Energy and Civilization

Title : Energy and civilization : a history / Vaclav Smil . Other titles : Energy in world history Description : Cambridge , MA : The MIT Press , [ 2017 ] | Revised edition of : Energy in world history / Vaclav Smil . 1994.

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: MIT Press

ISBN: 0262536161

Category: Science

Page: 562

View: 749

A comprehensive account of how energy has shaped society throughout history, from pre-agricultural foraging societies through today's fossil fuel–driven civilization. "I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next 'Star Wars' movie. In his latest book, Energy and Civilization: A History, he goes deep and broad to explain how innovations in humans' ability to turn energy into heat, light, and motion have been a driving force behind our cultural and economic progress over the past 10,000 years. —Bill Gates, Gates Notes, Best Books of the Year 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 readers a magisterial overview. This book is an extensively updated and expanded version of Smil's Energy in World History (1994). Smil has incorporated an enormous amount of new material, reflecting the dramatic developments in energy studies over the last two decades and his own research over that time.

Energy Storage and Civilization

We argue that energy storage, in both naturally occurring and technologically mediated forms, has been much more significant to the development of human civilizations than is typically recognized. Beginning with the Neolithic transition ...

Author: Graham Palmer

Publisher: Springer Nature

ISBN: 3030330931

Category: Technology & Engineering

Page: 173

View: 817

Fossil fuels comprise the accumulation of prehistoric biomass that was energised by sunlight, and formed by earth system dynamics. Fossil fuels can be conceptualized as stored energy stocks that can be readily converted to power flows, on demand. A transition from a reliance on stored energy stocks, to renewable energy flows, will require a replication of energy storage by technological devices and energy conversion methods. Most analyses of energy storage focus solely on the economic-technical properties of storage within incumbent energy systems. This book broadens the scope of the study of storage by placing it within a broader, historical, biophysical framework. The role and value of storage is examined from first principles, and framed within the contemporary context of electrical grids and markets. The energy-economic cost of electrical storage may be critical to the efficacy of high penetration renewable scenarios, and understanding the costs and benefits of storage is needed for a proper assessment of storage in energy transition studies. This book provides a starting point for engineers, scientists and energy analysts for exploring the role of storage in energy transition studies, and for gaining an appreciation of the biophysical constraints of storage.

Power Density

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 ...

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: MIT Press

ISBN: 0262326930

Category: Science

Page: 320

View: 722

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.

Energy in Nature and Society

Throughout the book, Smil chooses to emphasize the complexities and peculiarities of the real world, and the counterintuitive outcomes of many of its processes, over abstract models.

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: MIT Press

ISBN: 0262693569

Category: Science

Page: 494

View: 648

A comprehensive, systematic, analytically unified, and interdisciplinary treatment of energy in nature and society, from solar radiation and photosynthesis to our fossil fuelled civilization and its environmental consequences. Energy in Nature and Society is a systematic and exhaustive analysis of all the major energy sources, storages, flows, and conversions that have shaped the evolution of the biosphere and civilization. Vaclav Smil uses fundamental unifying metrics (most notably for power density and energy intensity) to provide an integrated framework for analyzing all segments of energetics (the study of energy flows and their transformations). The book explores not only planetary energetics (such as solar radiation and geomorphic processes) and bioenergetics (photosynthesis, for example) but also human energetics (such as metabolism and thermoregulation), tracing them from hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies through modern-day industrial civilization. Included are chapters on heterotrophic conversions, traditional agriculture, preindustrial complexification, fossil fuels, fossil-fueled civilization, the energetics of food, and the implications of energetics for the environment. The book concludes with an examination of general patterns, trends, and socioeconomic considerations of energy use today, looking at correlations between energy and value, energy and the economy, energy and quality of life, and energy futures. Throughout the book, Smil chooses to emphasize the complexities and peculiarities of the real world, and the counterintuitive outcomes of many of its processes, over abstract models. Energy in Nature and Society provides a unique, comprehensive, single-volume analysis and reference source on all important energy matters, from natural to industrial energy flows, from fuels to food, from the Earth's formation to possible energy futures, and can serve as a text for courses in energy studies, global ecology, earth systems science, biology, and chemistry.


In this magisterial book, Vaclav Smil offers systematic investigation of growth in nature and society, from tiny organisms to the trajectories of empires and civilizations.

