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How the World Really Works


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About the Author

Vaclav Smil is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of over forty books on topics including energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy. No other living scientist has had more books (on a wide variety of topics) reviewed in Nature. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, in 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers.


Very informative and eye-opening in many ways -- Ha-Joon Chang, author of 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism
It is reassuring to read an author so impervious to rhetorical fashion and so eager to champion uncertainty . . . Smil's book is at its essence a plea for agnosticism, and, believe it or not, humility - the rarest earth metal of all. His most valuable declarations concern the impossibility of acting with perfect foresight. Living with uncertainty, after all, "remains the essence of the human condition." Even under the most optimistic scenario, the future will not resemble the past -- Nathaniel Rich * New York Times *
A grumpy, pugnacious account that, I would argue, is intellectually indispensable in the run up to this year's COP27 climate conference in Egypt. In short, How the World Really Works fully delivers on the promise of its title. It is hard to formulate any higher praise -- Simon Ings * New Scientist *
You can agree or disagree with Smil - accept or doubt his 'just the facts' posture-but you probably shouldn't ignore him . . . In Smil's provocative but perceptive view, unrealistic notions about carbon reduction are partly, and ironically, attributable to the very productivity that societies achieved by substituting machine work, powered by fossil fuels, for draft animals and human laborers * Washington Post *
This accessible and witty book cuts to the chase of what we need to know -- Caroline Sanderson * The Bookseller, 'Editor's Choice' *
If you are anxious about the future, and infuriated that we aren't doing enough about it, please read this book -- Paul Collier, author of The Future of Capitalism
"I am neither a pessimist nor an optimist; I am a scientist," Smil writes in the introduction, with typically Smilian swagger. In fact, he is more of a numberist, a polymath with a gift for rigorously crushing complex data into pleasing morsels of information -- Pilita Clark * Financial Times *
Smil's meticulously researched words are for anyone who wants his priors reexamined and feathers ruffled -- Joakin Book * AIER *
Ambitious and eye-opening . . . provides valuable insight as opposed to the agenda-pushing rhetoric commonly found in mainstream scientific literature. Data-rich, informative and eye-opening, How the World Really Works is a captivating read -- Lily Pagano * Reaction *
A compelling, fascinating, and most important, realistic portrait of the world and where it's going -- Steven Pinker, on Numbers Don't Lie
Canadian polymath Vaclav Smil taught at the University of Manitoba for half a century. In this brilliant book, he does the hard work of crunching complicated data to present a clear and surprising picture of how our world - especially our physical world - really does work -- Chrystia Freeland, Deputy prime minister and minister of finance, Canada * Bloomberg, 'Best Books of 2022' *
This is a compelling read. It uses science and practical examples to clearly illustrate the kinds of resources we are consuming on this planet today - and the quantities, too. It lays bare how demanding the changes will be in our daily lives if the green transition in energy away from fossil fuels is to be achieved. It also makes clear how far humanity is lagging behind the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Getting China and India fully on board with this is absolutely critical if climate warming is to be even moderately tamed -- Olli Rehn, Governor, Bank of Finland, and governing council member, European Central Bank * Bloomberg, 'Best Books of 2022' *

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