James Lovelock’s new book, The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis & The Fate of Humanity, deal with this issue, and he makes the claim that it should be the central part of a mix of energy sources to power humanity’s energy demands. Why would he make this claim when the Gaia Hypothesis is one of the underlying elements in the environmental movement? Why would Lovelock say that nuclear energy is safer and the only energy source that would not continue to be a hazard to Gaia? One clue is in the subtitle of his book, “Earth’s climate crisis & the fate of humanity.”
For one, burning fossil carbon is the fundamental way that most people on Gaia’s Earth get their energy, and this has resulted in an increase of CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere. Even the burning of biofuels would not solve the problem because to meet energy demands would require to much land being devoted to crops that would be used as the biomass. Even the use of wind, hydro- and geothermal sources has its problems. In general each requires too many of the devices (e.g. wind turbines) to make them practical to supply the energy demands of the future. Enter nuclear energy. Lovelock reminds us that the energy output in a chemical reaction of burning carbon is about nine kilowatt hours per kilogram of coal. Nuclear fusion is several million times as much, and splitting the atom even more.
The book is important in that the issues surrounding the fact that the earth’s climate is being changed by the burning of carbon, and that a broader energy mix is needed to supply humanity with its energy demands without further damaging Gaia. I recommend you explore the book, and if you are teaching science or social studies, this would be a good resource for a unit on energy or environmental science.Tags: biofuels, Gaia Hypothesis, James Lovelock, nuclear energy