This is the full interview text with James Lovelock. A summary is under reflections on meeting James Lovelock.
Creel - When did you move to Devon?
Well I used to live in Wiltshire in quite a nice part on the Dorset border but the whole village fell apart in ten years; agri-business came in and bought up all the farms, tore up all the fields and threw out all the villagers. It was a disgraceful thing and took place over almost all of southern England, round about the ?60?s and ?70?s and I think there was far more disturbance of ordinary folk living than there was with the mining, but nobody ever said a word about the country folk, though the miners have gone into legend almost?
Creel - Do you see those types of pressures coming down to these parts?
Well that?s why I moved here, because I thought this area was free of it, and so far it still is. It?s mainly because its not very good quality land, and the farmers are mainly cattle farmers ? though the farmer just opposite has actually just gone arable, but he?s still alright, they do it on a reasonable scale, they don?t go mad like they do up in Wiltshire where they have square mile fields with barbed wire fences round them ? they take all the hedges out, it?s horrible.
Creel ? It?s interesting, the effects of petro-chemical agriculture. One of the things we have been reading about is how you have helped to discover and plot out the degradation of the food chain as pesticides have spread throughout it?
Well it?s not me who did any of that, you?re thinking of Rachel Carson and so on. What I did was to give her the instruments that enabled her and the people who followed her to do all the measurements and that brought me enough money in to live off and write books and make this place.
Creel ? Was there a conscious decision to break away from being dependent on scientific institutions?
No, I think I am more like you probably are; I?m just too obstinate and independent. (chuckles) I didn?t want to be told to, you know, be told what to do, I just wanted to do my own thing.
Creel ? So, what you are trying to do here at the Gaia Conservatory it trying to allow everything to be as it is.
That?s right, back to nature, but we interfered, we had this pond dug which was quite a thing because there?s a little firm round here who came and did a testing and said ?yes, you?re alright, here?s water just below the surface? and then he came in and it looked like a motorway site (laughter), he brought a huge great digger and Volvo dump truck, and I thought, oh my god what have I done! But they worked like dogs and it was all done in three days.
Creel - Where did they dump all the stuff?
Well there used to be and old ox-bow lake and he just filled it in and levelled it off and you would never have known there was a spoil and he cut these sorts of terraces round the thing because otherwise it would be to big a get down into it and the water table comes up in the winter and just about flows over and in the summer its like this. Now what?s interesting is you see these purple lupines, these nice wild plants, they just come by themselves ? the country folk say they are the last flower of summer and its normally looking like this in September.
Creel ? How unusual is this?
Everything! Everything this year has just forged away at a pace of knots, a rate you just wouldn?t believe, most people don?t think it has been a particularly warm year but the plants are telling a very different story.
Creel ? It seems to me that climate change is become increasingly tangible.
That?s right you got it.
Creel ? Yes, I remember a couple of weeks ago on the front page of the Sun read ?twister in Birmingham? and then in Bombay 6 ft of water?
34 inches of rain I think they had in Bombay.
Creel - That?s right with buses and trains being swept away and then in Eastern Europe had their hottest day in recorded history.
That was in 2003, they had three months of intolerable heat, which killed over 35,000 people.
Creel ? I feel I?m becoming aware of these little tell-tale signs all the time
That?s right people are?
Creel ? Were you noticing noticeable changes back in the 1960?s?
No, it was pretty steady in the 60?s; you were getting good years and bad years.
Creel ? Of course this is due to Global Warming and the accumulation of green house gases. We know there has been some controversy lately concerning your views on nuclear power?.
I?ve always been in favour of nuclear power, I never saw the harm in it, I thought they were all barmy about it; they?ve all got the bomb mixed up with the power stations in their minds.
Creel ? Do you think the risks inherent in nuclear power are over blown?
Well in other countries like Finland and Sweden and Switzerland, as soon as the electricity prices started rising like a rocket, people started supporting nuclear power because it is by far the cheapest and the same will happen here before long.
Creel ? Well, China?s building 20 nuclear power plants.
And it?s a good thing too, none of them put any CO2 into the atmosphere at all so why not? They make a great fuss about the waste but there?s a funny thing, the total waste from nuclear waste produced by Europe in a year you could get into small house. But in a year the world produces enough solid CO2, to make a mountain a mile high and 12 miles round, now how are you going to get rid of that waste, that?s the really dirty waste.
Creel ? We were talking about how the press and the media seem to propagate fear?
Well you know journalists, they love a good story, there?s nothing like a Grimm?s fairy tale book? they?re not nearly as interested in the truth as they are in a good story.
Creel ? There?s an argument that the cost of processing nuclear waste exceeds the yield energy generated.
I think what they are saying is complete nonsense, and any reasonable country like Finland does not regard it as a problem, - they are going totally nuclear ? they found plenty of sites in their granite rock, they just burrow a big hole and bung it down and they know that in a few hundred years it won?t be any more radioactive than the granite, so fine that?s got rid of it, they don?t see it as a big problem because there?s so little of it. I mean it?s a tiny amount and if you find that difficult to believe just think of it ? I mean one pound of uranium is worth about three million pounds worth of coal or oil so produce the same amount of energy the amount on waste you get is not going to be more than that pound, at the most it will be a lot less actually, so the amount of waste is trivial.
