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Daily Telegraph                     01/02/2006

Notebook
By Andrew Marr
(Filed: 01/02/2006)

Gaia's inventor is a Galileo for our times

Generally, one tries not to boost books or writers who come on to programmes beyond the fact that they're there. James Lovelock, however, has to be an exception. He is the man who devised the Gaia thesis, the belief that the dynamic systems of this planet are intertwined in complex patterns that keep Earth at the right temperature to sustain life - so that algae, bacteria, cloud patterns, ice and mammals are in some kind of grand dance.

It was a perception as radical in its way as Galileo's, and derived from Lovelock's time at Nasa, although the name was suggested by the novelist William Golding, a neighbour of Lovelock's, when the two of them were walking down a village street.

"Gaia" took a battering. Its critics included biologists who did not see how different species and systems could evolve together. More dangerous, perhaps, were some of its friends, the hippy romantics who didn't understand that Gaia was a beautiful metaphor for hard science, and who thought Lovelock had proved the Earth was a living being.

He is winning his argument, and his final testament about the catastrophe of global warming is probably the most important book for decades. It is scary, but offers ways out many greens will recoil from - no to windfarms, yes to nuclear power; forget sustainable development, but hurray for mobile phones and the internet.

Lovelock deserves to stir up a Galileo-sized political storm, though one trusts without the same personal repercussions.