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Cycles of Life

Civilization and the Biosphere

by (author) Vaclav Smil

Henry Holt and Co.
Initial publish date
Oct 2000
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2000
    List Price

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Once seen as a collection of individual components, nature is now regarded as a unified system—a biosphere that permeates the Earth’s waters and extends from parts of its crust up into the atmosphere.

InCycles of Life, Vaclav Smil describes current efforts to take into account the complex interplay of living organisms and environmental changes that shape the functioning of biogeochemical cycles. He focuses on the effects of human interference in these cycles caused by actions ranging from the combustion of fossil fuels to feeding a growing population. As we discover how intricate biospheric cycles are, and see the large-scale consequences that a seemingly local change can have, we realize the valuablecontributions biogeochemical studies can make to the future of our planet.

Based on the latest scientific research,Cycles of Life is an authoritative introduction to the workings of the biosphere, one that emphatically calls for thoughtful environmental management, yet remains sensible in its recommendations for preventing further environmental damage.

About the author

Vaclav Smil is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of forty books, including Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses and Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing, both published by the MIT Press. In 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. In 2013 Bill Gates wrote on his website that “there is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.”

Vaclav Smil's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Chemistry for better living? At our current rate of chemical overdose, it may or may not be possible, but withCycles of Life for a roadmap we might view the cycles with clarity enough to control our chemistry."
Bloomsbury Review

"[Cycles of Life] investigates the cycles operating within the biosphere, and provides a look at the connections between the many forces at work in the world in which we live . . . . [It] will appeal to both biologists and non-biologists who wish to gain an understanding of the life cycle in which we actively participate."

"A delightful and thoughtful work on the intricate dance of Earth’s biospheric constituents."
—John Katzenberger, Director, Aspen Global Change Institute

"Cycles of Life gives an excellent historical perspective on our contemporary understanding of global biogeochemistry . . . For this topic, I can’t think of a better volume aimed at the general audience."
—Christopher S. Potter, Ecosystem Research Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center

"Smil brilliantly combines history and the newest developments in our understanding of biogeospheric cycles. By starting from a world without life and then showing how living organisms have influenced these cycles, he gives a fascinating picture of how life has shaped and is shaping our Earth.
—Thomas Kuhlbusch, NRC Associate, EPA Ecosystems Research Division

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