Creel ? Is there enough uranium to last?
There isn?t, no. I don?t regard it as a permanent solution. I think it is a temporary measure to get us out of this greenhouse gas mess.
Creel ? We spoke to John Gray and he said that obviously one of the big problems is obviously over-population and consumption and he doesn?t have much hope for humans ? well he has hope for humans but not for civilization?
I agree with him wholeheartedly, civilization in its present form hasn?t got long and I think what will happen is ? well, all the climatologists are now centred at Exeter at the Hadley centre, they?re all agreed, the whole damned lot of them, that we?d be very lucky to see the end of this century with out the world being a totally different place, and being anything like 8 or 9 degrees hotter on average?
Creel ? what would that mean for sea levels?
Well it will take time but sea level will just rise and rise and rise. Take London for example. It?s already happening, when they put up the Thames Barrier, well, as you well know London has never really flooded before. Since the barrier was put up nothing happened for about three years, and then it was really necessary, and then two years ago they used it 24 times in a year, and they reckon they?ve got to build it higher and extend it shortly, but that?ll be the last time they can do it because after that the water will just come in round the sides after that. So it really is a problem it?s not a joke.
Creel ? Again it?s these everyday examples. And yet the press doesn?t seem to focus on things that are important, the things that are going to affect us in the long term...
Well, they?re not bad the press, it?s not their fault entirely. You see you can?t just blame them. For instance the oil companies regard nuclear power as their rival, who will reduce their profits, and so they put out an awful lot of disinformation about nuclear power, and if you look carefully then you will see that the big lobbyists like Greenpeace, are in bed with BP, or Friends of the Earth will be in bed with another oil company, or if not them, then with a renewable energy company, one or the other, so they are not really disinterested parties, and the stories they tell are not necessarily the scientific stories, but the press just doesn?t want to hear the people at the Hadley Centre, its just dull stuff, we don?t want to hear about scientists, they?re not very well paid, so they can?t be very important?.
Creel ? that makes it more important doesn?t it?
Well! We?re all the same! Shall we walk on?
You mustn?t take what I say as gospel because no-one can second-guess the future. I mean one scenario you can think of is that when the penny drops to president Bush, as it will do, before long, that global warming is really serious, and they?re going to be in trouble, they?ll say, right we can fix this, and a lot of money will be given to NASA, who will send up a big sun shade that will be in orbit between the earth and sun and deflect 2 or 3 percent of the sunshine away back into space ? and it would be cheaper than the international space station.
Creel ? How big would it need to be?
Several kilometres in diameter depending on how far out you put it. That?s an option no question. Just one thing. But of course that won?t really solve the problem because they?ll then go on and say well, we can just carry on as we are (chuckles). It?s only a partial answer to buy some time, but it is the sort of thing that will happen. They?re not fools: when they really realize how bad it is they?ll do something.
Creel ? But the thing that makes me wonder about politicians is, a bit like company shareholders, their goals are very short term. You are talking about long-term problems, I wonder if we are even capable of thinking on the scale necessary?
I hear what you are saying. It?s often a surprise how far-sighted both politicians and big companies are. When I started work, as an independent scientist, getting support was quite a problem because I don?t come from a rich family and neither does my first wife. In fact, not only was I supporting my four kids and my wife, but also her parents and my parents, we weren?t in a position to go and do things. But I was very lucky and got a position when I was asked to be an advisor to Shell by Lord Rothschild who at that time was their chief scientist. He was an unusual man, it is known that he came from a big banking family, but was also a good scientist and biologist.
Creel ? So how long did you stay with Shell for?
Oh, as an advisor for a long time, 20 years from 1964, just after I left NASA. One of my biggest surprises was that Shell had think-tanks inside the organisation that wanted to know what the world would look like 20 years ahead. That was one of the first jobs I became involved with. I thought, good God, 20 years ahead! The government was never really thinking more than five years ahead. And there were all sorts of strange things; on one occasion I sat in on a meeting about producing a motor oil that would last as long as the car, and I said ?but what will happen is that you won?t make any profit!? and there was a shock-horror response ?that?s not the way we work, we?re technologists, we get ahead by doing something better.?
Creel ? Was that really the attitude?
Yes it?s almost the opposite of what you might expect. This is true of all big organizations, they?re not as simple and as daft as they may look, and they?re mostly run by technologists now, they?re not run by crafty old buggers who manipulate, though there are of course some of those around.
Creel ? That?s a very benevolent view of 'the corporation'.
Oh I wouldn?t say they are good by any stretch of the imagination, when they?re up against it? I mean Esso has been the main one in America spreading the disinformation that there is no global warming problem. I mean they call themselves the seven deadly sisters, the oil companies (laughter), and with some justification.
Creel ? So did the ?Stop Esso? Campaign arise as a result of the disinformation campaign run by Esso?