Author: Vaclav Smil

Publisher: MIT Press

ISBN: 0262539683

Category: Nature

Page: 664

View: 820

A systematic investigation of growth in nature and society, from tiny organisms to the trajectories of empires and civilizations. Growth has been both an unspoken and an explicit aim of our individual and collective striving. It governs the lives of microorganisms and galaxies; it shapes the capabilities of our extraordinarily large brains and the fortunes of our economies. Growth is manifested in annual increments of continental crust, a rising gross domestic product, a child's growth chart, the spread of cancerous cells. In this magisterial book, Vaclav Smil offers systematic investigation of growth in nature and society, from tiny organisms to the trajectories of empires and civilizations. Smil takes readers from bacterial invasions through animal metabolisms to megacities and the global economy. He begins with organisms whose mature sizes range from microscopic to enormous, looking at disease-causing microbes, the cultivation of staple crops, and human growth from infancy to adulthood. He examines the growth of energy conversions and man-made objects that enable economic activities—developments that have been essential to civilization. Finally, he looks at growth in complex systems, beginning with the growth of human populations and proceeding to the growth of cities. He considers the challenges of tracing the growth of empires and civilizations, explaining that we can chart the growth of organisms across individual and evolutionary time, but that the progress of societies and economies, not so linear, encompasses both decline and renewal. The trajectory of modern civilization, driven by competing imperatives of material growth and biospheric limits, Smil tells us, remains uncertain.

Civilization Critical

Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future Darrin Qualman ... Leaving aside the issue of population and returning to the connection between energy and civilization, a large number of analysts agree that, even though other factors are always ...

Author: Darrin Qualman

Publisher: Fernwood Publishing

ISBN: 1773630873

Category: Science


View: 652

The modern world is wondrous. Its factories produce ten thousand cars every hour and ten trillion transistors every second. We carry supercomputers in our pockets, and nearly a million people are in the air at any time. In Civilization Critical, Darrin Qualman takes readers on a tour of the wonders of the 21st century. But the great strength of our modern word is also its great weakness. Our immense powers to turn resources and nature into products and waste imperil our future. And plans to double and redouble the size of the global economy veto sustainability. So, is our civilization doomed? No. Doom is a choice. We can make different choices. Qualman demonstrates that a 19th- and 20th-century transition to linear systems and away from the circular patterns of nature (and of all previous civilizations) is the foundational error—the underlying problem, the root cause of climate change, resource depletion, ocean’s full of plastics, and a host of mega-problems now intensifying and merging, with potentially civilization-cracking results. In this sweeping work, Qualman reinterprets and re-explains the problems we face today, and charts a clear, hopeful path into the future.

Technics and Civilization

Electricity, on the other hand, can be developed by energy from a large number of sources: not merely coal, but the rapidly running river, the falls, the swift tidal estuary are available for energy; so are the direct rays of the ...

Author: Lewis Mumford

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 0226550273

Category: History

Page: 495

View: 629

Technics and Civilization first presented its compelling history of the machine and critical study of its effects on civilization in 1934—before television, the personal computer, and the Internet even appeared on our periphery. Drawing upon art, science, philosophy, and the history of culture, Lewis Mumford explained the origin of the machine age and traced its social results, asserting that the development of modern technology had its roots in the Middle Ages rather than the Industrial Revolution. Mumford sagely argued that it was the moral, economic, and political choices we made, not the machines that we used, that determined our then industrially driven economy. Equal parts powerful history and polemic criticism, Technics and Civilization was the first comprehensive attempt in English to portray the development of the machine age over the last thousand years—and to predict the pull the technological still holds over us today. “The questions posed in the first paragraph of Technics and Civilization still deserve our attention, nearly three quarters of a century after they were written.”—Journal of Technology and Culture

Science Technology and the Human Prospect

In a famous essay, “The Virgin and the Dynamo,” Adams evaluated the effects of two great and different energies upon the course of Western civilization. The religious energy generated by medieval Catholicism in its veneration of the ...

Author: Chauncey Starr

Publisher: Elsevier

ISBN: 1483139514

Category: Social Science

Page: 242

View: 479

Science, Technology and the Human Prospect contains the proceedings of the Edison Centennial Symposium. Organized into three parts, this book begins with the 10 essays commissioned from scholars and persons richly experienced in the management of technology. Part I explores the costs and benefits of technology. Part II addresses the adaption of the institutional frame of technology. The last part discusses the human needs and future of invention.

