Making the Modern World

Making the Modern World

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Published: 2013-12-16

Total Pages: 263

ISBN-13: 1119942535

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How much further should the affluent world push its material consumption? Does relative dematerialization lead to absolute decline in demand for materials? These and many other questions are discussed and answered in Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization. Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependent on unprecedented flows of materials. Now even the most efficient production processes and the highest practical rates of recycling may not be enough to result in dematerialization rates that would be high enough to negate the rising demand for materials generated by continuing population growth and rising standards of living. This book explores the costs of this dependence and the potential for substantial dematerialization of modern economies. Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization considers the principal materials used throughout history, from wood and stone, through to metals, alloys, plastics and silicon, describing their extraction and production as well as their dominant applications. The evolving productivities of material extraction, processing, synthesis, finishing and distribution, and the energy costs and environmental impact of rising material consumption are examined in detail. The book concludes with an outlook for the future, discussing the prospects for dematerialization and potential constrains on materials. This interdisciplinary text provides useful perspectives for readers with backgrounds including resource economics, environmental studies, energy analysis, mineral geology, industrial organization, manufacturing and material science.


Making the Modern World

Making the Modern World

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Published: 2013-10-02

Total Pages: 248

ISBN-13: 1118697960

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How much further should the affluent world push its material consumption? Does relative dematerialization lead to absolute decline in demand for materials? These and many other questions are discussed and answered in Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization. Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependent on unprecedented flows of materials. Now even the most efficient production processes and the highest practical rates of recycling may not be enough to result in dematerialization rates that would be high enough to negate the rising demand for materials generated by continuing population growth and rising standards of living. This book explores the costs of this dependence and the potential for substantial dematerialization of modern economies. Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization considers the principal materials used throughout history, from wood and stone, through to metals, alloys, plastics and silicon, describing their extraction and production as well as their dominant applications. The evolving productivities of material extraction, processing, synthesis, finishing and distribution, and the energy costs and environmental impact of rising material consumption are examined in detail. The book concludes with an outlook for the future, discussing the prospects for dematerialization and potential constrains on materials. This interdisciplinary text provides useful perspectives for readers with backgrounds including resource economics, environmental studies, energy analysis, mineral geology, industrial organization, manufacturing and material science.


Still the Iron Age

Still the Iron Age

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: Butterworth-Heinemann

Published: 2016-01-22

Total Pages: 280

ISBN-13: 0128042354

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Although the last two generations have seen an enormous amount of attention paid to advances in electronics, the fact remains that high-income, high-energy societies could thrive without microchips, etc., but, by contrast, could not exist without steel. Because of the importance of this material to comtemporary civilization, a comprehensive resource is needed for metallurgists, non-metallurgists, and anyone with a background in environmental studies, industry, manufacturing, and history, seeking a broader understanding of the history of iron and steel and its current and future impact on society. Given its coverage of the history of iron and steel from its genesis to slow pre-industrial progress, revolutionary advances during the 19th century, magnification of 19th century advances during the past five generations, patterns of modern steel production, the ubiquitous uses of the material, potential substitutions, advances in relative dematerialization, and appraisal of steel’s possible futures, Still the Iron Age: Iron and Steel in the Modern World by world-renowned author Vaclav Smil meets that need. Incorporates an interdisciplinary discussion of the history and evolution of the iron- and steel-making industry and its impact on the development of the modern world Serves as a valuable contribution because of its unique perspective that compares steel to technological advances in other materials, perceived to be important Discusses how we can manufacture smarter rather than deny demand Explores future opportunities and new efforts for sustainable development in the industry


Natural Gas

Natural Gas

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Published: 2015-09-21

Total Pages: 263

ISBN-13: 1119012864

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Natural gas is the world’s cleanest fossil fuel; it generates less air pollution and releases less CO2 per unit of useful energy than liquid fuels or coals. With its vast supplies of conventional resources and nonconventional stores, the extension of long-distance gas pipelines and the recent expansion of liquefied natural gas trade, a truly global market has been created for this clean fuel. Natural Gas: Fuel for the 21st Century discusses the place and prospects of natural gas in modern high-energy societies. Vaclav Smil presents a systematic survey of the qualities, origins, extraction, processing and transportation of natural gas, followed by a detailed appraisal of its many preferred, traditional and potential uses, and the recent emergence of the fuel as a globally traded commodity. The unfolding diversification of sources, particularly hydraulic fracturing, and the role of natural gas in national and global energy transitions are described. The book concludes with a discussion on the advantages, risks, benefits and costs of natural gas as a leading, if not dominant, fuel of the 21st century. This interdisciplinary text will be of interest to a wide readership concerned with global energy affairs including professionals and academics in energy and environmental science, policy makers, consultants and advisors with an interest in the rapidly-changing global energy industry.


