• How the World Really Works

  • How Science Can Set Us Straight on Our Past, Present and Future
  • By: Vaclav Smil
  • Narrated by: Stephen Perring
  • Length: 10 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, World
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

We have never had so much information at our fingertips, and yet most of us simply don't understand how our world really works. Professor Vaclav Smil is not a pessimist or an optimist, he is a scientist, and this book is a much-needed reality check on topics ranging from food production and nutrition, through energy and the environment, to globalisation and the future. For example, the carbon footprint of meat is well known, but did you know that the equivalent of five tablespoons of diesel fuel goes into the production of each greenhouse-grown, medium-size, supermarket-bought tomato? The gap between belief and reality is vast. 

Drawing on the latest science, tackling sources of misinformation head-on and championing a rational, fact-based approach, in How the World Really Works Smil shows, for example, why the planet isn't 'suffocating' (even burning all the planet's fossil fuels would reduce oxygen levels by just 0.25 per cent) and that globalisation isn't 'inevitable' and nor should it be (the stupidity of allowing 70 per cent of the world's rubber gloves to be made in just one factory became glaringly obvious in 2020). 

Ultimately, Smil answers the most profound question of our age: are we irrevocably doomed, or is a brighter utopia ahead? Compelling, data-rich and revisionist, this wonderfully broad, interdisciplinary masterpiece finds faults with both extremes. Looking at the world through this quantitative lens reveals hidden truths that change the way we see our past, present and uncertain future.

©2021 Vaclav Smil (P)2021 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about How the World Really Works

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Tedious

This book is a good primer for aliens visiting planet Earth for the first time. Humans who have been living here for the last few decades and have been paying reasonable attention to what's going on will find the workings described here less revealing.

The first two chapters on energy and food production are interesting. The following chapters get increasingly tedious, as they are largely a rehash of known facts. A good sprinkling of numbers from statistical yearbooks helps the reader maintain some interest. But don't expect to find anything new here, if you've been keeping up with science and non-fiction literature in the past.

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  • Ironicist
  • 05-09-22

Nothing new, really tedious

Oil is used in everything, ok? just saved you the need to buy this book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rafael Bautista
  • 02-18-22

Numbers!

It’s a very interesting take of how the world is and what it really takes to save it. A must read for everyone, especially policy makers.

Although the performance was great, a fair bit of numerical figures are presented in this so it’s not easy to appreciate the gravity of the message just through audio. A book may have been a better medium for me.

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  • billy
  • 02-27-22

good information but very very dull

unbelievably dull to listen to has lots of good information but will put U to sleep as presentation is just so boring