It may have done, but what I have heard, though it may be no more than rumour, but I picked it up from a French man who I regard quite highly, is that the Saudi Arabians are paying Greenpeace to campaign against Nuclear Power.
Creel ? And does that surprise you?
Well it wouldn?t surprise me at all because Greenpeace turn over 100 million pounds a year. And they?re like any company; if the money isn?t coming in they are going to be in dead trouble. So they?re into the stunt business to keep the cash flow ? and you can?t blame them and be moralistic about it.
Creel ? I wonder at what point interests become compromised?.
When things happen. I mean take the bombings in London from a couple of weeks ago, it wipes all the news, everything else right off the pages, nobody wants to know about anything else, that?s the only issue but it wasn?t - well it was nasty - but it wasn?t that important in the greater scheme of things. At some stage climate change will come onto the agenda for whatever reason, at whatever time, probably when it starts killing a lot of people and is making life very uncomfortable? if it comes at the right time and the right place that will switch the whole agenda.
Creel ? What?s interesting is the attritional nature of the climate, it such a big scale but we are hunter-gatherers and think with blinkers on; we can see a bomb or a plane crash. Ultimately we are in lure of celebrity culture, except perhaps papers like the Independent, which runs some great front pages?.
But they?ve got a wonderful environment correspondent Michael McCarthy. He?s by far the best of the whole lot, he is one of the few who will actually listen to the people a Hadley centre.
Creel ? The Independent has run some very brave and penetrating front pages about the environment but the irony is that they get accused as being alarmist and of being a broadsheet tabloid.
Well it?s inevitable, but I think that the Independent has a much bigger influence globally than most people realise. They ran an article of mine in June last year on what?s going to happen and the need for nuclear energy, and it was quite fascinating because I got phone call from a high ranking American energy official saying that that article was the central tenet of a meeting he had just had with politicians. They just picked it up off the website, and we got phone calls and faxes and emails from all over the world, literally, from Argentina to New Zealand?
Creel ? Does that type of feedback re-assure you?
No! Like everything it just gets forgotten the next day, it?s got to be a cumulative thing growing over a period of time. But I think that in five years time that climate change will be common knowledge, simply because we are going to be up against it. Geological change usually takes thousands of years to happen but we are seeing the climate changing not just in our life times but also year by year. All the modelling we do shows that the climate is poised on the jump up to a new hot state. When that jump takes place who knows? But it is accelerating so fast that you could say that we are already in it.
Creel ? What would Gaia Theory have to say about re-addressing that balance?
What Gaia has to say about it is fairly grim really. The way to look at it is that any species that harms the environment to a point where it threatens its own progeny is doomed and will become extinct ? and that?s us. And it works by the environment being changed by what we have been doing so that it is no longer favourable to us.
Creel ? It?s the behaviour of an inefficient virus, isn?t it?
That?s right; an inefficient virus kills its host. A clever virus stays with it.
Creel ? I found one of the most remarkable ideas the idea of a multi- cellular organism being a kind of symbiotic relationship of bacteria and viruses.
In every cell inside of you have captured bacteria that were once free living.
Creel ? These are theories that are not credited in schools.
That?s because they are a bunch of stuffy old cronies! (laughter) Well they are! Dear old Lyn (Carson) gets their back up and they won?t have anything to do with it, until their all dead, then it will be the next generation and the real wisdom will be revealed!
Creel ? You talk about ?emergent properties? of a system, as consciousness being an emergent property of what we are, and I find it really interesting regarding how people are so scared of Gaia theory. It seems like a reaction of those with the belief that we are the one and only free-willed creature and that no other collection or organism could have an emergent property of some sort of mind.
Oh its nonsense, isn?t it? Look at my cat; he?s got a mind of his own. I get more and more amazed at how smaller things do seem to have an extraordinary degree of intelligence and free will. They did some experiments recently on bees, which showed an extraordinary degree of self control and judgement amongst individual bees and how they lived their lives, and you begin to wonder is the bee aware of the world in a way in a way analogous to us but with not so many pixels, rather like a mobile phone picture in comparison to a television, but never-the-less, still getting the picture.
Creel ? Many people say that the beehive can be seen as a form of collective consciousness?
Well there is no question that the beehive regulates its temperature as well as we do. They examined it in Canada thoroughly: the hive will regulate itself to 37 degrees no matter if it is minus 20 degrees outside in winter. And the bees do it in the most crafty manner; when things get really cold and bad, they form a great big ball inside the hut and there are three layers to the ball; on the outside layer the bees fluff up their wings to act as an insulator, the ones within that start producing heat by burning glucose, the ones in the centre carry on the work.
Creel ? it?s mystical?.
Well it is!
Creel ? or maybe it?s arrogant to think it?s mystical?
As Dawkins says you can get there by gene selection eventually if you?ve got millions and billions of years to do it in.
Creel ? if you look at the human body as a collection of symbiotic phenomena it?s a similar thing isn?t it, and the earth can be seen as an extension of that. We were talking about this on the way down, if you look at the earth from outer space then you get one perspective and if you study the individual you get a very different one?.
