Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2011


Great Plains Research Vol. 21 No.1, 2011


© 2011 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


In his latest book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia, James Lovelock writes a clear narrative about the major impacts humans are having on the tightly coupled biotic/ abiota system we call the Earth and that Lovelock refers to as Gaia in his many scholarly works. He tells us that this coupled system acts in concert to maintain the Earth's environment at an optimal condition for the organisms that live together here, modifying, for example, the atmosphere so that its composition stays at about 21% oxygen and 78% nitrogen (in the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears this would be "just right"), with some-but not too much-carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases present in the mixture. He points out that part of the problem of recognizing our negative impacts on the system is that, while the data of human-induced increases in greenhouse gases can not be seriously challenged, many of us feel the data are meaningless and should be dismissed without due consideration. He notes that the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001 and 2007 documented the changes being induced by human activities, but that a demand for a consensus with international political leaders led to the report's being watered down. Seeking consensus instead of accepting the facts and moving to solve problems now is part ofthe reason we are in this fix.