How the World Really Works

by Vaclav Smil
Science Reading

A realistic grasp of our past, present, and uncertain future is the best foundation for approaching the unknowable expanse of time before us. While we cannot be specific, we know that the most likely prospect is a mixture of progress and setbacks, of seemingly insurmountable difficulties and near-miraculous advances. The future, as ever, is not predetermied. Its outcome depends on our actions.

Vaclav Smil deserved second chance after I gave up on Growth. How the World Really Works was just as dense as Growth but focused on broader topic and as such, felt more accessible. The first few chapters explain the history and current state of the fundamental things of modern world: energy, food production, materials, and globalization. Next chapters focus on present happenings and future outlooks, specifically in regards to the environment.

Vaclav’s writing is objective and grounded in science. The book is written with high degree of agnosticism and Vaclav specifically avoids making any predictions about the future and provides whole few pages of examples of how miserably we fail to predict anything even remotely distant.

How the World Really Works was a heavy, saddening but also prospective, and informative read. What I am taking away is that we should focus more on preventing food waste. Furthermore, any progress even if drastic that we make in ecology today will take tens of years to show, yet we are deciding about the future of billions of people.

we are a fossil-fueled civilization whose technical and scientific advances, quality of life, and prosperity rest on the combustion of huge quantities of fossil carbon, and we cannot simply walk away from this critical determinant of our fortunes in a few decades, never mind years



The Four Pillars of Modern Civilization

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Title: How the World Really Works
Author: Vaclav Smil
ISBN13: 9780593297063 ISBN10: 0593297067