Informing and Civilization

The CTH Grand Model—Info-Energy—is shown in Figure 7.9 and is organized according to two criteria: energy and information. Based upon this synthesis one can notice the following observations about the development of civilization: • Four ...

Author: Prof. Dr. Andrew Targowski

Publisher: Informing Science

ISBN: 1681100061


Page: 268

View: 754

The aim of this book is to synthesize the role of information throughout the history of civilization’s development. This will be defined through the convergence of (a) the cumulative evolution and revolution of the intellect (cognition as data, information, concepts, knowledge, and wisdom), (b) labor, and (c) politics which seek to control the environment, society, and the world, applying culture and infrastructure as tools. Whereas researchers reveal the myriad of dimensions of the social order and its historiography, this book provides a synthesis of the relations, which is limited to information (and its informing systems) and civilization within the context of historiosophie (history with judgment). The method presented in this book—the architectural approach to the dynamics of civilizational development—is a new layer over the quantitative history based on statistical data. In an architectural synthesis of civilization, we seek a “big picture” of “civilization waves” in order to develop some criteria-oriented views of the world and its future predictability. To understand the crises and conflicts of civilization which are driven by technology in recent centuries, such a synthesis as well as optimism for human proactive adaptation, survival, and, development must be undertaken. This approach to civilizational development should allow humans to eventually “reinvent the future” in a continuous manner. We, in due course, should be able to predict the “rate of change” and provide “civilization bridging solutions” based on original thinking. It is important to remind ourselves that information is as old as our world (about 15 billion years) because plants and trees and, in general, non-human nature produces all sorts of information, for example, the changing colors of plants and trees, which is associated with the different seasons. When the first living organisms appeared on our planet, they had ability to inform as well by changing forms, colors, signals and, so one. The first signs of life on our planet came into being about 3.85 billion years ago. Therefore, organism-based life on the Earth actually came to be over a period of just 130 million years. Hominids diverged from apes some 10-6 million years ago (instinct-driven info-communication, i.e., behavior less controlled by cognition), and the first humans (bipeds with large brains who could use tools and sound-driven info-communication) took form around 6-2.5 million years ago in Southeast Africa. Homo symbolicus, who could skillfully use language, appeared about 60,000 years ago. The origin of civilization some 6,000 years ago marks the beginning of the first advanced info-communication systems applied by humans, who could even record information.

Culture and Civilization

Twenty-four years after this was published, the solar age seems our best chance not only to generate climate change–neutral energy but to also eke out supplies of ever-dwindling fossil fuels, including coal and coal seam gas (Jacobson ...

Author: Gabriel R. Ricci

Publisher: Transaction Publishers

ISBN: 141284973X

Category: Political Science

Page: 224

View: 676

This volume of "Culture and Civilization" focuses on cosmopolitanism, the global polity, and political ramifications of globalization. The introduction by Gabriel R. Ricci establishes context and provides an overview of the entire work. Topics include the history of globalization, climate change policy, ecological consequences of development, concepts of civilization, human rights, Eastern thought and economics, global citizenship, and travel writing. Within this collection, Carl J. Strikwerda argues that the first era of globalization in modern times was marked by global migrations patterns. Pablo Iannones history of the Andean oil rush and its ecological consequences looks at the processes of development. Brett Bowden argues that civilization entails both progress and war. J. Baird Callicott provides a philosophical analysis of a moral theory that accommodates spatial and temporal scales of climate change, Sanjay Paul analyzes the United Nations Global Compact, and Ed Chung discusses the role of economic theory in business schools. Colin Butler reflects on E. F. Schumachers "Buddhist Economics," while Taso Lagos relates parallel polis to the idea of global citizenship. Tony Burns examines the ways in which Aristotle, Hegel, and Kant have been interpreted. Finally, Adam Stauffer explores Charles Warren Stoddards work "South-Sea Idyls." This volume of "Culture and Civilization," the first under Riccis editorship, follows the tradition of the previous four volumes--developing critical ideas intended to produce a positive intellectual climate, one that is prepared to confront challenges and alert us to the opportunities, for people in all fields and of all faiths, of the twenty-first century.