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Harvesting the Biosphere

Author: Vaclav Smil   Series: The MIT Press

An interdisciplinary and quantitative account of human claims on the biosphere's stores of living matter, from prehistoric hunting to modern energy production.
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Summary

An interdisciplinary and quantitative account of human claims on the biosphere's stores of living matter, from prehistoric hunting to modern energy production.

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Description

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.

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Critic Reviews

“There's no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.... In Harvesting the Biosphere , Smil gives us as clear and numeric a picture as is possible of how humans have altered the biosphere.”

There's no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.... In Harvesting the Biosphere, Smil gives us as clear and numeric a picture as is possible of how humans have altered the biosphere.

-Bill Gates, The Gates Notes

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About the Author

Vaclav Smil is Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba and the author of many books, including "Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and Uncertainties" (2005), "Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems" (2007), "Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years" (2008), and "Why America Is Not a New Rome" (2010), all published by the MIT Press. He was awarded the 2007 Olivia Schieffelin Nordberg Award for excellence in writing and editing in the population sciences.

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Product Details

Publisher
Mit Press Ltd | MIT Press
Published
21st August 2015
Pages
320
ISBN
9780262528276
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