Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years

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Overview

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.

The MIT Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"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

The MIT Press

"At home alike in both the natural and human sciences, the author gives an incisive analysis of the way change occurs both in terms of unpredictable discontinuities and gradually unfolding trends. His treatment of trends over the next fifty years is especially interesting, and his pages on America's 'retreat' informed and convincing. Smil offers not predictions but a balanced, holistic treatment of what may be ahead for humanity. Anyone interested in history,
demography, economics, environmentalism, or risk analysis, along with globalization, will find this a 'must' book."--Bruce Mazlish, Professor of History Emeritus, MIT

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262518222
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 383,845
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Vaclav Smil is the author of more than thirty books on energy, environment, food, and history of technical advances, including Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of
Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines
and Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature, both published by the MIT Press. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. In 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the
Top 100 Global Thinkers.
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Table of Contents

Preface: What to Expect

1 How (Not) to Look Ahead 1

2 Fatal Discontinuities 9

3 Unfolding Trends 71

4 Environmental Change 171

5 Dealing with Risk and Uncertainty 219

App. A Units and Abbreviations, Prefixes 255

App. B Acronyms 257

References 259

Name Index 297

Subject Index 299

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating analysis of trends

    Predicting the future is still impossible, but science has gotten much better at forecasting it, at least to the extent that it is informed by statistics and probabilities. Vaclav Smil speaks the truth as he sees it, according to mathematical information and indications. For instance, he refutes the "peak oil" scenario, but asserts that society's transition to an economy that is less reliant on fossil fuel is long overdue, environmentally and politically. Smil predicted the financial meltdown and the flu pandemic, so clearly he's on to something. He delves into a variety of issues in this analysis of trends and calamities, from the economic decline of the U.S. to conflicts in Muslim countries, the aging of many national populations and the depletion of essential ecosystems. getAbstract recommends this fascinating account of the future as seen through the cold eye of a statistician.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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