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The Vanishing Face of Gaia

This is “A Final Warning” from James Lovelock, who first proposed the holistic Gaia hypothesis. He has some quotable stuff: “the breathing and other gaseous emissions (dare I say farts?) of 7 billion people, their pets and livestock are responsible for 23% of greenhouse gas emissions.” Add the fuel burnt in providing food for this lot to get to nearly 50%. What chance of the 60% reduction to keep CO2 in check without actually killing something?

We seem to be double screwed because such a reduction will also reduce our pollution haze, which helps global cooling. This I knew about already.

We’re fucked. So what can we salvage from the inevitable meltdown in a sustainable retreat? Clearly some number of ourselves would be good but more important would be the support of all the other species and ecosystems, which we have happily trashed the last few centuries.

I’ve been carrying in my head a sustainable world population of 1 billion but Lovelock suggests 100 million as a figure that could more or less do what it wanted. I like that idea. What’s the point of bringing humans into a world that restricts their full potential? The thing is: how do we get down to that number? (Hint: we may not have to; the planet may do it for us.)

I suggest a compromise of 700 million, which is a tenth of what we have. So we could decimate in the strictest sense. I rather like that: Decim8. Catchy, huh? With the implication that we need to do it before we hit 8 billion.

Fat chance. Lovelock wonders if the human gene pool holds one for being a beneficial part of Gaia. I think he’s being fanciful but it’s not too much to hope that such a meme exists. The question then becomes one of whether the coming crash will select for it. That is part of my (dystopic of course) future history for Flight of the Ark.

The Vanishing Face of Gaia is a book that few will read but few need to. What’s coming is coming and there ain’t a damn thing we can do about it.

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