The Earth and I – is climate change moving too fast for a new book on climate change?

It is obviously unfair to dismiss the entire contents of a book for a single tin-eared statement, but the clunker that comes near the end of The Earth and I by Gaia-theory originator James Lovelock is a doozy. The inexplicable passage follows a dozen essays by journalists, a Nobel Prize winner, and several Ivy League professors, who make a pretty good case for both the insignificance of human beings in the universe and their unique ability to end life as we know it here on Planet Earth. In an attempt, then, to give his shell-shocked readers a sliver of hope by celebrating the success of the Montreal Protocol, which banned chlorofluorocarbons in 1989, Lovelock crows about how these ozone-destroying compounds were replaced by hydrofluorocarbons, which, he writes, “are far less harmful to the planetary environment.”

Somewhere between the time Lovelock wrote those words and the publication of his book, hydrofluorocarbons were added to the Montreal Protocol’s list of banned substances – eliminating “less harmful” hydrofluorocarbons is expected to keep our warming planet’s temperature from rising by a full half-degree Celsius.

The inability of even an authority like Lovelock to keep pace with current events points out how quickly both the science and politics of climate change are a changing. In this light, understanding the holistic view of the planet’s processes – from the weather above us to the meaning of the geological history below our feet – has never been more important. The Earth and I delivers on these topics and more, while Jack Hudson’s engaging illustrations lure us in and invite the eye to linger. Many readers may well be tempted to do just that, but they shouldn’t – at last report, Greenland and Antarctica were melting at alarming fast and irreversible rates.

The Earth and I
by James Lovelock (editor) and Jack Hudson (illustrator)
2016, 168 pages, 8.5 x 10.9 x 0.8 inches (hardcover)
$23 Buy a copy on Amazon

Notable Replies

  1. I think the person making that case is Ben Marks, and he's making the case in a blog post on BoingBoing by discussing this particular book.

  2. Geez they added HFC's to the Montreal Protocol on October 15th 2016. Like barely more than a month ago.

    If Ben knew anything about publishing he'd know that this book was likely penned at least a year ago.

    It's ironic, but it's hardly worth the scolding.

    If I was going to piss and moan about every dumb thing said about biology in books I'd be dehydrated and hoarse.

  3. So it is. I got the impression that the book, The Earth and I, was about dated publications rather than this being a review of The Earth and I.

    I hadn't seen an honestly critical assessment, instead of a thinly disguised ad, of a product on this site for so long that I got confused.

  4. Critical assessment ends with example of glaring outdated information.

    Amazon link provided anyway.

  5. tekk says:

    I didn't read it as a scolding, but almost a lament that things are moving so fast that books are literally out of date by the time they reach book shelves (well, a day after)

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