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Summary

Energy is the only universal currency; it is necessary for getting anything done. The conversion of energy on Earth ranges from terra-forming forces of plate tectonics to cumulative erosive effects of raindrops. Life on Earth depends on the photosynthetic conversion of solar energy into plant biomass. Humans have come to rely on many more energy flows-ranging from fossil fuels to photovoltaic generation of electricity - for their civilized existence.

In this monumental history, Vaclav Smil provides a comprehensive account of how energy has shaped society, from pre-agricultural foraging societies through today's fossil fuel-driven civilization. Humans are the only species that can systematically harness energies outside their bodies, using the power of their intellect and an enormous variety of artifacts - from the simplest tools to internal combustion engines and nuclear reactors. The epochal transition to fossil fuels affected everything: agriculture, industry, transportation, weapons, communication, economics, urbanization, quality of life, politics, and the environment. Smil describes humanity's energy eras in panoramic and interdisciplinary fashion, offering listeners a magisterial overview.

©2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (P)2018 Gildan Media

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Too longwinded

Got this because Bill Gates recommended it and I love most of his reading list. But this one I found to be more a listing of facts than many real insights.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Hoogeboom
  • 19-05-18

Not a good format for this book

This is pretty much a text book, chock full of numerical data. It's impossible to keep track of any of the data, so it all becomes meaningless. It may be a good book, but it's a terrible audio book.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark Rockwell
  • 16-09-18

Astonishing depth

Admittedly audio is probably not the best format for this book. There’s just so much information presented at such a granular level that it can be hard to follow along. That said, it was still an excellent listen and the broad themes come across as well in this format as any other.

The book gets bogged down in the middle but the second half picks back up.

Overall I highly recommend reading or listening to this book. It’s full of both information and insight.

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  • Robin Debreuil
  • 06-09-18

If you care about energy...

Read this book, understand the numbers, and understand the challenge. Fittingly, there is a lot of misdirected human energy that will be usefully harnessed as a result of reading this. Intelligently applied energy = civilization.