Creel ? ?erm, I?ve forgotten what my point way (laughter) ? first gaff of the interview! Well I guess its time to reconcile a Darwinian view of things with Gaia and its more holistic approach.
Well, one nice way of looking at it, we?d never have got a chance to go outside and look at the earth if it hadn?t been for space exploration and NASA, in fact, if their never had been any war?
Creel ? its paradoxical
It?s a hell of a paradox, and then of course, look at it from Gaia?s point of view; for the first time she?s had the chance to see what an extraordinarily beautiful planet she was, compared to all the others, before that she?d never had a looking glass.
To come back to the present this is very interesting, we?re now standing above and old railway which was build about 150 years ago going from Waterloo to Padstow, John Betjeman travelled along it but that?s all history now. I?ve never been here for 30 years but I?ve never seen this happen before, just this summer, this has just grown up, overgrown with brambles, just took off.
Creel ? and there?s my girlfriend telling me what a terrible summer we?ve had.
We?ll she?s obviously not a vegetable! This is incredible though I?ve never seen anything like it. But sorry I interrupted you; you?ll just have to put up with me?
Creel ? When I was reading up on Gaia I read about the teleological attacks, but it was interesting to hear you talking just a moment ago about Gaia having the opportunity to see what a beautiful planet she is .
Well she sees it thru our eyes because we are a part of it.
Creel ? but its good to hear that you haven?t lost the poet in you as a result of the dry academic arguments.
I?ve never been a dry academic! Not ever, I never taught in the universities, so I?m not really an academic.
Creel ? But none the less you have had them throwing their attacks at you down the years.
Well the poor old sods were all on welfare. When I was young, academics were proud people, they were well paid, they had jobs for life, pensions and all the rest of it, they were respected then as a community and then that mad bugger Harold Wilson thought ?well, if we cover the country with universities then we?d be the best educated country in the world and therefore the richest? and all it lead to, as any economist would have told you, was a surplus of academics and scientific people, and they are going to be badly paid and not very well respected, and that is what happened and I feel very sorry for them. A chap who came to study here who was a student of mine found that in his thirties that he couldn?t get married, he couldn?t get any decent salary anywhere at all yet he?s one of the leading scientists amongst the younger ones.
Creel ? I was a chemist at Oxford and did research there and was very struck by how compartmentalized it was. I read your book on Gaia back then because I was reading more interdisciplinary stuff, which always appealed to me because I was always an artist as well, and there was always propagated this arts and science rift?
It?s all dam nonsense isn?t it!
Creel ? Absolutely. It always turned me away from science, which was shame and will continue to do so, though there are obviously many people coming away with doctorates now in the east.
But if you think about it its not the number of doctorates that counts, if we go back to say, 50 or 60 years ago, round about and just after world war 2, this country led the world in science by every way you could measure it yet, the number of scientists was a tiny proportion of what it is now, maybe a twentieth ? but the only people who actually did science were people who were actually good at it. It?s bloody absurd, if the government thinks you can just make scientists by teaching them its mad. I mean if you suddenly wanted to make more musicians like Beethoven would it help to give huge grants to every music department in the country? It wouldn?t, it would just be full of duffers and hangers on. It doesn?t work. Musicians and scientists and artist are born, they are not made.
Creel ? but its creativity and invention that should be encouraged, its ?factory-ied? out of people at school in a way?
Well I?m not sure about that I think if they jump on it and squash it the real inventor says sod ?em all, I?ll show them, and they usually do, where as if they are given a lot of money, I?ve seen it happen, a really good chap who might produce something, then gets thrown a bunch of money and all he does is spend in on all the equipment they?ve always wanted, free of charge and they spend their lives playing with it.
Creel ? I suspect we?ll be exactly the same Professor, as soon as we get the royalty check it?ll all go on new gadgets we don?t know how to use!
It?s a very human thing! How are you doing by the way?
Creel ? We?re good, the thing about the music industry, well, we?ve all done different things before and we?ve done it out of an inquiring mind and wiling to tackle a challenge, but the music industry is becoming riddled with piracy from the internet and the money is becoming less and less and more and more of it is getting funnelled towards the money spinning acts and there?s less and less for challenging acts.
Let?s go this way along the old railway.
Creel ? we do like our booms, don?t we?
I?ve worked out that about a billion could live off the earth; six billion living as we do is ridiculous, it?s far too many, and you run out of planet in no time, which is what?s happening. It doesn?t happen tomorrow, but takes decades to happen, but it happens none the less.
Creel ? that?s the frightening thing, that we?ve become so short-termist that we?ve forgotten what its like to think 50 years ahead, let alone two or three hundred years ahead?
That?s right, there are things which we could do which we don?t even think about, for instance if we gave up eating beef and keeping cattle we would have roughly twenty to thirty times more land for food than we have now.
Creel ? Are you vegetarian?
Well I?m half way, though Sandy my partner is.
Creel ? Ed and I were vegetarians for about 5 years, though now we?ve reverted back to being rapacious carnivores!
