Summary of Global Catastrophes and Trends

The Next Fifty Years

MIT Press, more...

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Global Catastrophes and Trends book summary
The future isn’t what it used to be; separating the hysteria from the cold, hard probabilities.


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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 onto 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.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Which abrupt catastrophes are most likely during the next 50 years;
  • How unfolding trends will shape the future “world order” over time; and
  • Which global environmental trends society should try to mitigate.


Catastrophes and Epidemics
Occurences that change human history can happen as sudden disasters or as slow trends, which are more reliably predictable. Think of catastrophes as “fatal discontinuities,” from unforeseeable natural events (volcanoes, tsunamis, pandemics) to conceivable human...
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About the Author

Prolific science writer Vaclav Smil teaches at the University of Manitoba. His books include Energy at the Crossroads and Energies: An Illustrated Guide to the Biosphere and Civilization.

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