Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

A Rough Ride To The Future A Rough Ride To The Future
by James Lovelock

Supplied for review by Penguin Books New Zealand

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

I don’t review a lot of non-fiction, but for James Lovelock I’ll make an exception, especially since this book relates very much to science and the future. If you’ve heard of James Lovelock you’ll no doubt be aware that he is responsible for the Gaia Hypothesis, the idea that that living and non-living parts of the Earth form a complex interacting system that can be thought of as a single organism. Now, while this idea has been embraced by some of the eco-nuts out there with a religious fervour (all too literally in some cases), they seem much more reluctant to take some of Lovelock’s other ideas on board – such as his support for nuclear power as being safer and far less dangerous to the environment than many alternatives. The book is, in fact, very much a collection of ideas gathered into chapters on more-or-less the same subject. I say more-or-less because Lovelock has a tendency to wander off topic and to reminisce. This is quite understandable, because the man is in his mid-90s (and if I can think and write as coherently and intelligently as he does at that age, I’ll be impressed).

But it is for those ideas that you should read this book. Lovelock updates his previous works, bringing his Gaia hypothesis into the 2010’s. He addresses the question of why global warming hasn’t been as apparent as expected – it comes down to the fact that we don’t understand climate as much as we thought. He muses on the subject of the lone scientist, and whether the specialisation of much of modern scientific enquiry is a good thing. He presents the intriguing concept of the Anthropocene – the age of men, with its birth in the invention of the steam engine. But to me, the most important idea is the one that humans must try to survive through the rough times ahead, because humans are the mechanism by which Gaia can expand and grow beyond our Earth. And if that isn’t a cool SF concept, I don’t know what it is.

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