But if there were only a billion humans it wouldn?t matter and there wouldn?t be any need for factory farming and you could have what you like and do what you like, within reason and its an awful price to pay.
Creel ? what implications does the re-dressing of natural balances suggested by Gaia theory have for human life over the next hundred years?
Well if you go back 55 million years there was an accidental event which was almost exactly the same as what we are doing, there was a release into the atmosphere, and this is exceedingly well authenticated scientifically, of about anything between .3 and 3 terra-tons of carbon. They think it was caused, most probably by a volcanic sill, that?s an underground flow of lava deep underground, coming up beneath a great big oil deposit in the Norwegian sea. They traced the sill and discovered that it was vaporized, the whole damned lot of it, straight up into the atmosphere, where it oxidized and produced a hell of a lot of CO2, and the temperature rose 8 degrees Celsius and 5 degrees Celsius in the tropics and it remained like that for two hundred thousand years before the system gradually pulled it back to where it should be. Now two hundred thousand years is a hell of a long time for humans but it is nothing for Gaia. And that?s what we are doing, we have already released half a terra-ton of carbon over the limit, and if you throw in things like the burning of the forests due to slash and burn in Indonesia, well? I?m writing a book at the moment called ?Gaia?s Revenge?.
Creel ? Well that?ll make good sensationalist reading, the press will love that!
Well Penguin is publishing it, I?ve nearly finished it but it always takes about six months before it?s published, I don?t know quite what they do with it.
Creel ? It sounds like the type of book and title that needs to be written at the moment.
Well, I hope so, I feel very strongly about it and it all started with that article in the Independent. It?s quite funny how things work; I always thought, well bad things are going to happen, but its quite far into the future and there?s life which has to be lived and things like that, but the thing that drove me mad was I heard that the daft bloody government was going to shove up giant German wind mills all round here and wreck the country side, and there isn?t an awful amount of country side left and I knew they are grossly inefficient and the real reason for doing it is all part of the great EEC scam, there are big factories in Germany turning out wind turbines and they?ve got to find an outlet for them somewhere, so the EEC gives huge subsidies and dumps them wherever it can. So to me this was absolute madness and really got my goat up and that?s what started it all off strangely. And then that news that summer, in Europe, where over 30,000 people died came in, then I got the data from the Hadley centre and various other places, around the world, which showed that that event was unequivocally global warming, the odds against it being just a hot spell or heat wave were three hundred thousand to one and that?s enough for any punter. With those two facts I thought, this is it, somebody?s got to say it.
Creel ? Faced with these facts, how do you keep yourself alive and in such good spirits?
One shouldn?t be pessimistic, that?s my view, in spite of what I say, I?m not a pessimist, and even though I do think awful things are going to happen, I feel like I did in 1939 when, not much younger than you are now (19) when everyone knew that there was going to be a war but were talking about it like we are now about global warming. They had the daftest idea, the right-wing said ?let?s support Hitler; he?ll go for the Russians? ? that was seriously talked about! And then the left-wing were like ?lets disarm then Hitler will know that we are no threat to him?, but it took the war itself and then suddenly the whole country pulled together like a wasps nest when you stick a stick into it, it?s quite incredible, and people were prepared to make enormous sacrifices, they had to give up their cars, put up with food rationing, all sorts of things and be called up and be prepared to die and all of that can happen with humans and I think that we have had too many years of peace since World War Two and most ordinary folk have forgotten it, just how a nation can pull together.
Creel ? Unlike recent wars when our nation?s leaders called for us to keep shopping and keep the economy buffed up! Whereas in previous times they would have said Thrift! Now it?s spend- thrift?
I think there has to be recognition that there is a real danger, by ordinary folk, they have to realize that they are threatened. And most of the people in those days had the same perception about bombing that we have about nuclear energy now, they were quite frightened of it ? it?s quite incredible how frightened we were - we all imagined that as soon as the war started that clouds of planes would come over and wipe out everything but of course it doesn?t work like that, it takes time to build up, so they had a reason to pull together and they did. The same might happen with the environment if for example London was put out of action, it only takes a very bad flood that breaches the barrier or the barrier fails for some reason and the tube system floods right out, London?s going to be a messy place, its just for starters, the properties at Canary Warf will be highly undesirable.
Creel ? I guess it?s already happened in Bombay, and it only takes for the same to happen in Western Europe for us to take action and wake up.
Florida will be gone, altogether, the whole damned place, in not too long. I think we are seeing the start of it. It does take time, though they are getting worried now because everything is just happening faster and faster. Now a friend of mine is in charge of the British Antarctic Survey, damned good scientist and good bloke too, he was down here and was telling us, you know the ice shelves all round west Antarctic have all broken up and floated off, now that doesn?t do anything for sea level because they were all floating anyway, but they were the plugs that were holding back the glaciers and all the ice in that part of Antarctic behind it, and it started moving, for the first time in thousands of years, coming down to the sea. Greenland is going so fast it?s almost funny I mean even two thousand metres up about eight hundred miles from the North Pole it?s melting in the summer and great cascades of water are pouring down.