Materials and Dematerialization

Materials and Dematerialization

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Published: 2023-06-26

Total Pages: 326

ISBN-13: 1394181205

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MATERIALS AND DEMATERIALIZATION World-renowned scientist Vaclav Smil examines a critical topic in the research and policy domain of sustainable resource use Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependent on unprecedented flows of materials. Now even the most efficient production processes and the highest practical rates of recycling may not be enough to result in dematerialization rates that would be high enough to negate the rising demand for materials generated by continuing population growth and rising standards of living. Materials and Dematerialization considers the principal materials used throughout history, from wood and stone, through to metals, alloys, plastics and silicon, describing their extraction and production as well as their dominant applications. The evolving productivities of material extraction, processing, synthesis, finishing and distribution, and the energy costs and environmental impact of rising material consumption are examined in detail, along with the relationship between socio-economic development and resource use, including major technological and innovation aspects. The book concludes with an outlook for the future, discussing the prospects for dematerialization, potential constraints on materials, and an updated appraisal of material requirements and prospects during the coming decades. Building on the success of his 2013 book, Vaclav Smil has thoroughly revised this landmark text to highlight advances that have taken place over the last decade, including a thorough review of statistics and references to 2022. This updated edition also includes new content to explicitly address material for global energy transition and for securing food for a still growing global population. Praise for the 1st edition “Vaclav Smil keeps turning out amazing books. Making the Modern World, I just finished, and it’s pretty fantastic.” (Interview with Bill Gates, January 2014)


Harvesting the Biosphere

Harvesting the Biosphere

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: MIT Press

Published: 2012-12-21

Total Pages: 317

ISBN-13: 026201856X

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An interdisciplinary and quantitative account of human claims on the biosphere's stores of living matter, from prehistoric hunting to modern energy production. The biosphere—the Earth's thin layer of life—dates from nearly four billion years ago, when the first simple organisms appeared. Many species have exerted enormous influence on the biosphere's character and productivity, but none has transformed the Earth in so many ways and on such a scale as Homo sapiens. In Harvesting the Biosphere, Vaclav Smil offers an interdisciplinary and quantitative account of human claims on the biosphere's stores of living matter, from prehistory to the present day. Smil examines all harvests—from prehistoric man's hunting of megafauna to modern crop production—and all uses of harvested biomass, including energy, food, and raw materials. Without harvesting of the biomass, Smil points out, there would be no story of human evolution and advancing civilization; but at the same time, the increasing extent and intensity of present-day biomass harvests are changing the very foundations of civilization's well-being. In his detailed and comprehensive account, Smil presents the best possible quantifications of past and current global losses in order to assess the evolution and extent of biomass harvests. Drawing on the latest work in disciplines ranging from anthropology to environmental science, Smil offers a valuable long-term, planet-wide perspective on human-caused environmental change.


Power Density

Power Density

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: MIT Press

Published: 2015-06-05

Total Pages: 319

ISBN-13: 0262326930

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The first systematic, quantitative appraisal of power density, offering detailed reviews of power densities of renewable energy flows, fossil fuels, and all common energy uses. “There's no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.” —Bill Gates In this book, Vaclav Smil argues that power density is a key determinant of the nature and dynamics of energy systems. Any understanding of complex energy systems must rely on quantitative measures of many fundamental variables. Power density—the rate of energy flux per unit of area—is an important but largely overlooked measure. Smil provides the first systematic, quantitative appraisal of power density, offering detailed reviews of the power densities of renewable energy flows, fossil fuels, thermal electricity generation, and all common energy uses. Smil shows that careful quantification, critical appraisals, and revealing comparisons of power densities make possible a deeper understanding of the ways we harness, convert, and use energies. Conscientious assessment of power densities, he argues, proves particularly revealing when contrasting the fossil fuel–based energy system with renewable energy conversions. Smil explains that modern civilization has evolved as a direct expression of the high power densities of fossil fuel extraction. He argues that our inevitable (and desirable) move to new energy arrangements involving conversions of lower-density renewable energy sources will require our society—currently dominated by megacities and concentrated industrial production—to undergo a profound spatial restructuring of its energy system.


