• Grand Transitions

  • How the Modern World Was Made
  • By: Vaclav Smil
  • Narrated by: Robert Fass
  • Length: 16 hrs and 15 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (27 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

What makes the modern world work? The answer to this deceptively simple question lies in four "grand transitions" of civilization - in populations, agriculture, energy, and economics - that have transformed the way we live.

Societies that have undergone all four transitions emerge into an era of radically different population dynamics, food surpluses (and waste), abundant energy use, and expanding economic opportunities. Simultaneously, in other parts of the world, hundreds of millions remain largely untouched by these developments.

Through erudite storytelling, Vaclav Smil investigates the fascinating and complex interactions of these transitions. He argues that the moral imperative to share modernity's benefits has become more acute with increasing economic inequality, but addressing this imbalance would make it exceedingly difficult to implement the changes necessary for the long-term preservation of the environment. Thus, managing the fifth transition - environmental changes from natural-resource depletion, biodiversity loss, and global warming - will determine the success or eventual failure of the grand transitions that have made the world we live in today.

©2021 Oxford University Press (P)2021 Tantor

What listeners say about Grand Transitions

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Thorough

Nobody I know covers their subjects as thoroughly as Bacliv Smil - and he does so in a manner that invites thought and contemplation long after the book is finished.

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A BLIZZARD OF STATISTICS, BALANCED VIEWS

There is a lot in this book. Most of the book reads like an academic paper but the last chapter brings it all together. A like how Smil looks at all the different aspects / data relating to a topic and gives a comprehensive set of views on the way one could interpret that data. As opposed to cherry picking data to fit a predetermined narrative, which he calls out several well known commentators for doing just that. I love Smil’s work, the only thing holding me back from giving a 5 is the readability of the book.

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Not optimism or pessimism: Realism!

The may appear to the average listener as an endless series of facts and figures, yet it is so much more than that. Professor Smil calmly and clearly describes the details of important subjects and his manner is really quite entertaining at times. This is the way to learn many fascinating things about our technological civilization and its effects. Be sure to listen to his conclusion which I think is the best chapter.

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  • Joseph
  • 05-09-22

Biased against climate action, needs more effort to make the numbers digestible

I liked his thoroughness and his mostly unbiased and scientific approach, but it was hard to listen to so many numbers continuously and i think he should make the examples more down to earth like he did in the first chapter.
It really gave an amazing perspective on what the modern world is though and how we got here.
I also think he is biased against climate action and veganism and dismisses them without giving proper attention to why they’re necessary.

1 person found this helpful