Creel ? Another thing I would like to ask you is that we are talking about disasters from a very anthropocentric point of view, and John Gray was interesting about this, saying actually, perhaps from Gaia?s point of view this adjustment is actually necessary, maybe its not such a bad thing?
Oh from Gaia?s point of view it isn?t such a bad thing, but from our point of view it?s a disastrous thing. But I think that what will happen, and why I am optimistic, is that humans are a real tough species and one of the toughest on the planet, and there?s no way its going to wipe out all breeding pairs of humans, and human civilization will have to re start, and it will re-start all around the Arctic basin because that will be an area rich in resources and fish and is fairly sizeable and the climate will be okay, it?ll be hot, but not unbearable, the rest of the earth will be either desert or so torrid it won?t be habitable.
Creel ? Can the earth recover from desertification?
Yes, but it takes two hundred thousand years, quite a long time!
Creel ? So there could be a day when the Sahara grows again?
Well it?s already growing, its reached southern Spain already, people don?t realize that?
Creel ? But could nature recover the Sahara one day?
Well She never had it to start with; there have always been desert regions, but they stay small and they grow. The colder the earth is the more life there is on it, that?s the thing to remember, the hotter the earth, the less.
Creel ? So the best plan really is to get into the boat trade. Then we can emigrate with the water.
Well I know one elderly hippy, one of the originals, you may have heard of him, called Stuart Brown, he ran the magazine Co-Evolution Quarterly, and he took it so seriously he bought himself a tug-boat, and it?s parked in California and he lives on it!
Creel ? Did the social changes in the 1960?s help develop the holistic approach which Gaia represents?
No, it was a horrible time, it nearly destroyed my family. With my first wife I had four kids and they all got into the drug culture and everything else and went to pot. They?re all right now, well not all of them. One of them became a nurse, she was all right, and she would have been a matron if they hadn?t got rid of the idea of matrons. So I?ve got personal views on the 60?s, lots of people think it was a great liberation but I think that you can?t have freedom without paying the price for it. It?s a paradigm in a way of what we are talking about, we are going to suffer for there to be a long-term improvement and that?s the name of the game really.
Creel ? So did Gaia theory evolved out of a turbulent time in your personal life?
Yes, it was the time I went independent and that must have shaken my kids a bit, which possibly didn?t help them, and it was when I was working for NASA and had this wonderful opportunity to see the earth from outside, not just visually but with instruments, and see Mars and Venus and began to realize what and enormous difference there was between the earth and those other planets, and it was that that led to Gaia.
Creel ? It must have been extraordinary being on the inside and being one of the first people to see those shots.
Creel ? Do you hold out any hope that we will find planets with life on them?
Oh sure, I?m certain of it, after all how many suns must there be in the universe and don?t tell me that around some of them there isn?t a planet like this one, which doesn?t have life on it.
Creel ? I have to agree, it must be so, do you think that the 60?s sci-fi dream of this being a seed planet for colonizing the universe, do you think that?s a possibility?
I don?t know. I?ve no idea at all; I?m always surprised though at how conservative most of my friends in the sciences are, they never seem to see what extraordinary new developments occur. Who for instance thought teleportation would occur? Admittedly it only works with atoms and molecules but you can beam them up. I think it?s almost certain you could never do it with anything larger than a big molecule because it?s a quantum thing; big things like us are outside of that realm, unfortunately. But think of it, some of the early science fiction I read at school, there were character called Ruby Divisive who sent out death rays, well it wasn?t long before lasers were invented, so we shouldn?t sneer at science fiction, I think its all rather fun.
Creel ? Sometimes it seems to me that they put so much money into the space programme?
They don?t! It cost very little and it pretty much all piggy-backed on the back of military expenses. I remember being at JPR once and somebody said, because we were thwarted with how much payload we could put into the Vikings, and he said ?why can?t we use the Titan Rocket, there are lots of those around?? But the army would never have allowed that. The whole thing piggy backed on military expenses, if it hadn?t been for the cold war, neither Russia nor America would have been sending people up into space.
Creel ? It?s ironic how much our violent side drives our innovations.
All good inventions come from war, all new major developments, like the microwave, that came from a chap in Birmingham who invented the cavity magna drum, everything, really, I mean all the parts of aircrafts were accelerated enormously in the time of war, and nuclear energy is another one, nobody would have invented that.
Creel ? It?s a funny thing, this human need to get somewhere, to fly to get into space, but it may end up being our undoing? unless of course space exploration ends up being the thing that preserves our species.
I do think that people that talk about converting Mars into a planet to live are the speaking the most crazy stupid nonsense ever, they wreck the earth which is a beautiful planet in order to go to some wretched miserable desert of a place which is almost useless!
Creel ? I?ve got a great children?s book about a man who tried to get to the moon and he got everyone to build him a rocket and raised all the ground and everything becomes a factory and he gets to the moon and he goes ? what?s that beautiful planet over there?
