went completely against his original theory of a homeostatic biospheric-oceanic-geological system. Of course he was right to attack the destruction of primary forest and habitat by greedy corporations. Of course that is an insult to Gaia, and we must stop it from happening. But the destruction of rainforest is wrong in itself — not because we are destroying sinkholes for the ‘malign waste’ of carbon dioxide, which creates the forest in the first place, but because we are destroying forests!
The argument is completely backwards. We must defend the rich biodiversity of primary forest and other habitats from rapacious corporations for its own sake, not on account of some ill-grounded and irrational fears about average global temperature. The burning of any organic fuel, whether wood, peat, coal, oil or natural gas, produces carbon dioxide. To argue that mankind departs from nature and destroys the balance of the system by using the gift of fire is an absurd superstition, as Lovelock implicitly admitted with his comments about a ‘green religion’, and certainly no justification for ham-fisted interference in interactive Earth systems with the hubristic geo-engineering schemes which Lovelock once again starting touting in interviews as he approached his 100th birthday in 2019.
Human beings evolved on this planet and are a product of nature. At what point, then, can we say that our actions cease to be natural? At what point did we fall from ecological grace to the degree that the UN, or Lovelock in his 2006 nightmare, assumes? This is the philosophical question we must address in determining how we should move into a future which does not incur ‘Gaia’s Revenge’.
So I ask you to lay aside for a moment your preconceptions and to consider the climate question through the lens of the Gaia hypothesis. And let’s take the hypothesis seriously, as its author, perhaps, never really did.
When most of the major phyla of animal life suddenly arrived in the Cambrian era, atmospheric carbon dioxide was super-abundant at around 6,000 parts per million — as compared with the puny 400 ppm considered to be cause for such panic in our own times. Carbon is the basis of all known life-forms, its unique properties distinguishing it from other elements: specifically, its ability to form an endless diversity of organic compounds, with more than ten million scientifically described to date, a figure which represents only a fraction of those theoretically possible. In addition, it has an unusual ability at temperatures experienced on earth to form polymers, that is, macromolecules with repeating sequences, as found in DNA. It will not ionise under any but implausibly extreme conditions, and its allotropes are thermodynamically stable and chemically resistant. An atmosphere thus loaded with carbon is ready for the evolution of life.
CO2 levels were not much lower at the beginning of the Carboniferous, when great forests spread across the surface of the planet, drawing down most of this atmospheric carbon over the course of fifty million years and inducing a steep, deep plunge to less than 1,000 ppm. Levels stayed low throughout the Permian, with temperatures falling, before rising again steeply with carbon remaining low. Consistently high temperatures throughout the Triassic and Jurassic brought atmospheric carbon levels slowly back up to around 3,000 ppm at the beginning of the Cretaceous, 150 million years ago.
At that point, the proliferation of marine calcifying organisms become a major factor in the carbon cycle, locking up more and the element in calcium carbonate shells and exoskeletons, and ultimately in limestone and other carbonaceous sedimentary rocks. With more and more carbon inaccessible to the life-cycle in oil, coal and limestone deposits, atmospheric carbon entered on a continuous downward trend. At the height of the last glaciation it fell as low as 180 ppm, perilously close to the lower limit of 150 at which any plant — and therefore any life on earth — can survive. If the downward trend were to continue, all life on earth would go extinct within the next 2-3 million years.
Gaia had to do something to save herself. Something had to happen, and it did.
Homo sapiens were not the first to use fire — Neanderthals, Australopithecines and Homo Erectus had it too. Archeological evidence dates the earliest use of fire by human precursors at around 1 to 1.5 million years ago.
In Greek mythology, fire belonged to the Olympian gods and was stolen from them and given to humans by their creator, the Titan Prometheus, to alleviate their naked, defenceless state. There are rival etymologies for the name. It is usually thought to signify ‘forethought’, just as the name of his brother Epimetheus means ‘afterthought’, or lack of foresight. An equally convincing derivation identifies it with Proto-Indo-European roots, the Vedic pra math, “to steal”, hence pramathyu-s, “thief”.
So perhaps this theft of fire is our original sin, and we are cursed from the beginning. But Prometheus is the son of Themis, identified with divine law, so let us leave that thought to one side for the moment. As well as giving humans divine fire, Prometheus taught them the arts of civilisation — writing, mathematics, agriculture, medicine and science. Prometheus thus stands for human creativity in all its aspects, and our ascent from primitive misery to a civilised condition. In any case, how is the taming of fire by hominids any more a case of ‘theft’ than the marine molluscs’ appropriation of carbon for their shells? Fire belongs to the gods, you might say; it’s a plasma, the fourth phase of matter, very rarely glimpsed on the surface of this planet. That’s the difference.