More from Less

More from Less

Author: Andrew McAfee

Publisher: Scribner

Published: 2020-10-13

Total Pages: 352

ISBN-13: 1982103582

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From the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller The Second Machine Age, a paradigm-shifting argument “full of fascinating information and provocative insights” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)—demonstrating that we are increasing prosperity while using fewer natural resources. Throughout history, the only way for humanity to grow was by degrading the Earth: chopping down forests, polluting the air and water, and endlessly using up resources. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, the focus has been on radically changing course: reducing our consumption, tightening our belts, and learning to share and reuse. Is that argument correct? Absolutely not. In More from Less, McAfee argues that to solve our ecological problems we should do the opposite of what a decade of conventional wisdom suggests. Rather than reduce and conserve, we should rely on the cost-consciousness built into capitalism and the streamlining miracles of technology to create a more efficient world. America—a large, high-tech country that accounts for about 25% of the global economy—is now generally using less of most resources year after year, even as its economy and population continue to grow. What’s more, the US is polluting the air and water less, emitting fewer greenhouse gases, and replenishing endangered animal populations. And, as McAfee shows, America is not alone. Other countries are also transforming themselves in fundamental ways. What has made this turnabout possible? One thing, primarily: the collaboration between technology and capitalism, although good governance and public awareness have also been critical. McAfee does warn of issues that haven’t been solved, like global warming, overfishing, and communities left behind as capitalism and tech progress race forward. But overall, More from Less is a revelatory and “deeply engaging” (Booklist) account of how we’ve stumbled into an unexpectedly better balance with nature—one that holds out the promise of more abundant and greener centuries ahead.


Grand Transitions

Grand Transitions

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Published: 2021-02-12

Total Pages: 385

ISBN-13: 0190060689

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What makes the modern world work? The answer to this deceptively simple question lies in four "grand transitions" of civilization--in populations, agriculture, energy, and economics--which have transformed the way we live. Societies that have undergone all four transitions emerge into an era of radically different population dynamics, food surpluses (and waste), abundant energy use, and expanding economic opportunities. Simultaneously, in other parts of the world, hundreds of millions remain largely untouched by these developments. Through erudite storytelling, Vaclav Smil investigates the fascinating and complex interactions of these transitions. He argues that the moral imperative to share modernity's benefits has become more acute with increasing economic inequality, but addressing this imbalance would make it exceedingly difficult to implement the changes necessary for the long-term preservation of the environment. Thus, managing the fifth transition--environmental changes from natural-resource depletion, biodiversity loss, and global warming--will determine the success or eventual failure of the grand transitions that have made the world we live in today.


Should We Eat Meat?

Should We Eat Meat?

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Published: 2013-03-18

Total Pages: 295

ISBN-13: 1118278690

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Meat eating is often a contentious subject, whether considering the technical, ethical, environmental, political, or health-related aspects of production and consumption. This book is a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary examination and critique of meat consumption by humans, throughout their evolution and around the world. Setting the scene with a chapter on meat’s role in human evolution and its growing influence during the development of agricultural practices, the book goes on to examine modern production systems, their efficiencies, outputs, and impacts. The major global trends of meat consumption are described in order to find out what part its consumption plays in changing modern diets in countries around the world. The heart of the book addresses the consequences of the "massive carnivory" of western diets, looking at the inefficiencies of production and at the huge impacts on land, water, and the atmosphere. Health impacts are also covered, both positive and negative. In conclusion, the author looks forward at his vision of “rational meat eating”, where environmental and health impacts are reduced, animals are treated more humanely, and alternative sources of protein make a higher contribution. Should We Eat Meat? is not an ideological tract for or against carnivorousness but rather a careful evaluation of meat's roles in human diets and the environmental and health consequences of its production and consumption. It will be of interest to a wide readership including professionals and academics in food and agricultural production, human health and nutrition, environmental science, and regulatory and policy making bodies around the world.