It?s a good story for kids. Something which will make one very pessimistic, is that ? and I?m convinced of this, as is, I think, John Gray is to - is that genocide is as natural to us as breathing, and that every group is capable of it, and there aren?t just bad people that commit genocide ? we are all capable of it, its part of our evolutionary history.
Creel ? We talk about the anthropocentric nature of people and although we are generally getting a little better at respecting one another and tolerating each other, we of course seem to be destroying the natural world, which if we talk about genocide, its not a huge step to the killing of other species.
Well that?s indirect genocide because what we are doing is killing us all of anyway; it?s just a bit more indiscriminate.
Creel ? The biodiversity of the planet is obviously dropping at a really extreme rate, but isn?t that a part?
Its not so much bio-diversity that matters, the biologists are all a bit barmy and make a great fuss about that, because they love counting organisms and collecting them, and if anyone is going to take any of them away they get really mad (ironic laugh), especially if they are really rare and collectable. Now as far as Gaia is concerned she doesn?t give a dam about bio-diversity, in fact if you look at a really healthy eco-system you?ll find that it has very low bio-diversity, it?s only ones under stress that get really interesting and bio-diversity, but its obvious if you think about it, you?ve got a really nice comfortable eco-system and then you put in a permutation like the climate changing, all sorts of species that couldn?t live there before suddenly move in, because its warmer, or colder, than it was, but the one?s that are there grumble and adapt so you have consequently a more bio-diverse eco-system, straight away, but it?s not a better one, it?s a worse one. There?s a lot of misunderstanding there: the really serious thing we?re doing is not reducing bio-diversity, it?s in taking land for agriculture that Gaia was using to regulate the planet. It?s almost obvious when you think about it: every bit of land that we use to feed people is land that was being used to keep the planet comfortable, regulated, and this is why the whole thing is going rapidly out of control because Gaia can?t do a damned thing, we?ve taken away most of the working parts for ourselves. The craziest thing of all, which the Greens support, is bio-fuel. Now just think about it. What they want to do is to plant crops to fuel cars, and they say ?now, that?s a proper way of doing it because it doesn?t put any more Co2 into the atmosphere?, but what the idiots don?t see is that if you are going to feed cars its going to take roughly ten times more land as feeding people does and it would just accelerate the end that?s coming anyway.
Creel - I hear bio fuel has become very popular in Germany.
Well of course, the Germans are completely barmy; they really are, because they are so ideological, they get so carried away with ideology that they cause trouble for everyone. (chuckles) I once was on a television programme with the leader of their Green Party, called Petra Kelly and she was rabbiting on about how we would all die of leukaemia because of nuclear power and I said, ?hold on, wait a minute, where I live in Cornwall the radiation levels are usually much higher than in any nuclear power area?, and she turned to me and said, ?but Professor, I?m not talking about natural radiation, I?m talking about man-made radiation? ?. you can?t talk with people like that, they?re barmy!
Creel ? There isn?t the same continuity between the generations as there once was and part of what we are trying to do is resurrect that sense of continuity and the oral tradition.
I think the secret is being independent, and you are all in a way exactly that, you are the princes of the modern world, nearly everyone else is an employee or on welfare like the scientists and that is terrible, that?s what made me go, I just couldn?t bare the thought, even though I worked for just about the nicest organization in Britain which was the MRC, there was a tram line of going on from security to the pension to the grave and it was terrible, I knew if I came along and did nothing for a full year, they?d still pay my salary and I?d get promoted and all the rest?
Creel ? well Ed used to work in Goldman Sachs and I used to insure aeroplanes protecting them from terrorist attacks
Were you there on Sept 11?
Creel ? Yes
That must have upset them.
Creel ? Well, they lost a few billion! But now they?ve made more money on the back of it by whacking up the prices.
Creel ? I think that this sense of the independence of spirit is something we will take from here. There are so many people who are lost in the current world; it?s not like in the previous generations when there was a certain amount of certainty.
Well there was nobility in the olden days!
Creel ? well, people knew who the enemy was of where boundaries were, and now things seem to be far more uncertain, the enemy, if it?s terrorism, is within, and a lot of people struggle with that.
But don?t you think that one of the great dreams is the liberal socialist dream of equality for everyone, but once you?ve got that of course, there?s nowhere to go. It?s like the good intentions of making everyone a graduate has awful consequences. We have a very good postal service down here, not only does he deliver our letter everyday at 9am but collects them too, and we know all the postmen, they are our friends, and one of the postmen, one day was very down and we said ?what?s the matter?, and he said: ?well, I?m getting really fed up with the system. When I joined years ago, if I did it right, I could go on and get promoted without limits. Now I can?t get promoted any more because I?m not a graduate, they?ve set a level where no one can go above if they are not a graduate.? The thing is quite often the graduates who come out of university are often less competent?
Creel ? because they are less independent minded.
Right. But I think that people forget that we are a tribal animal and can?t stop dividing things up into ?them and us?. I mean the Communist system was exactly the same: they were all meant to be equal but look what happened, they were less equal than anybody.
Creel ? Old ideologies taking new forms.
Exactly, Orwell said it all in Animal Farm.
