We've never had so much knowledge at our fingertips, but most of us still don't understand how the world works. This book reveals seven key facts that determine our survival and success. From energy and food production, through our material world and its globalisation, to risks, our environment and its future, How the World Really Works offers a much-needed reality check—because before we can tackle problems effectively, we must understand the facts.
In this ambitious and thought-provoking book we see, for example, that globalisation isn’t inevitable—the foolishness of allowing 70 per cent of the world’s rubber gloves to be made in just one factory became glaringly obvious in 2020—and that our societies have been steadily increasing their dependence on fossil fuels, such that any promises of decarbonization by 2050 are a fairy tale. For example, each greenhouse-grown supermarket-bought tomato contains the equivalent of five tablespoons of diesel, and there is no way to produce steel, cement, or plastics at required scales without massive carbon emissions.
Finally, Smil answers the most important issue of our time: are we doomed or is there hope for a better future? This fascinating, data-rich, and revisionist multidisciplinary handbook identifies flaws in both extremes. Looking at the world via this quantitative lens exposes hidden realities that alter our perceptions of the past, present, and unknown future.
In two centuries, the human labor to produce a kilogram of American wheat was reduced from 10 minutes to less than two seconds.