Book review: On Gaia by Toby Tyrrell

11th February 2014

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Stewardship ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Reviews



On Gaia

Toby Tyrrell / Princeton / Hardback / £24.95 / ISBN: 978-0-6911-2158-1

Some 40 years ago, James Lovelock posed the Gaia hypothesis: that life itself keeps the planet in check via feedback mechanisms. In this book, Toby Tyrrell, a professor of earth systems at Southampton University, re-examines the hypothesis in the context of scientific research that has taken place in recent decades.

Tyrrell takes us through a number of natural systems; some are the same examples Lovelock used, but he also offers case studies, which appear to counter the Gaia hypothesis. Tyrrell offers no conclusion at this point, but rather a series of well-stated facts, which is both a strength and a weakness.

Although the book contains a scientifically correct set of descriptors to support and counter Gaia, it is rather turgid wading through the facts. That said, Tyrrell is scrupulous in addressing Lovelock’s assertions.

Eventually, the author provides a conclusion. Unlike other rebuttals of Gaia, which have been unfounded dismissals, Tyrrell considers all the information in the preceding chapters. He asserts that Gaia does not stand up to scrutiny, but does not dismiss entirely all of the hypothesis and brings together several arguments to conclude that co-evolution seems to be a more plausible hypothesis for how the Earth is maintained.

As Tyrrell acknowledges, his theory is not as grandiose as Gaia, but it is far more compelling. The conclusion is worth reading by itself if you are pushed for time, but for those who really want a good insight into Gaia in the context of natural systems, I would recommend reading the whole book.

Gillian Gibson, FIEMA CEnv, is an environmental scientist


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Is the sea big enough?

A project promoter’s perspective on the environmental challenges facing new subsea power cables

3rd April 2024

Read more

The UK’s major cities lag well behind their European counterparts in terms of public transport use. Linking development to transport routes might be the answer, argues Huw Morris

3rd April 2024

Read more

Tom Harris examines the supply chain constraints facing the growing number of interconnector projects

2nd April 2024

Read more

The UK government’s carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) strategy is based on optimistic techno-economic assumptions that are now outdated, Carbon Tracker has warned.

13th March 2024

Read more

The UK government’s latest Public Attitudes Tracker has found broad support for efforts to tackle climate change, although there are significant concerns that bills will rise.

13th March 2024

Read more

A consortium including IEMA and the Good Homes Alliance have drafted a letter to UK government ministers expressing disappointment with the proposed Future Homes Standard.

26th February 2024

Read more

Global corporations such as Amazon and Google purchased a record 46 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind energy last year, according to BloombergNEF (BNEF).

13th February 2024

Read more

Three-quarters of UK adults are concerned about the impact that climate change will have on their bills, according to polling commissioned by Positive Money.

13th February 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close