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The Realist

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The Realist

Vaclav Smil looks to history for the future of energy. What he sees is sobering.


5 min read
5 take-aways
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What's inside?

Vaclav Smil’s prolific writings on humanity’s energy usage evince both shock and hope for the future. 

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Editorial Rating



  • Scientific
  • Eye Opening
  • Well Structured


The reclusive, highly intellectual Vaclav Smil is renowned in scientific, business and philanthropic communities for his clear-eyed assessment of the world’s energy usage over time. getAbstract recommends this Science magazine article to readers who prefer raw, unadulterated facts about how burning fossil fuels is affecting the environment, the pitfalls humanity faces in turning to renewable fuels and what people can do as individuals to save the biosphere.


Writer Vaclav Smil has devoted his life to reality-based books on a wide range of energy topics.

Smil’s fan base includes policy makers, scientists, philanthropists and high-level executives such as Bill Gates. His clear-eyed views on environmental issues, alternative energy sources and fossil fuels are not always positive. In fact, they are often pointedly at odds with conventional theories. For example, he disdains GDP statistics, because they can be highly skewed by natural disasters and political events. Smil accepts that climate change is real, even though he disparages most climate-modeling studies. 

The 74-year-old Czechoslovakian native...

About the Author

Paul Voosen is a geoscience writer for Science magazine.

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