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Energy and civilization : a history

Smil, Vaclav2017
Energy is the only universal currency; it is necessary for getting anything done. The conversion of energy on Earth ranges from terra-forming forces of plate tectonics to cumulative erosive effects of raindrops. Life on Earth depends on the photosynthetic conversion of solar energy into plant biomass. Humans have come to rely on many more energy flows -- ranging from fossil fuels to photovoltaic generation of electricity -- for their civilized existence. In this monumental history, Vaclav Smil provides a comprehensive account of how energy has shaped society, from pre-agricultural foraging societies through today's fossil fuel--driven civilization. Humans are the only species that can systematically harness energies outside their bodies, using the power of their intellect and an enormous variety of artifacts -- from the simplest tools to internal combustion engines and nuclear reactors. The epochal transition to fossil fuels affected everything: agriculture, industry, transportation, weapons, communication, economics, urbanization, quality of life, politics, and the environment. Smil describes humanity's energy eras in panoramic and interdisciplinary fashion, offering readers a magisterial overview. This book is an extensively updated and expanded version of Smil's Energy in World History (1994). Smil has incorporated an enormous amount of new material, reflecting the dramatic developments in energy studies over the last two decades and his own research over that time.
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Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press, 2017
vii, 552 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Revised edition of: Energy in world history / Vaclav Smil. 1994.Includes bibliographical references (pages 463-530) and indexes.
Energy and society. Flows, stores, and controls ; Concepts and measures ; Complexities and caveats -- Energy in prehistory. Foraging societies ; Origins of agriculture -- Traditional farming. Commonalities and peculiarities ; Routes to intensification ; Persistence and innovation ; The limits of traditional farming -- Preindustrial prime movers and fuels. Prime movers ; Biomass fuels ; Household needs ; Transportation and construction ; Metallurgy ; Warfare -- Fossil fuels, primary electricity, and renewables. The great transition ; Technical innovations -- Fossil-fueled civilization. Unprecedented power and its uses ; Consequences and concerns -- Energy in world history. Grand patterns of energy use ; Between determinism and choice -- Addenda. Basic measures ; Scientific units and their multiples and submultiples ; Chronology of energy-related developments ; Power in history.
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