Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature

July 29, 2013 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Protection of Species, United States, Daily Email Recap

Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature

(Please click through to see pictures): http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Books/Energy/Harvesting-The-Biosphere

By “this,” I don’t just mean the rainforest you see in this photo.I mean everything that can be consumed on Earth: plants, animals, all of it. And by “we” of course I mean people. It’s such a big question that many people wouldn’t even know where to start.

But if you care about understanding the impact that humans are having on the Earth, and what that means for our future, it’s a crucial question. Vaclav Smil sets out to answer it in his book Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken From Nature.

There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil. He jokes that no one reads his books (he’s written more than 30 of them). It’s true that each book only sells a few thousand copies. But I’m trying to read everything he writes.

Why? He understands a phenomenal range of subjects, from energy to agriculture. On any page he might talk about meat-eating among bonobos or the average human life span during the Roman Empire. Plus he is rigorously numeric, using data to illuminate every topic he writes about. The word “polymath” was invented to describe people like him.

In Harvesting the Biosphere, Smil gives as clear and as numeric a picture as is possible of how humans have altered the biosphere. The book is a bit dry and I had to look up a number of terms that were unfamiliar to me, but it tells a critical story.

To read the full book review, please click here: http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Books/Energy/Harvesting-The-Biosphere

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