Well, if fire is a glimpse of the divine, then carbon — the miracle element which is the basis of life on earth — must certainly be considered so. It was the study of the impossible precision of the processes involved in its stellar nucleosynthesis that led another British scientist, the astro-physicist Sir Fred Hoyle, to his conviction of an intelligent universe.
When Zeus, the king of the gods, discovered the theft of fire he was furious, fearing that humans would in time become powerful enough overthrow the Olympians. He inflicted a hideous and eternal punishment on Prometheus, chaining him to a rock in the Caucasus mountains and sending an eagle to gnaw out his liver in an agonising torture, a perpetual living death: as an immortal, Prometheus could not die, and his liver regenerated every night, only for the eagle to eat it again the next day, and so on for all eternity, as Zeus intended. However, after thirty thousand years of this torment, the hero Heracles passed by on his search for the Apples of Hesperides, killed the eagle, and freed Prometheus from his agony.
Of course the Promethean theft represents the ambiguity inherent in human ingenuity. Without divine fire, humans, the weakest of animals, would not have survived at all. But with it, they had heat and light and defence against night-predators, the means to create weapons, and eventually to smelt metals, drive engines and generate electricity, and they not only survived and prospered, but began to revive the impoverished carbon cycle by unlocking the element from mineral deposits and releasing it back into the air.
The industrial revolution was powered by coal. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, humans began bringing oil deposits back into the cycle. As atmospheric carbon rose and Earth began tentatively to emerge from its carbon famine, a wonderful thing started to happen — across the surface of the planet, vegetation thrived, growing faster and stronger, especially in dry, semi-desert areas, since carbon dioxide confers drought-resistance on plants, enabling them to use and conserve water more efficiently. Increased crop yields promised to relieve human hunger and poverty, for even in the twentieth-first century much of humanity was still in the miserable state which had evoked the pity of the Titan.
CO2 greening the deserts — CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)
It is industrial development that registered that tiny uptick in atmospheric carbon to 400+ ppm in our own times, and the rise is feeding reforestation. Tree cover is greater now than it was a hundred and fifty years ago. The use of coal, and later oil, prevented the utter destruction of forests across all of Northern Europe during the industrial revolution, giving us a much more concentrated fuel than wood.
And so it was that coal saved the forests. Forest cover continues to expand, though admittedly this is mainly in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions, and tropical rainforest continues to suffer destruction. We must stop this — but doing so does not require the dismantling of industrial civilisation in the West as envisioned by UN’s agenda 21, which seeks to deny humanity access to 98% of the energy available to it at current levels of technological development.
It is humanity’s production of CO2 that has begun to reverse the disastrous decline of atmospheric carbon which threatened all life on earth. Greenhouse farmers have long increased yields by pumping in carbon dioxide from special generators or engine exhausts. Scientifically literate farmers know that no matter how much they irrigate their fields and artificially fertilise their crops, atmospheric carbon is always the limiting factor on yields.
The Gaia hypothesis states that the biosphere regulates the atmosphere, and as part of the biosphere we have done what Gaia needed us to do. Carbon dioxide is the gas of life, and we are freeing it from its prisons.
None of this is an offence to Gaia.
Only to Zeus, the eternal enemy of mankind.
Must we side with the eugenicists at the UN, using global warming theory to block Third World development and dismantle the industrialism which increased human life-span and hugely improved our quality of life? Must we side with Zeus, the enemy of mankind, and return to the shivering vulnerability from which Prometheus rescued us?
A provocative argument, no doubt, and readers who have submitted to decades of unrelenting ‘global warming/climate change’ propaganda will probably find it utterly incomprehensible. But the past proves that carbon dioxide does not drive climate, and anyone who claims it does is a eugenicist liar or a useful idiot in their cause. Atmospheric carbon levels do not drive variations in temperature but follow them. Our tiny contributions to overall CO2 levels have a negligible effect on temperature, but make a huge difference to the health and proliferation of the plant-life on which every creature on this planet depends. Yes, the conflict and pain wrapped up in the Prometheus myth evokes the ambiguous impact of human creativity on the rest of creation. We must be thoughtful and responsible and ready to do battle with the greedy and destructive, the psychopathic strain within us. But let no one tell you that the gift of fire is a sin against nature or is destroying the planet. The opposite is true. These lies are coming from the enemies of mankind and of nature, who want to destroy this creation and substitute their own, becoming, as they hope, ‘gods’ in the process. The eugenicists want to deprive humanity of the energy it needs. They want to block Third World development. For them the end of poverty and hunger is the great catastrophe to be averted, because without it they lose their power at the top of this hierarchical society — and they have enlisted most of us unknowingly to their side, using our best instincts against us.