Creel ? Where were you educated yourself Professor?
I went to school in Brixton, two schools, a grammar school opposite Brixton prison, then I started my career as a lab technician in London, and then going to college for evening classes, but I learnt more from the consultancy than I ever did from university ? I got a scholarship to Manchester University. Much different set up in those days; people only did it because they really wanted to.
Creel ? Well our first ventures as a band began in Brixton where Ed lived for a number of years ? we found a small room with mouldy fungus on the walls and a tiny room with a drum kit in it and we weren?t much as players either and we would just go in and destroy our ears for hours on end.
With the vibrations coming straight off the walls, no doubt, new species created from the racket!
Creel ? Well, thank you for having us down here, Professor Lovelock and for showing us round the Gaia Conservatory.
Well I?ve enjoyed talking to you. Well you see, how can I put it, I don?t get in touch much with folk like you or from your world, it?s a different world to the old buffers I usually meet!
Creel ? Well our approach was very speculative! But you have been very accommodating.
Well the thing I have been most proud of is that last year there was leading article in a science monthly called Nature which said that no one had irritated more scientists in the world than I have (laughter).
Creel ? We think another compliment is that your ideas have been controversial for such a long time, that?s a very special thing.
They?ve all tried so hard to rubbish them, but it didn?t work?
Creel ? It?s been a kind of paradox because the Gaia name
That wasn?t mine; that was the author William Golding.
Creel ? But it?s been the thing that has been so compelling about the idea but also, which has raised a lot of the criticism from the scientific community.
I thought many times about dropping it to something like ?Earth Systems Science? or something dumb like that because that would make them happy but my friends said Jim, ?you can?t do it, you gotta stick with it.?
Creel ? But unlike other scientific theories, the book pulls you in because it appeals to the poetic imagination.
Well you?ve got to stick with names, and I think Creel Commission is a fascinating name, how did you come up with that?
Creel ? Actually it?s a historical name, and it?s a rather ironical name too. Before WW1 the Americans wanted to get into the war and they approached this man john Creel to change the mindset of the people from being isolationist to pro-war. It was the birth of PR really and they had to sell the idea of war to the nation about how unpleasant the Germans were, and they succeeded within six months to turning an anti-war sentiment into a war-mongering mass. It was the beginning of the PR industry and we thought it was an interesting and ironic play on music and public relations?
Creel ? Funnily enough it has made more sense as time has gone on because originally we liked the name and the sense of irony about how any band has to use the systems of media that it is born into, but as it?s gone on it?s become quite reflective of what we are trying to do in spreading ideas that are important and that we feel don?t get enough media coverage, or are at least marginal issues at best.
Creel ? We thought we?d try this project of approaching luminaries such as yourself and the response has been fantastic and it?s something we realized could be a wonderful thing. Also it?s inspirational in terms of lyrics because it?s very easy to shut your mind off. At university I had a very inquiring mind, but afterwards as I went into the City you become brainwashed and it seemed to wipe your slate clean, all your ideology, and it takes an effort to keep watering your garden as it were ? and this type of experience is really engaging.
Your motivations are absolutely right I think. We talked about a lot of things and talked about many fundamentals, but there is a very important message which is a not very popular one, which applies to this country: I think that as things get bad, all of us, whether we like it or not are going to look after ourselves and the international scene will be incredibly difficult, no doubt, almost inevitably, because as things get really bad, we?ll no longer be able to rely on the things we have been, and we?ll need to be more and more dependent on ourselves and with all the disasters its going to be a pretty rough ride, so people all need to stick together, and I think somewhere in that there is a message. This is one of the reasons I am strong on nuclear, because we are so utterly dependent on energy, and we?ve only to lose it to realize it, for instance when the power lines get wiped out down here in the winds, its only then you realize how dependent civilization is on power, for everything, and this programme to stop nuclear by 2020 is just crazy.
Creel ? It seems to me that a lot of the ambitions of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament have been shifted onto getting rid of nuclear power stations.
That?s right, it?s madness! The other thing to talk about is the incredible lie propagated by the BBC, the Establishment and so on about Chernobyl which they say killed between 50 thousand and a million people. It hasn?t, it?s killed 45, and that?s not my estimate, that?s the UN?s estimate, who sent two teams and they couldn?t find anyone who had been killed by it except the 45 who were actually on the plant by radiation. The thing is you can, if you are a scientist, say yes its true Chernobyl will kill off 1,000,000 people because you can say they were exposed to so many extra mili-seconds of radiation, and yes that?s true, eventually it probably will, but the question is how much will it shorten their lives by and it turns out they will only be shortened by a few seconds of minutes, which isn?t really very much, so its not really a real thing they are talking about it?s a fake thing.
Creel ? well, you?ve been incredibly kind and generous with your time, and it?s been a privilege to meet you, thank you.
I wish you every success, I think the job you are doing of trying to spread awareness is very important.
Creel ? we feel it?s the biggest battle of all?
It is, because the awful thing is that it won?t be us but our children who are affected.
Interview added 08-08-2005