Visionary environmental scientist, James Lovelock reveals his recipe for surviving the coming eco-disaster in a wide-ranging conversation with Off-Grid.
James Lovelock put forward his theory of a self-regulating planet (christened Gaia by William Golding) some 40 years ago. He warned we were tampering with our own survival by blindly and wastefully consuming the earth’s resources. Biologists ignored him until recently. Now his early work has been proved right, but its too late to do anything about it, he says.
In his latest book, The Revenge of Gaia, Lovelock says the planet is now past the point of no return, and its self regulating feedback mechanisms are turning from maintaining a liveable planet into a downward spiral of warming and flooding that will soon lay waste to civilization as we know it. Now we must prepare to survive as best we can.
His recipe is simple: move out of the city if you can, to a temperate region well above sea level, and prepare for energy rationing.
Lovelock lives ON the grid in lovely house in Cornwall. The first thing I asked him was why did he not set an example and live by renewable energy alone. I think you are right, answered the sprightly 86-year-old, but the problem is I am quite old and work very hard, and taking on those thing is something you don’t do lightly. I don’t have the time to spare. My activity is better spent doing what I do and propagating ideas.
(Please click “more” for rest of story) The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back – and How We Can Still Save Humanity – buy it from Amazon UK – 11.89 – not yet available in the US
I live quite comfortably in the countryside, supplied by electricity, and I once enquired about running on water power but the legal restrictions were immense, and the cost of installing the equipment meant we would have had electricity at four to five times the cost. We couldn’t afford that.
We don’t waste any power at home, said Lovelock, who lives with his wife Sandy, who also took the photo. We heat our house with propane which is not a cheap fuel , but there was no incentive at all (to switch to renewables), which is maddening because water power is the best way of getting electricity. Our government is not interested in the individual benefits of water power. They are just given to grandiose gestures.
Gaia : A New Look at Life on Earth – Lovelock’s earlier book – buy it from Amazon $9.32
I am very suspicious of wind turbines — they are heavily subsidised and for the benefit of German industry. If they really worked I would be enthusiastic about them but they don’t . The correct way to get wind is a small turbine.
Together with his love of nuclear energy, this conversation with one of the gurus of the Green movement was a bit of a letdown. What, I asked, what we should do if, as he said, it was too late to stop the downward spiral of the planet’s fragile ecology. Lovelock’s answer was the green equivalent of Protect and Survive the cold war mantra for the anticipated nuclear winter that has yet to arrive.
We were thinking the other day back to harder times such as World War 2 when everyone lived in their kitchens, we didn’t heat the whole house you didn’t need to it s very difficult to get people to live sensibly and reduce consumption- you need a couragous government to say this is all the energy you can have this week its up to you what you do with it its what happened during the war. You had a limited supply of coal and you could burn it all in one go or make it last a week.
It will come to it,said Lovelock circumstances will drive us to it. As climate change develops this country will come more and more into the state it was in World war 2 dependent on its own resources for food and fuel. And its not possible to do that without rationing.
As this century advances life is going to be come increasingly difficult for all of us,he told me. Supplies of food will be increasingly dodgy. Civilisation is a bit like the Titanic its going to sink because its been holed by the iceberg. Its going to sink but there are lifeboats and you have to make sure they are fairly distributed and properly run.
The UK has the best chance in Europe. But sooner or later London will flood irretrievably and so will Liverpool. Government should be preparing housing for people on high enough ground where housing is impossibly low they have to do something about it. You have to think about the viability of London as a city, the tube system for example will no longer work.
So if governments are not tackling the problem, and chaos is inevitable, what can we do on an individual level, I asked.
The firs thought that comes to my mind as individuals we will all have our private solutions. Where we have a fairly good idea of what we should be doing , we should go and do it. You can’t be too prescriptive here, if you are relatively poor and living in East London you are not in a comfortable position.
We have to survive we can’t do a damn thing about the global crisis We (in the UK) only do 2% (of total energy consumption) so if we cut back to nothing it wouldn’t be noticed. But really the way forward is to act local and think global. Try to keep civilization going.
Copyright Off-Grid 2006.
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