Back in 1965, maverick scientist James Lovelock, warned an oil company that the year 2000 would not be dominated by fusion-powered cars or advanced technology, but by the changing climate.
"It will be worsening then to such an extent that it will seriously affect their business," he said. He may have slightly under-played the effect of advanced technology on our society, but he was certainly not wrong about the environment.
James Lovelock CH, CBE, FRS, is an independent scientist, environmentalist and futurist from Dorset, England who has been making radical predictions for decades. He was the first to detect CFCs in the atmosphere and he also proposed the Gaia hypotheses, a controversial theory that the Earth is a self-regulating super-organism. The idea was ridiculed at the time it was proposed and dismissed as "new age nonsense," but today it is recognised as a theory which forms the basis of almost all climate science.
In his book, The Revenge of Gaia, Lovelock predicted that by 2020 extreme weather will be the norm, causing global devastation; that by 2040 much of Europe will be Saharan; and that parts of London will be underwater. None of us can dispute the fact that, here in 2014, extreme weather is becoming the norm across the globe.
But is there anything we can do to stop this progression?
According to Lovelock, there is very little. He believes that global warming is now inevitable, that there is nothing we can do that will prevent temperatures soaring in some areas, or deluges occurring in others.
"It’s just too late for it," he says. "Perhaps if we’d gone along routes like that in 1967, it might have helped. But we don’t have time. All these standard green things, like sustainable development, I think these are just words that mean nothing. I get an awful lot of people coming to me saying you can’t say that, because it gives us nothing to do. I say on the contrary, it gives us an immense amount to do. Just not the kinds of things you want to do."
Consequently, Lovelock dismisses what he sees as futile attempts to "save the planet."
"Carbon offsetting?" he mocks. "I wouldn’t dream of it. It’s just a joke. To pay money to plant trees, to think you’re offsetting the carbon? You’re probably making matters worse. You’re far better off giving to the charity Cool Earth, which gives the money to the native peoples to not take down their forests."
He is equally dismissive of sustainable energy:
"You’re never going to get enough energy from wind to run a society such as ours," he claims. "Windmills! Oh no. No way of doing it. You can cover the whole country with the blasted things, millions of them. Waste of time."
Lovelock believes that our salvation lies not in "going back to nature" but from an increasing investment in technology.
In his latest book, "A Rough Ride To The Future," which he published at the ripe old age of 95, he claims that we should be "strengthening our defences and making a sustainable retreat."
“We’re reaching an age in history where you can no longer predict the future with any hope of success. “We should give up vainglorious attempts to save the world."
Our salvation, he predicts, will be in the form of "climate-controlled cities" to which humans can retreat when large expanses of land have become uninhabitable.Prophets have been foretelling Armageddon since time began, he says. "But this is the real thing."
Despite his gloom-laden predictions, Lovelock remains philosophical:
"There have been seven disasters since humans came on the earth, very similar to the one that’s just about to happen. I think these events keep separating the wheat from the chaff. And eventually we’ll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly. That’s the source of my optimism."
So what does Lovelock suggest that we can personally do now, if anything?
"Enjoy life while you can," he advises." Because if you’re lucky it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan."
Another "prophet" who has been warning of similar climactic changes for decades is our very own Whitley Strieber. His "Climate Watch" posts have proved to be uncannily accurate in recent years; read his latest update here.
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