A wide-ranging, interdisciplinary look at global changes that may occur over the next fifty years—whether sudden and cataclysmic world-changing events or gradually unfolding trends.
Fundamental change occurs most often in one of two ways: as a “fatal discontinuity,” a sudden catastrophic event that is potentially world changing, or as a persistent, gradual trend. Global catastrophes include volcanic eruptions, viral pandemics, wars, and large-scale terrorist attacks; trends are demographic, environmental, economic, and political shifts that unfold over time. In this provocative book, scientist Vaclav Smil takes a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary look at the catastrophes and trends the next fifty years may bring.
Smil first looks at rare but cataclysmic events, both natural and human-produced, then at trends of global importance, including the transition from fossil fuels to other energy sources and growing economic and social inequality. He also considers environmental change—in some ways an amalgam of sudden discontinuities and gradual change—and assesses the often misunderstood complexities of global warming.
Global Catastrophes and Trends does not come down on the side of either doom-and-gloom scenarios or techno-euphoria. Instead, Smil argues that understanding change will help us reverse negative trends and minimize the risk of catastrophe.
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.”
I think Smil should probably be set as homework for every Member of Parliament, and there will be a test later...—Dick Pountain, The Political Quarterly—
Other titles by Vaclav Smil
How the Modern World Was Made
Invention and Innovation
A Brief History of Hype and Failure
How the World Really Works
The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We're Going
From Microorganisms to Megacities
Energy and Civilization
A Beginner's Guide
A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses
Made in the USA
The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing
Harvesting the Biosphere
What We Have Taken from Nature