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How the World Really Works : A Scientist's Guide to Our Past, Present, and Future - Vaclav Smil

How the World Really Works

A Scientist's Guide to Our Past, Present, and Future

By: Vaclav Smil

Paperback | 29 November 2022 | Edition Number 1

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Delightfully contrarian, this is the one book you need to read to understand our modern world

We have never had so much information at our fingertips and yet most of us don't know how the world really works. This book explains seven of the most fundamental realities governing our survival and prosperity. From energy and food production, through our material world and its globalization, to risks, our environment and its future, How the World Really Works offers a much-needed reality check - because before we can tackle problems effectively, we must understand the facts. In this ambitious and thought-provoking book we see, for example, that globalization isn't inevitable and that our societies have been steadily increasing their dependence on fossil fuels, making their complete and rapid elimination unlikely.

Vaclav Smil is neither a pessimist nor an optimist, he is a scientist; he is the world-leading expert on energy and an astonishing polymath. This is his magnum opus and is a continuation of his quest to make facts matter. Drawing on the latest science, including his own fascinating research, and tackling sources of misinformation head on - from Yuval Noah Harari to Noam Chomsky - ultimately Smil answers the most profound question of our age- are we irrevocably doomed or is a brighter utopia ahead?

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.
Industry Reviews
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

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