As for the point at which we genuinely depart from Gaia, severing our connection with nature and its self-regulatory negative feedbacks, I will offer two possible answers. The first will occur to many, and that would be when we split the atom, telling ourselves we had become Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds. Lovelock in 2006 was so horrified by a slight rise in CO2, the basis of all life on the planet, that he sang the praises of nuclear power to the rafters as the saviour of humanity and planet Earth, and that seems to me a glaring aberration, a defacement of the beauty of his theory, and a new departure from sanity and sense.
The other would be when we start to think we know better than the Earth Goddess herself, and start to try to re-engineer her systems, messing with ocean currents and modifying the weather, burying the gas of life in great vats underground, erecting a screen of metallic particles in the sky to block the sun. This is tragic hubris. To play God, to usurp Gaia, is utter insanity — utter Satanity.
That’s why I find Lovelock such a strange case. What happened to his powers of intuition that he took his great theory and brutally turned it inside out? What devil got into him? His playful imagination turned dark in a weird loss of faith in his own great discovery. Was he no better than the rest of us, swayed by the unrelenting propaganda of the eugenicists? As a scientist, was he betrayed by his own hatred of the human species?
He came partially to his senses for a time, rejecting the ‘green drivel’ of an inverted religion that demonises the element of life, before relapsing again in the last few years, proposing more and more bizarre geo-engineering projects to replace the planet’s own compensatory mechanisms.
Humanity has committed terrible crimes, but producing carbon dioxide is not one of them. It’s the psychopaths among us who want us to think that, to distract us from their own vast crimes against Nature.
We must stop destroying the sacred, ancient forests.
But we must not, cannot, renounce the gifts of Prometheus. Instead we must slay the eagle that never stops tormenting us, and reject Zeus and the eugenicists, the haters of mankind, the usurpers of Gaia.
4 thoughts on “THE STRANGE CASE OF DR LOVELOCK”
Whoa. Lot of work there, Paul. Appreciate your getting into the details of Lovelock.
Push come to shove, seems to me he buckled, having only scientific/intellectual comprehension primarily at the helm of his inner world and little feeling for his natural place on earth. All too common, to get caught up in the world of ones’ upbringing and never break free of it, losing the deeper, more passionate part of yourself along the way. Smart enough guy, Lovelock, but in the end he kinda shrugged it all off, not really caring to buck the tide and dig further to find a more powerful position. A British Empire “medal of honor” around your neck can have that effect.
Another thought– doesn’t the root of “-the-” come from “god” as in “theology”? This might then mean “Prometheus” is also something like “thief of god”, or “he who steals god”.
Yeah I think you got that right. He knew it but somehow didn’t feel it.
The sun , some kind of nuclear device it is surmised , sends energy our way . It is a partice , packets of particles , it is a wave , a wave particle, we’re not sure exactly what light is . In the 93 million miles of cold empty space it travels through there is no light , but no worries , when it gets here , it is warm . Scientists do say etcetera , a lot of etcetera , but no definitions .
If I am on a bridge of transition , having to change my life because of the cruel science/media fraud ‘virus’ imposed on the world for the last two years , so is the rest of the world .
The Sustainable Development Ghouls with their The Science , for all their busy-making effort and institutional capture , I think are failing in their propaganda , or as it is now called , strategic communications .
The first friend I can remember is a little girl who lived upstairs from us . He mother was featured in the Secret Life Of Plants , I later learned . Around sixteen I took long walks in an experimental farm … no one there at night . I took a fancy to having a giant sunflower , walked up to it and grabbed the stalk to break it . A violent jolt from it that threw me back forcefully, like I was hit . My first experience that plants are alive more than we think .
Later , Pierre Trudeau had declared the Just Society , feminism , musical beds , conceptual art and environmentalism was all the rage . I lived in a house of women at that time . I heard about goddess .
About Gaia I never heard , a word I did not yet know .
I spent my days then with an artisan from the Andes , who had a very different outlook . Conservative , something of an understatement .
I met a lot of people from south and central America , heard stories from the mountains and from the Oriente , the Amazon . I heard about Pachamama .
I was living in two very different worlds .
You could say , there are many influences that launched the psychedelic revolution . I think chief among them , though he didn’t intend it so , was a man who spent more time in the Amazon than any other , has more plants named after him than any other , Richard Evans Schultes . He made it known , he wanted to meet with the chief of an Amazon tribe , and he wanted to ask a question . This was granted , with some suspicion . He asked his question ; I want to learn about plants . Will you accept me as a student ? The stiffness evaporated , and the answer was Yes . No man had ever asked that before ; they had only come to teach , not to learn .
Whatever pressures on Lovelock from the science establishment , Royal Society et al , to conform , who knows . I think it could have been great .