Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Here on Earth
A Natural History of the Planet
by Tim Flannery

Flannery's book is a summary of evolutionary science and the various threads of environmental science, starting with Darwin, with an emphasis on the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock, whom he regards as the heir to Darwin's colleague Alfred Russel Wallace.  The book is overdue at the library, so this will be brief. 
I have always considered the Gaia hypothesis to be anthropormorphic nonsense.  But as explained by Flannery, it makes sense, as long as you think of the earth as analogous to a living organism, but don't actually classify it as alive or in any way conscious. 
Where I really take issue is his Pollyannaish idea that overpopulation can be dealt with by making the third world more prosperous, while at the same time cutting back on the use of the fossil fuels that have been the basis of our prosperity.  Sadly, the use of extremely dispersed sources of energy such as solar is not going to be economically competitive with very dense sources of energy such as oil until oil becomes a lot more scarce and expensive. 

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