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Dr. Lovelock or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ecological Collapse

April 19, 2010

The BBC ran this awhile ago but apropos of the Icelandic volcano and its significant effects on reducing carbon output, I was reminded again of Lovelock’s theory about the “revenge of Gaia,” and the fear that we may have sealed our own fate already:

The man who achieved global fame for his theory that the whole earth is a single organism now believes that we can only hope that the earth will take care of itself in the face of completely unpredictable climate change.

Interviewed by Today presenter John Humphrys, videos of which you can see below, he said that while the earth’s future was utterly uncertain, mankind was not aware it had “pulled the trigger” on global warming as it built its civilizations.

The sort of amor fati and tragic pessimism Lovelock appears to be advocating reminds me of another apocalyptic rhetorician:

Optimism is cowardice.
We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honourable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man.
Somehow, I do not expect Lovelock’s attitudes to gain much support. Greens will cease to have a movement when they abandon the relatively anthropocentric idea of saving the environment in favor of hoping Gaia’s self-correction will do most of the work. Triumphalism will always play a more animating role in policy, so while we may not agree with the deep pessimism of a Spengler or a Lovelock, we might at least avoid the hubris of thinking we undo the effects of 200 years of human industrial society so easily.
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